EP 53 Fundamentals of Weather and Emergency Management

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Fundamentals of Weather and Emergency Management

[KYLE NELSON] That’s kind of how I found my passion for weather and for what I do, is by combining weather and my experience as– on local emergency management, and fuse those together.

[TODD DEVOE] Hey, welcome to EM Weekly, and this is your host, Todd DeVoe here with you for this fresh topic that we’re going to be talking about, weather. So, it’s a proper time to talk about the weather, because today, in Southern California, it’s raining out. I’m sitting here in my studio, looking out, and looking at the rain. It’s beautiful; I love the rain. In the Northeast, it’s getting (inaudible). I’m from New York originally, so I do prefer the rainy days and the beautiful weather like this, compared to the crazy snow storms that occurred back there. But my friends and family are sharing those picture with me on Facebook, and it’s incredible to see the Winter Wonderland that is happening out there in March. So, March is going out like a lion.
We are a week close to announcing some cool new features on EM Weekly. I wish I could publish them now. Brian is working hard on this, and he listens, so I don’t want to take away from what he’s doing over there, because there are still some things that he’s working on the backend, and we’re close to announcing what we’re doing over there. So, if you’re on the Facebook Group I’ve given some sneak peaks into it, so let me know what you guys think about those, that we were able to put the sneak peak in. Some of you guys that are on the Facebook group got to see it too. So, I’m excited about this coming up. And man, I just wish I could tell more, but I can’t, so I won’t. I don’t want Brian to be all mad at me. He’s my buddy, and I want to keep it that way.
In the Ask Todd inbox, we received a question about EOC communication tools, such as like, Web EOC and those types of things. And the question, specifically, was about Slack or those other project management tools that they have out there. Slack was the one that was mentioned, so that’s why I mentioned Slack. And can you use that in the EOC as a communications tool with the current tool that they’re using? I believe it was Web EOC.

So, my short answer is, sure, you can. But you want to streamline your tools that you’re logging into, and that reducing that training line you have, regarding logging into things, what they can be used for. Under stressful situations, do you want to add step there? If the tool that you’re currently using doesn’t work the way you wanted, and especially with like, Web EOC, ask them and see if they will develop something along the lines. They might be working on something like that right now because they’re always developing new boards and what not. I know that companies are– well, most of them, are receptive and looking to improve the quality of their product. So ask them and tell them this is what you need and see if they can develop it. If they can’t or won’t, maybe it’s time to look for a new tool, look for a better company that’s willing to work with you.

I took a look at Slack, and this is a cool project management tool. Lots of features that are on there. I don’t use it personally, never really played with it, I was talking to a few friends about it. It does have some capabilities, and you know, if that’s something that you want to do, it’s not a bad one to choose. But like I was saying before, you don’t want to increase the number of log-ins and what not that you’re going to have in the middle of an emergency, especially with people that are coming up to your EOC that don’t use it on a daily basis. So, adding step can sometimes be confusing, you might miss communications that way. And you just really want to streamline that communications process for everybody involved in the event.

I know that was a short answer, but again, when it comes to tools like this, our personal preference and what your agency likes to work with– so, ask this one question when choosing that tool: can it do what I need it to do at the time I want to do it? And if you can answer yes to that with a 99% of accuracy on it, I would say stick with that. So, that’s kind of where we’re at with that question. So, thank you so much.

So, if you do have any EM related questions, click on the “Ask Todd” tab at the EM Weekly website, www.emweekly.com. If I don’t know what the answer is, I will find out, and I’ll find the person who does. So, also, speaking of that, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. And on Facebook, you can also join our group page, and there you can interact with other emergency management professionals, and you can ask questions over there, share stories, and share your best practices and what’s going on. It’s a really fun place to do that and get to be with everybody else in the emergency management EM Weekly community.

I’m excited today; I am going to talk about the weather with an actual meteorologist, named Kyle Nelson. And Kyle and I met at the 27th International Association of Emergency Managers Conference in Long Beach. We started chatting about the weather. And I have to admit; I am a weather geek. I have a weather station at my house, the guys– some of my friends and I, we do a competition on when we’re going to get rain – whenever that happens – in Orange County, and we challenge each other to see if we can guess how much it’s going to rain during that storm period. And we’re only allowed to look at the weather station’s (inaudible). So, that’s how the game is played.

