Decision Support and Social Media for High Impact Weather Session (Saturday)

3:30pm - 4:00pm // Social Media Discussion Panel: The Evolving Role of Social Media in the Weather Enterprise // Colleen Coyle, Moderator // WFAA-TV (ABC), DFW

4:00pm - 4:15pm // Flooded Road Situational Awareness for Central Texas // Matt Porcher //City of Austin is website that started as a collaboration between the City of Austin and Code for America in the summer of 2012. It was designed to improve the situational awareness about flooded roads in Austin, which is located in the heart of “Flash Flood Alley.” According to the National Weather Service, at least 75% of flash flood fatalities in Texas happen when vehicles drive into flooded roads and crossings. ATXfloods is simple and easy to use. On the map of low water crossings, green means open and red means closed. It’s even simple to get to, unlike many government websites. The name of the website is also the address: After the devastating Halloween Flood of 2013 which flooded 800+ homes and caused the death of four people in Austin and two people in surrounding jurisdictions, ATXfloods was expanded into a regional flood safety website. After all, floods are not jurisdictional. ATXfloods currently shows the low water crossings of 13 other jurisdictions apart from the City of Austin. These “ATXfloods Partners” independently monitor and close flooded roads in their jurisdictions, then update the ATXfloods website to share the information.

4:15pm - 4:30pm // Assessing the Value of DSS: Using experimental short term ensemble river forecasts for evacuation decisions in Wichita Falls, Texas // Jonathan Kurtz // NWS Norman

There’s a saying in the Southern Plains: “droughts usually end in floods”, and May 2015 was a prime example! Parts of Oklahoma and Texas experienced repeated bouts of heavy rain, which resulted in record rainfall amounts, flash flooding and river flooding. Beginning in late May 2015, officials in Wichita Falls, Texas, dealt with the potential for record flooding in their community which impacted thousands of homes and businesses, and which had the potential to exceed the catastrophic flooding they experienced in 2007.

For the first time, forecasters at WFO Norman used experimental short-term ensemble model guidance from the Arkansas-Red Basin River Forecast Center (ABRFC) to brief city officials in Wichita Falls. This included developing specialized hydrographs for clear and concise dissemination of river forecast information for decision makers.

This presentation will examine how WFO forecasters presented the experimental data to city officials, and will also show how city officials interpreted the data and what they did with it.

Additional Authors: James Paul and Rebecca Harjo, NWS Arkansas-Red Basin River Forecast Center, Tulsa, OK. Dr. Laura Myers, University of Alabama. Dr. Vankita Brown, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD

4:30pm - 4:45pm // Expansion of Impact Decision Support Services (IDSS) at the West Gulf River Forecast Center During the May/June 2015 Flood // Gregory Waller // NWS West Gulf River Forecast Center

Record rainfall across Texas in May 2015 eliminated the multi-year drought impacting Texas. New communication methods and technology required a new paradigm in communicating the forecast operations at the West Gulf River Forecast Center (WGRFC). This presentation will examine how WGRFC forecasters adjusted the operational workload to ensure effective IDSS communications to RFC customers during the event, including new graphics, social media, and staff deployment.

4:45pm - 5:00pm // Using Live Video Hangouts to Increase Severe Weather Awareness // Tim Brice // NWS Southern Region HQ

During significant weather, the biggest obligation the National Weather Service has is to keep its partner base informed regarding the latest watches, warnings and current weather trends. In the past, NWS offices simply used text products to get their message out. More recently, many offices have used graphical products, social media and recorded videos. But now, technology is allowing for anyone (including NWS offices) to broadcast a live video stream over the Internet. This presentation will talk about the various ways the NWS office for the El Paso Area has been experimenting with the live video streaming platform called “Hangouts.” NWS El Paso has used Hangouts to get their messages about severe weather preparedness and on-going and developing weather quickly and directly to their partner community. The presentation will also cover the advantages, disadvantages, challenges and potential uses for this live video streaming platform.

5:00pm - 5:15pm // Texas Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST): Enhancing Social Media Efficiency During High Impact Weather Events // Melissa Huffman // NWS Houston Galveston

Virtual Operations Support (VOS) as applied to emergency management and disaster recovery is an effort to make use of new communication technologies and social media tools so that a team of trusted agents (i.e. trained volunteers) can lend virtual support to those on-site who may otherwise be overwhelmed by the volume of data generated during a disaster. There are active emergency management VOS teams (or VOSTs) in a number of states across the country including Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington and now Texas.

The weather enterprise across the country has been quickly realizing the benefits of utilizing VOSTs to mitigate the daunting job of sifting through the plethora of data available on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. In many situations, only one or two individuals are tasked with not only monitoring social media outlets for situational awareness, but also communicating and disseminating information on such channels. With a team of trained and trusted, “Virtual First-Responders”, much of the data-mining workload can be load-shed so more focus can be given to communication and information sharing.

This presentation will provide examples of VOSTs being implemented across the state in the last couple years, including the West Texas VOST (@WTXVOST), the Austin-area VOST program (@SCTX_Aware & @TravisCOSW) and @TxStormChasers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Additionally, an internal NWS experimental VOST called the Supplemental Assistance Volunteer Initiative (SAVI) will be introduced to show how NWS offices across the state are using this model to enhance their situational awareness with during high-impact events such as Tropical Storm Bill, the October fires in Bastrop, and the historic flooding on October 30th across Central and Southern Texas.