National Weather Service (NWS) Warning Coordination Meteorologist Ted Buehner was part of a natural hazards session at our recent March WFEA Conference in Olympia. He gave a short presentation on what the NWS offers to us who conduct outdoor festivals and events. Here is summary of what he presented that you can use to help keep your staff and visitors safe.
Most of our outdoor events occur during the warm season. Our region’s summer weather hazards include thunderstorms with lightning, hail, heavy rainfall and even tornadoes, strong winds, blowing dust, excessive heat and even wildfires with smoke. The key is being weather aware in advance so we can be better prepared and plan ahead with contingencies if the weather turns inclement.
Ted offered several tools for us to use. Here is a list...
- NWS web sites – there are four NWS forecast offices that serve Washington
Their web sites all start with www.weather.gov/ then the appropriate city like Seattle or Spokane. For example, the NWS web site serving the northeastern quadrant of Washington is www.weather.gov/spokane/
There is a lot of information on each forecast office’s web site including a clickable forecast map, current weather conditions including Doppler weather radar loops, the Area Forecast Discussion composed by the forecasters on duty 4-times per day, and more.
- From the web site clickable map, you can find the latest forecast for your event site. Once you click on the map, the green box on the subsequent map shows where the site-specific forecast is. You can fine-tune the location by clicking on the map again to pinpoint your desired location.
- Scroll down and there is a hourly forecast icon. Click on it to find hourly forecast conditions for your location including temperature, wind, precipitation, the threat of thunderstorms and more.
- For those smart-phone inclined, Ted highlighted the NWS mobile weather application of mobile.weather.gov/ It offers many of the same NWS web site features.
- Another key element for your security and safety office, a NOAA Weather Radio receiver. There are 22 stations serving the state reaching over 96% of the population. NOAA Weather Radio is an all-hazards warning system (so more than just weather warnings) and is a key reception tool for Emergency Alert System (EAS) warning messages. Weather radio receivers are available at many radio electronic stores and on-line, and is a life-saver for the cost of a pair of shoes.
- If questions arise or you have weather concerns, Ted said, ‘call us’. Here are the phone numbers for each NWS forecast office serving Washington state.
- Seattle – 206-526-6095 x0
- Portland – 503-261-9246 x0
- Spokane – 509-244-0110 x0
Given each of us have a focus on safety, Ted highlighted we are all Weather Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassadors and offered the WRN Ambassador web site to register at www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/ambassadors Check it out, register today and join the nationwide effort to help reduce loss of life and property to weather hazards together with all other thousands of WRN Ambassadors.
Ted also suggested all of us get to know our local NWS forecast office Warning Coordination Meteorologist or WCM. The WCM is the key NWS liaison to all their core partners such as the emergency management community, area media, fire weather, hydrology, aviation, and marine communities, and many others. Here is a chart with the four WCMs serving the state.
The natural hazards conference session also included Matt Auflick of Seattle Emergency Management discussing emergency preparedness, Shelly Chestler of University of Washington Earth Sciences addressing earthquake preparedness, and Richard Andersen, President and CEO of Seafair. This session was quite informative!
Each year we learn about an outdoor event somewhere in the nation or the world where weather became a hazardous factor and safety was jeopardized. Take advantage of what the NWS offers us here in the Evergreen State. Your effort to be more weather aware and weather ready could save lives and property at your venue.