So yeah, I’m an admitted weather geek. So, when I met Kyle, we started chit-chatting, and I said, “I gotta get you on the show.” Because he is an independent meteorologist. And what is that? We’re going to find out. So Kyle, welcome to EM Weekly.

[KYLE NELSON] Hey Todd, thanks for having me on the show. Great to meet another weather geek.

[TODD DEVOE] So Kyle, what exactly is an independent meteorologist?

[KYLE NELSON] Oh, man. Well, I like to define independent meteorologist as someone who is more than just a meteorologist. Because going through the academia and the classroom side of it, well, that’s all well and good. But on the independent side, I like the flexibility that that brings. I choose to apply myself in the public safety and emergency management realms. So, doing weather decision support for pre-planned events and emerging incidents, as well as doing forecasting for fixed sites and facilities, like where I work, out in Colorado. So, you really can’t place one definition on it, but it, I think, gives you the flexibility to ebb and flow, and to kind of chase your dreams.

[TODD DEVOE] That’s kind of cool. So, I mean, are you sort of like a quasi-storm chaser type person, or is it a little bit more in-depth than that?

[KYLE NELSON] Well, you can get more depth than that. I’m not much of a storm chase myself; when I was growing up in the Midwest, I was kind of in the storm spotting, at the local level, through our local Skywarn weather spotter program. I’m a huge advocate of that, so if you haven’t checked out your local Skywarn spotter program, those are coming out here in the Spring, look for your local, national weather service, on their website, and get trained up.

And that’s kind of how I found my passion for weather and for what I do, is by combining weather and my experience as– on local emergency management and fuse those together. And now, still, the meteorology side, all the science, all the forecasting and that, is still all there in what I do, and the fundamentals are still the same, but it’s how I choose to apply that knowledge and communicate it to a different audience in a little bit of a different format.

[TODD DEVOE] So, as emergency managers– and I know we all care about the weather, so the question is going to be a little jaded here. But why should we care about weather? Why should it be important for us to have a meteorologist in the emergency operation center if we can get one?

[KYLE NELSON] That’s a great question, Todd. So, why should you care about weather, right? Well, that’s one– it’s easy if some of us live in places where the weather doesn’t change much, or you don’t have the big extremes, like certain places in the Southwest, for example, where it’s hot and sunny, seemingly, every day, and then the occasional passing shower turns traffic to chaos. So, that might be one reason to care about weather.

What I throw out when I pose that question is, weather affects your day-to-day operations whether you realize it or not. Because even something as benign as a passing rain shower, or a thunder storm, any one of these events that you seemingly kind (inaudible) into a sense of, “Oh, we got this, we’ve seen this before, we’ve dealt with it before,” you’ve got the local level all the way to our high impact events, like severe weather, tornados, hurricanes, flash flooding and things that we plan for. As emergency managers, weather affects our operations, and it affects our planning.
So, if we can better understand it, or even better, have someone like a meteorologist, a true degreed meteorologist, who is trained also in emergency management and communication in your EOC or emergency operation center, that is an invaluable relationship to have. Because that way, you can have the folks with the local expertise, local training, and local knowledge informing your operations, keeping the folks in the field safe, and allowing your planning section to plan ahead to the next operational period if you’re in a situation like that, where you can then plan around any weather hazards that may be forecast to occur.

[TODD DEVOE] So yeah, I really understand that, that’s really kind of cool. So you know, so you’re telling me that the weather guy doesn’t just take a dark board with a picture of clouds on it and throws darts to make it as a forecast?

[KYLE NELSON] No. Nor do we really rely on the groundhog method either. But that’s neither here or there. It’s soundly based in science, Todd. It may not seem like it at times, the old adage, “You weather folks, you’re the only ones who can do your job wrong 50% of the time and still get paid.” I kind of laugh at that and look at it as job security. So, it all depends on your perspective, I guess.

[TODD DEVOE] Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. So, I know that– in Southern California, specifically, where I operate, and I tend to come from that as my (inaudible) point. We really use a lot of weather forecasting when it comes to our fire weather. You know, obviously, people around here, we get the red flag warnings with the winds coming in, and we’re worried about the Santa Anas coming out of the desert to push fires around. And we saw some of those issues this year in California, not just Southern California, but Northern California, and Santa Rosa, and Central California, with the Santa Barbara fires, autonomous fires, specifically.

