92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012: 9:30 AM
The Use of Innovative Communications to Enhance Weather Information for a Rare Winter Storm in South Texas
Room 353 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Barry S. Goldsmith, NOAA/NWSFO, Brownsville, TX; and M. Buchanan, S. Cordero, and J. Metz
Manuscript (1.1 MB)

On 1-4 February 2011, significant winter weather impacted millions of people from the Coastal Bend to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, a region known for warm winters. Long duration frigid temperatures culminated with a 12 to 24 hour period of freezing rain, which covered trees, power lines, and elevated highways with up to 3.8 cm (1.5 in) of glaze.

Prior to and during the ice storm, NWS offices in Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Texas, used various communication channels to convey the possible impacts from this rare weather event. These channels included a combination of innovative technology tools and enhanced messaging, which benefited the region's highly diverse population.

Interaction with emergency management, public health, transportation, education, and media partners started several days prior to the event. Web-based communication tools and social media were used to provide hazardous weather information to these partners. Critical decisions were directly made by these partners as a direct result of this continuous stream of weather support. Information gathered was used for rapid updates on each office's website.

Hundreds of accidents, dozens of indirect injuries and at least one fatality occurred during the ice storm. However, it is surmised that much greater impact to humans and the local economy would have occurred without these enhanced services provided by NWS offices in South Texas.

This presentation will provide a brief overview of the 1-4 February 2011 South Texas winter weather event, describe the innovative methods used to communicate the danger from the subsequent ice storm, and provide evidence to support how these methods may have reduced human casualties and economic losses in South Texas.

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