Public-Private Collaboration under the National Mesonet Program During Hurricane Arthur

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Thursday, 8 January 2015: 2:30 PM
221A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Steve Woll, WeatherFlow Inc., Poquoson, VA

Late on the night of July 3rd, 2014, Hurricane Arthur made landfall along the coast of North Carolina near the town of Beaufort. Over the next six hours, the storm tracked north-northeast over the waters of Pamlico Sound, bringing sustained winds over 70 mph in multiple locations, a maximum sustained wind of 83 mph, and gusts near 100 mph, before eventually crossing back into the Atlantic near Oregon Inlet early the next morning. Because of the storm's relatively rapid passage and mostly over-water track, damage from Arthur was thankfully relatively light, but the storm served as a superb example of the power of public-private cooperation within the weather enterprise. To help monitor the meteorological and oceanographic conditions found in this critical stretch of coastline, NOAA, the FAA, and other federal agencies operate about a dozen sensors along the approximately 120 miles of barrier islands and sounds that run from the Cape Lookout to Roanoke Island. Under the National Mesonet Program, data from these federal stations is supplemented by over 30 non-federal weather stations located along the same stretch of coastline. These stations are operated by National Mesonet Partners WeatherFlow and Earth Networks (both private companies) and the North Carolina ECONet (operated by the state of North Carolina). Data from the stations is transmitted automatically to a National Weather Service database for use by the National Hurricane Center, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, local NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), and other offices within NWS and NOAA. During Arthur's passage, 18 of the 25 highest wind readings recorded came from National Mesonet partner stations, with 6 from federal stations and 1 from a buoy operated by a state university. Among the 18 highest stations, 16 were fixed stations operated by WeatherFlow and 2 were mobile stations deployed in advance of the storm by personnel from the University of Florida under the Florida Coastal Monitoring Program, and which relay their data to the National Mesonet program via WeatherFlow. Data from these National Mesonet assets were cited 40 times by coastal WFOs in their real-time watches, warning, and Local Storm Reports, and were referenced in each of six final comprehensive Hurricane Post-Storm Reports issued by these WFOs. After the storm passed, the National Mesonet partner team pointed to it as a superb example of the power of the National Mesonet Program. National Mesonet partners were able to increase the amount of data available to the National Weather Service by a factor of three, including the capture of the strongest winds recorded during this storm. This increase in high quality, highly reliable data helps NWS in its mission of protecting the lives and property of our citizens, and it does so at a fraction of the cost of the federal government doing it alone. This shows how engaged public-private cooperation helps our citizens as well as the private sector, state, local, and academic participants throughout the U.S. Weather Enterprise.