What’s the difference between normal forecasting and say, fire forecasting?

Fundamentals of Weather and Emergency Management[KYLE NELSON] I can’t really say that there’s a difference between the two, because as part of the normal forecast, you know, we’re considering, as meteorologists, not just the immediate weather hazards, but the effects that can cascade from them. And with regard to fire weather specifically, that’s where we have experts at the Storm Prediction Center, located in Norman, Oklahoma, that are not just looking at doing severe weather forecasting but also fire weather forecasting.

Especially for us in the Southwest and the Western mountains here in the United States, our fire weather often revolves around thunderstorm activity. Specifically, dry thunderstorms. So, starting from a lighting strike and things like that. And so, that’s something where, as forecasters, that’s a highly specialized skill set that’s been developed over time. And you are looking at very specific criteria and things, not just to include what’s happening in the atmosphere, but what’s happening at the ground level as well.

Like I know here, in Colorado, things don’t change pretty soon. For this year here, in 2018, we’re looking at a pretty (inaudible) start to the wildfire season are being predicted due to– you know, we have a very shallow snowpack that’s going to disappear quickly. So, you have low fuel moisture in addition to sloping terrain, and you know, high winds that can kick up around here, in addition to– as we warm up, especially into the spring and summer time, you know, dry weather conditions. So, low due points and low relative humidifies that ultimately all combine together to generate what we call fire weather.

[TODD DEVOE] Right. This is going to be a pretty intense time in our climate today, huh? With the fire weather. Let’s talk a little bit about climate change. And I want to just kind of go on a limb here to everybody, that I’m not politically talking about climate change. Whether you believe it’s manmade, or whether you believe it’s cyclical, or whatever the situation is, I think we can all agree that we’re in some sort of shift in what the climate was to where it’s going. It’s been warmer; rain has been less. How is that affecting our ability to predict weather things like that? El Niño’s, now La Niña, and those types of things.

[KYLE NELSON] So, climate change isn’t affecting our ability to predict the natural variations that occur in our atmosphere. If anything, we’re actually getting better at observing them and predicting them, on a longer-term basis. So, things like– you mentioned, so El Niño or La Niña. A warming or cooling of surface ocean waters in the Central Pacific, respectively. This year we find ourselves– or this season, I should say, we find ourselves in a La Niña situation, with cooler than normal surface temperatures in the Pacific.

In those natural cycles in the atmosphere, those are known to be occurring. But it’s when we start to consider the human influences on our atmosphere and on our globe, our earth, the place that we call home, and how through human activities, we are modifying our climate, and as we say, shifting our extremes. And so, we’re seeing more of these extremes, and it’s hard to– you know, for folks sometimes to say. And I’m not coming out from a political side either, but more of a factual scientific side, in what we’re observed.

And I like to kind of put it in context here, where think about your– like a bell curve, if you will. So you have your weather normals, what you’d expect on your day-to-day, or seasonal basis. Like, this is the normal for this time of the year for your area, and that would be the center of your bell curve. And then you have the out layers, and you’re in either end, and those are your extremes. So, if we shift that bell curve ever so slightly, in a warming climate, as we shift, we are also then, in turn, shifting how extreme our extremes can get. So, it’s all about having a matter of perspective.
It’s not like you’re going to automatically, within the next year, or even ten years, see direct effects, perhaps, at your specific location, but areas such as coastal regions, where we’re seeing the sea level rise and inundation. You know, talk to emergency management folks in Florida, who are seeing this currently happening, and where they’re having to raise streets, and buildings and things to mitigate against the observed and further projected effects of global climate change.

And we’re getting away from that global warming thing because the warming is not equal all over the globe. There are some areas of the globe that are actually cooling, but it’s global climate change that we’re talking about, and it’s undeniable that humans are influencing how our climate is changing here on earth.

[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, I know, it’s definitely a hard thing for us to get a grasp around. One of the things that– and this is– again, this is an opinion, I haven’t done the data, and maybe you can correct me if I’m wrong. I think that we’re seeing a lot more building out of areas that used to be able to absorb water when it rained. And Houston is a really good example of it. There was a whole show, podcast, that was put on by NPR, and they were talking about how areas in Houston that were actually marked as being a flood plain were developed, and there’s concrete, there’s asphalt all laid throughout this area, and homes were built. And so, that area wasn’t able to absorb the water that was coming in that probably should have. Is that impacting the weather as well, or is it just impacting the Earth’s ability to take on that rain?

