NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge Weather-Ready Nation Pilot Project: Decision Support for Super Bowl XLVII
The Super Bowl is an “event of national significance” which is supported by a wide range of federal, state, and local government departments. These include but are not limited to the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard, FBI, FAA, US Customs and Border Protection, state of Louisiana emergency management, local police and fire and many other groups. The Super Bowl entails the highest level of national security for any event except for the Presidential Inauguration. The Pilot Project team began planning for Super Bowl support nearly a year in advance of the event by attending planning meetings with these partners and compiling weather thresholds and expectations from core partners. The team attended a tabletop exercise in December and supported the Sugar Bowl in early January as a “practice run” for the event. Logistics and protocol for deployments had to be worked out well in advance including special security clearance for deployment to the Superdome.
For the week of the Super Bowl (January 28th through February 4th), the NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge office staffed the Super Bowl support as a major event (staffing level similar to a hurricane), employing an “office coordinator” position and deploying meteorologists on rotating shifts to City Hall in New Orleans (the Unified Command EOC for the event), the Marine Security Operations Center (in support of Coast Guard and other partners), and the NFL Control Room in the Superdome on game day. Tens of thousands of tourists were in the city during this period with every hotel room in the city sold out. Air traffic at all the major New Orleans airports (MSY, Lakefront Airport, Slidell, and Hammond) ran about four times the normal amount on Super Bowl weekend with critical military operations taking place. Several outdoor activities were held during the week including concerts, a large outdoor media event, and the NFL Experience event. There was a large military presence with several military exercises conducted during the week. Significant weather impacted the New Orleans area the first part of the week, while plume modeling and strong coordination with partners were critical the latter part of the week due to credible terror threats outlined by the FBI and the power outage which occurred at the Superdome the day of the game.
The support that the NWS provided that week was broad and multifaceted – taking in to account aviation, land, and marine support - with critical support done from both the deployed meteorologists and the home office. The Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) interface was used for the first time for a major national event. Qinetiq Corp. (a military contractor) did test balloon launches and Skew-T's for the event. Briefings varied in structure and detail between the main EOC at New Orleans City Hall where basic weather information was needed focusing on big impacts to the Coast Guard briefings which were longer and highly detailed. The NWS briefed the Coast Guard using a color coded forecast system which matched their critical thresholds, which included forecasts on river conditions, current, and water temperatures. The NWS staff employed plume modeling to support partners utilizing the HPAC (Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability) software for a series of Lat/Lon points associated with credible terror threats outlined by the FBI and NOAA's Hysplit model to forecast a smoke plume for a marsh fire that developed east of New Orleans. This was highly secure information with a great deal of coordination on how to best disseminate the information. The NWS CWSU in Houston and NWS New Orleans supported the FAA by doing critical briefings and coordination for the New Orleans area airports. The NWS provided daily spot forecasts for several critical points in the New Orleans area. Several DSS best practices were developed or utilized during this event including use of an office coordinator to develop “one message” briefings, AWIPS II thin client by deployed meteorologists, a dedicated “event specific” chat room in NWSChat, having a “one stop shop” Google Sites page, and an online Super Bowl “DSS toolkit” of important links.
NWS support for the Super Bowl event in New Orleans provides a model and a series of best practices that the agency can carry forward when providing weather support in future large planned events.