[KYLE NELSON] So, the human modification of– in this example, are surface cover. We’re taking natural areas that used to have natural soils, and trees, and things like that, and now we’re placing these impermeable surfaces, where water can’t get through. So, instead of rain falling, hitting the earth and becoming ground water, and going into the hydrologic system locally, it’s instead hitting these surfaces, whether it’d be the roofs of buildings, whether it’d be asphalt or concrete parking lots, and then running off as surface water, run-off. That is becoming an increased problem.

And it’s further compounding the effects that we see from the warming climate, which in air that is warmer, you have more potential to hold more moisture. So, as a result, if our climate as a whole is warming, then we are also then able to have our atmosphere hold more water, which then leads to more intense rainfalls and greater rainfalls over areas that, perhaps historically, they have not occurred.

And now you compound that with how humans have been modifying our infrastructure, and perhaps not planning for how those infrastructures would be kind of impacted by the projected effects of global climate change. That can lead to some problems, hyper locally, as mini-areas have experienced.

[TODD DEVOE] Right. Ok, I have a question. I want to take a quick break, and when we come back, I want to ask you a little bit about the weather that was happening during Harvey and the phenomenon I was reading about, and how that exactly works. So, we’ll be right back after this short break and some words from our sponsors.

[TODD DEVOE] So, Kyle, welcome back from the break. And before we went to the break, I kind of eluded to a question regarding some issues with Harvey, and some of the stuff I read, and also the briefing that I got from the National Weather Service, with Alex Tardy. And he was talking about the fact that there was– we had like, really, really nasty grey, humid weather in California when Harvey was going on. And he eluded to the fact that this was part of the reason why Harvey was so strong, because it was sucking water in, and it created a stall. What exactly is that, and how does stuff like that happen, scientifically?

[KYLE NELSON] Oh, man. So, hurricane Harvey was– it set records on so many levels. And it was in part due to what we, as meteorologists, call a blocking pattern. And if you recall, when Harvey was starting up, forecasters were predicting what, at the time, were termed “insane” rainfall amounts. You know, 30, 40, 50 inches or more over the Houston and surrounding areas. And it was due to hurricane Harvey just sitting and persisting over that area for a long amount of time.

And that was because just to the West of Texas, over the Southern Rockies, there was a high-pressure system that was in place. And with that setup in place, it didn’t allow those winds in the middle part of the atmosphere that steer hurricanes to come in and push hurricane Harvey to the North, or to the East, away from the Houston area, where typically hurricanes, they’re here, they’re gone. They can travel, even sometimes, slowly, they still move or have some type of forward motion; in this case, it didn’t.

And it was because of that blocking pattern that was set up over the Western US. So, it was kind of a cascade effect, that because these systems weren’t moving the high pressure to the West, the low pressure that was hurricane Harvey over the Houston area, just locked in place until a very strong jet stream was able to come in and finally kick that system away from the Texas coast.

[TODD DEVOE] That’s pretty amazing stuff. Like I said, most people just think of the weather when they turn on the news, and they see their local weatherman say, “It’s going to be sunny and warm, or it’s going to be rainy– make sure you have an umbrella.” But there’s a lot more to this whole thing called weather that we all have to live with.

So, in this system here that occurred with Harvey, there’s really, at this point, there’s absolutely nothing that we can do until the weather decides to make a change. And people just kind of have to be prepared and to live with that. Now, is that caused, in part, by the climate change? Or is that just one of those things that just happen to happen?

[KYLE NELSON] Well, we cannot yet attribute any specific or any one event, whether it’d be local or a very, very widespread event, like a hurricane, or a severe thunderstorm or a tornado outbreak to climate change. But climate change is absolutely influencing events, both current and historical. I mean, some of you may recall extreme events such as Typhoon Haiyan, in the Western Pacific, back in 2013. The Indian heatwave, which killed thousands back in 2015. The El Reno tornado, in 2013. Hurricane Sandy, 2012. The list goes on, but it’s events like this, and hurricane Harvey can absolutely be added to the list, that are influenced by earth’s changing climate.

And one of the effects that we are seeing globally is with the warming atmosphere, due to emissions of greenhouse gases, amplifying the greenhouse effect on a global scale. In a warmer atmosphere, the atmosphere can hold more moisture. More moisture is one of the ingredients that help to fuel these tropical systems, including hurricanes, like hurricane Harvey. And with a warmer atmosphere that can hold more moisture, that can ultimately lead to heavier rainfall events over more hyperlocal areas.

And so, hurricane Harvey absolutely was indeed influenced by climate change, but the reason that it sat in one place, and the reason that it behaved the way that it did, we cannot yet tie changes on the global climate scale to those little minute things that ultimately resulted in a catastrophic event for Houston and the surrounding area.

[TODD DEVOE] So, one of the most (inaudible) that we always hear about, especially you know, before it was called global warming, and now it’s climate change, that it’s goign to be warming. And because it’s warming, everything is goign to be just hotter, right? And then when we see these massive snow storms that hit the Northeast last year, like the Boston snow blizzard that occurred, and those northeastern that are always occurring, that doesn’t necessarily rule that cold-snowy event, right?

[KYLE NELSON] Todd, that’s one of my favorite questions. So, does one snowfall event, or one extreme weather event, does that disprove climate change or the idea that the earth’s climate is warming, as a whole? And the answer is simply no.

There was a famous case where you had a Congressman on television, who brought a snowball to the floor of Congress, and he said, “Because it is snowing outside, there is no way that earth’s climate can be warming, because if it was warming, there is no way I’d have this snowball from the snow that’s occurring outside.” It’s through events like this, people like to cherry-pick them, and it’s important, I think, to, at this point, identify the difference between weather and climate.

So, climate is an average of weather events over the long-term. So, we’re talking 30 years or more. Where weather is what’s happening right now outside your window, that your weather station is measuring, that your app is telling you what the temperature is, the windspeed, the direction, and things like that.

All those variables define what the weather is, what is actually occurring, while climate is a long-term average of those conditions. And so, you know, over the earth, the average global temperature is increasing. You know, due to human effects. And so, because of that, we’re not seeing all those warming effects everywhere. Some areas of the globe are actually cooling, even though earth’s atmosphere, as a whole, is warming. So, it’s important then, to also think about this, and I like to throw out a couple of analogies, where weather is your mood and climate is your personality.
Your mood can change and swing wildly throughout the day. You know, those of us with significant others know this. Right? So, personality is defined. That’s an average over the very long-term. What defines you and your personality. So, you can think of earth the same way, where you have these weather extremes that can occur, and the weather that occurs day to day. But then, in the background, influencing all of that, is that background climate, or personality, if you will.

[TODD DEVOE] Right. So, one of the programs that the National Weather Service has is the storm-ready program, and I actually went through that program a few times. It’s a pretty cool program, they come and take a look at your plan, and they see if you’re addressing weather concerns based upon your area and your plans. So, it’s really actually a good plan check, if you want to think of it that way, when the Weather Service checks off on your plan.

But the cool part about this is that you’re thinking about weather events. And as emergency managers, that’s one of those things that we really need to consistently think about, how does the weather affect how we’re goign to be able to evacuate, how does the weather affect how the fire burns for us, how does the weather affect our planning the future, and to think about that to the plan.

Now, that being said, with the way things are going on right now, what can we do, as emergency managers, to keep that in our plan, throughout it? And what can we do about that?

[KYLE NELSON] So, moving forward as an emergency management community– as we said from the beginning, weather affects our operations day to day, you know, for our normal routine operations, as well for special events and things that may come up unexpectedly as well, in our communities. And one of the programs to ensure that’s being done, especially at the local level, is the Storm Ready Program, that you mentioned, Todd.

And I can’t say enough about the program; I’m a huge advocate of it. I’m a Storm Ready supporter myself, through the consulting gigs that I work through. And it’s really, really awesome to be able to really kind of take some of the concepts from the Storm Ready program, and to some folks, it is– I admit, some can say, “Oh my gosh, it’s another application, another thing we have to go through. I just went through EMAP accreditation; now I have to go through the Storm Ready thing.” All these pushbacks to it.

But I’ll tell you right now that, I’ve never seen an eight-page application before in my life. That’s eight pages. So, just to kind of highlight the benefits of it and how we can use those, the tenants of the Storm Ready program to keep ourselves with the Weather-Ready mindset going forward throughout the year is thinking about communications, and your ability to monitor weather 24/7 within your community, as well as having a way to amplify or to disseminate weather information and warnings.

If you already have a system in place for that, whether it’s your 911 dispatch or public safety answering point during the monitoring, whether you have a duty officer in your emergency operation center, on a 24/7 basis. However that process works, that’s one of the boxes you can check off on that application to keep your mindset in a weather-ready mode. Now you look at, “Ok, how am I receiving information from the national weather service?” With all the weather hazards that could affect my area, how can I get notified if one of those weather hazards is either in the forecast, if it has a potential to occur, if they’re in the watch phase. So we have the potential for hazardous weather to occur in or near our area, or if it is actually occurring, so if the threat is imminent.
So, we have a warning or a nuisance condition. So, we might be in the advisory status of things. You know, how are we receiving that information with our agency, so that we can keep ourselves, our staff, and our communities safe and informed? You know, how do we monitor weather locally? And also, how do we push that information, if it’s a watch or a warning, how do we disseminate that to our partners in our area of responsibility, in our community?

So, it’s things like these that we’re thinking about so that we can keep ourselves in a Weather-Ready track, and we’re doing this year round. Because weather doesn’t take a day off. And while we do have seasons that we like to– you can’t see me, but I’m doing air quotes. You have “seasons”, right, for hazardous weather.

Like, on the Great Plains, there’s tornado season. And then there’s we have hurricane season, that’s defined by these hard and fast dates, but as we saw back in 2017, we had tropical systems beginning to occur well before the start of the official Atlantic hurricane season, as it is defined. So, just keeping in mind that if conditions become favorable, these weather hazards can occur any time of the year. So, keeping yourself on your toes and going through a program like storm ready is also a great badge of honor you can wear and also promote within your community, and it’s also a really neat thing to show your boss and be like, “Hey boss, this is really cool, let’s get some good PR out of this, and let’s help carry this organization forward.”

[TODD DEVOE] Right, right, it’s true, that is awesome. Yeah, we get a lot of pictures taken and all that kind of stuff, so that’s a lot of fun. So, piggy-backing on the Storm Ready Program, you mentioned earlier the Skywarn program. Can you talk a little bit about the Skywarn program, what that is, and why we should support that, as emergency managers?

[KYLE NELSON] Oh, absolutely. The Skywarn program is a program that is championed by the National Weather Service, at the local level. So, your local, national weather service office, and if you don’t know who that is, and who your local office is, just go to Weather.gov, that is different from Weather.com, for those of you that are wondering. So, weather.gov, by putting your ZIP code there at the search box on the upper left, and then you’ll be taken to your local weather service offices forecast page.

Connect with your warning coordination meteorologist or WCM at that office, and they’re your point of contact as a local emergency manager. First and foremost, that should be your step. If you don’t, as an emergency manager, have your local warning coordination meteorologist there, number-programmed in your phone, and posted by the duty officer’s desk in your emergency operation center or watch center, get on that. Seriously, seriously.

It’s an invaluable relationship to have. They’re also your local point of contact for the Skywarn program that’s offered in your area. And the Skywarn program is offered by your local weather service office, and it’s typically one to two hours, tops, that trains folks from all levels. From community volunteers, community organizations, as well as you, your staff, your leadership, from public safety to emergency management, and on up from there, how to observe and identify hazardous weather in your area.

So, it’s very tailored, it’s very hyperlocal, and it highlights examples from historic weather that has occurred in your area of responsibility before. And what this empowers you to do, is to have a greater network of local information in your area. Because with all the technology and the automated systems that we have nowadays, think about how difficult it can be sometimes just to get weather conditions on a normal blue-sky day, and as to what the temperature is, and what the windspeed and direction is. If, say, you have a hazmat incident, right? You’re kind of averaging between two disparate or very distanced apart weather stations, and you’re kind of averaging saying, “Oh, the wind should be about this much.”

Well, now think about that with regard to heavy snowfall. With regard to rainfall, with regard to any type of hazardous weather, even something very hyperlocal, like damaging winds or a tornado. If you can build a very dense network of trained individuals that know how to identify and report these things to your local national weather service office and to your emergency management office right there, your operations are better informed and you can appropriately direct response assets to the areas of your community that are being impacted the hardest.

So, the Skywarn program is incredibly valuable, and the best part, it’s my favorite four-letter F-word, free. Absolutely, totally free. Partner up, if you can’t, if you’re having trouble filling a class by yourself, partner with a neighboring jurisdiction, a neighboring county. Bring that in, have folks connect with their local meteorologist. You never know if you might have some other weather weenies in your midst.

[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, weather weenies! That’s awesome. I really support that program too. For those of you that have like, CERT programs, or VIPs programs, or (inaudible) programs, and stuff like that, or other citizen core programs, that’s a really great, free, fun addition to your teams. And the people who went to the program, they enjoy it, and they’re going to be a really good asset for you, and it gives you the ability to give a nice training to those volunteers at a zero-cost for you. Maybe you’ll have to buy some coffee and some cookies and stuff like that, but at the most part, it’s a free program. So I agree with you right there.

Ok, we’re coming up to the end here, and I have the hardest question of the day for you. What book, or books, or publication, do you recommend to somebody who is, number one, into emergency management weather, or number two, into general leadership.

[KYLE NELSON] Well, Todd, I’ve got two of them for you. And you’ll see how they tie together here. So, the first is called “Smart Talk,” by Lisa Marshall. She’s a professional speaking coach and public speaker, and when I first found my passion for public speaking and community outreach during grad school, I knew the material, the science of weather and meteorology very well, but I struggled to deliver it effectively in a public setting, outside of the scientific community. And so, “Smart Talk” really helped me home my public speaking skills, so that’s one that I absolutely recommend.

The second book is called “541: Stories from the Joplin Tornado.” That one is by Randy Turner and John Hacker. Very highly recommended. As a scientist, and I like to think, sometimes, as emergency management types, we can sometimes become engrossed in numbers, definitions, and criteria for things, where there’s a human side to weather disasters. And that’s not always well-communicated.

But after the Joplin, Missouri tornado, on May 22nd, 2011 killed over 160 people, we knew, as a weather and public safety community, that something had to change. Triple-digit tornado deaths in 2011, after we thought we had it (inaudible). But you hear from reading 541, the tales of heroism, bravery, human suffering, and perseverance– me, personally, it made a deep impression on me. And I think it would make a deep impression on you all as well.

And just– it reframes what it means to experience a disaster through a human lens, and that’s a very, very valuable perspective, that has stuck with me since I read that book. So, 541, stories from the Joplin tornado.

[TODD DEVOE] That’s great, and I love books like that, so I’m definitely going to look that one up and get it, so thanks for that recommendation. Kyle if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, how could they get a hold of you?

[KYLE NELSON] Well, Todd, folks can find me at all the social media platforms under the handle wxkylenelson. So, feel free to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or connect with me on LinkedIn as well. I’d love to connect with any of your amazing listeners and continue the conversation.

[TODD DEVOE] Is there anything else that you’d like to say to emergency managers before we let you go?

[KYLE NELSON] So, to emergency managers, I want to just emphasize that it’s easy to place a stigma or a definition on what it is to know a meteorologist, or to have one in your EOC. Right, they’re the weather nerds that sit in the back room in their ivory tower, they give you the forecast, and that’s it. But the game is changing. We realize, as a weather community, that we haven’t done the best with communicating weather, and climate, and the signs hazards to you all, who are the decision makers, trying to keep the community safe.

And so, the game has changed, and there’s folks like myself and many others, especially in the national weather service, that are continuing to redefine what it means to support your decision making when it comes to severe and hazardous weather being forecasted in your area. Welcome us into your EOCs, welcome us into your operations, and if the national weather service can’t do it, there are many other great private companies that can provide the level of support and monitoring that you may need.

So, leave the technical expertise and interpretation of all the models and stuff like that to the experts and focus on the operation side of things, and we’ll give you all the information we can to make the best decisions, so you can keep folk safe in the field.

[TODD DEVOE] Kyle, thank you so much for being here with me tonight, and I do really appreciate everything that you’re doing out there, and let’s do this again sometime.

[KYLE NELSON] Absolutely, looking forward to it.


LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/wxkylenelson

Twitter:‏ @WxKyleNelson

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/wxkylenelson

Email: wxkylenelson@gmail.com

Phone:  (616) 402-0984


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