Local MUD operating companies maintain disaster preparedness certification with county

16 01 2012

Each year, Fort Bend County OEM works closely with local municipal utility districts to ensure that adequate preparations are taken to get ready for the hurricane season and also for other disasters that are not related to hurricanes.  Below, please see the text from a recent article published by the Fort Bend Star recognizing the efforts of local operating companies who have maintained their preparedness levels during 2011.  In fact, most of these entities have been part of the County’s MUD Readiness Program since its initiation in 2009.  The article was published on December 21, 2011.  And, believe it or not, in just a few short weeks, it will be time for the 2012 Program to kickoff!

County Judge Bob Hebert in conjunction with the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management would like to recognize Municipal District Services, Severn Trent, SouthWest Water Company, Environmental Development Partners and Fort Bend County Municipal Utility District No.25 for participating in a voluntary National Incident Management System (NIMS) Program that he initiated in 2009.  In 2011, each company completed the requirements of the program and are hereby recognized as “NIMS Competent First Responders.”

Those recognized have earned the distinction by taking actions to become an integral part of the County’s emergency management network. The program involves a series of actions to be taken to make these operating companies more prepared for Hurricane Season, improve communications with emergency management staff at the County level, and truly begin to make the County’s water districts responsible for emergency management activities. County Judge Bob Hebert stated, “The program is based on assuring that participating operating companies are fully informed on the workings of the National Incident Management System and the role of the county in supporting all first responders during a declared emergency. The idea is to ensure improved communications between emergency management personnel and utility operators and to include utility district representation in the County EOC in all future activities.”

The conditions of the program included having employees from each utility operating company complete four NIMS on-line training courses (100, 200, 700 and 800).  Additionally, multiple employees have attended training sessions at the Fort Bend County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). During these sessions, attendees learned key definitions, the difference between crisis management and consequence management, the emergency response realities for municipal utility districts, the purpose and objectives of the County EOC, and the framework for the State of Texas Emergency Management Plan.

Jeff Braun, the County’s Emergency Management Coordinator, notes that “OEM staff is committed to expanding the readiness program and he is hopeful that additional companies will take advantage of the training offered in the voluntary program.”  Overall, the program is intended to ensure a more coordinated and effective response to water emergencies that may occur in the future in Fort Bend County.





National Hurricane Center chief Bill Read announces June 1 retirement

15 01 2012

 

By Associated Press, July 14, 2011

MIAMI — National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read, who took over the forecasting agency during a time of turmoil and leaves it much calmer, announced Saturday he will retire effective June 1.  Read, 62, said he never intended to stay in the position he has held since 2008 for longer than five years.

“I will have been in charge just shy of four and a half years on June 1,” Read said in a letter to hurricane center staff and managers at its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I had no idea I would ever be considered for such an honor. It’s been quite a ride and I’m blessed to hit the exit ramp in my career after working with you all.”

Read replaced Bill Proenza, who stirred controversy by repeatedly and publicly criticizing federal officials for what he considered inadequate funding for accurate storm forecasting and failure to replace an aging weather satellite. At one point, most senior and top-line managers at the hurricane center demanded in writing that Proenza be relieved of his duties, contending he was undermining public confidence in their work.

Proenza left the job after only six months. He had replaced the popular Max Mayfield, who was well known around the country because of his frequent TV appearances during major storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. Read’s tenure has been far less contentious and, although dozens of tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic Ocean since his appointment, no major hurricanes have struck the U.S. mainland since late 2005.

“Bill has provided superb leadership at the National Hurricane Center as 63 tropical systems formed across the Atlantic basin, including two of the more active seasons on record,” said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service. “Bill’s departure leaves a noticeable void to fill.”

A search for Read’s successor will begin immediately. Read said he chose June 1 in part because it marks the start of the 2012 hurricane season, meaning his replacement will initially tackle those hectic duties and then move into the off-season aspects of the job armed with storm experience. Read also said he has unspecified business opportunities that become available in the summer.

Read has worked in the military or government since 1971, when he joined the U.S. Navy and later became part of the Navy’s Hurricane Hunters team. He joined the National Weather Service in 1977 and rose to become meteorologist in charge of the Houston-Galveston office in Texas from 1992 to 2007.





The 2011 Hurricane Season in Less Than Five Minutes

4 01 2012

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on November 30th and produced a total of 19 tropical storms of which seven became hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. This level of activity matched NOAA’s predictions and continues the trend of active hurricane seasons that began in 1995.

Surprisingly, none of the first eight tropical storms reached hurricane status, a record since reliable reports started in 1851. Hurricane Irene’s effects in the Caribbean and the United States led to 43 deaths and accounted for the bulk of this season’s damage at $7.3 billion. Irene was the first landfalling hurricane in New Jersey in 108 years. Hurricane Katia had far-reaching effects causing severe weather in Northern Ireland and Scotland and power blackouts as far east as Saint Petersburg in Russia. Tropical Storm Lee caused major flooding in Pennsylvania, New York and into the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The strongest storm of the season was Ophelia, which reached category four strength in the Atlantic Ocean east of Bermuda.

An integral part of NOAA’s ability to monitor and predict hurricane formation and movement is the data that is provided by the GOES satellite, with its visible imagery, infrared sensors, and sounding capabilities. This animation merges both the visible and infrared imagery taken by the GOES East (GOES-13) satellite every 30 minutes over the Northern Hemisphere from June 1 — November 28, 2011.





2011 – Year of Record Heat and Record Drought

2 01 2012

The National Weather Service indicated today that 2011 was the hottest year on record for the City of Houston;  tying with the year 1962.  The average temperature for the City of Houston, at Bush Intercontinental Airport, was 71.9 degrees in both years.  Though we did not have much threat from tropical storm systems, those in the Houston region put up with weather conditions that were very hot, very dry, and caused the potential for dangerous wildfires.  Celebrators on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve were restricted in the types of fireworks that could be used in an effort to reduce wildfires in the urban area. 

The National Weather Service indicates that the City of Houston recorded 24.57 inches of rain in 2011, making 2011 the third driest year on record.  Further, the National Weather Service indicated that the rainfall totals this year rival the normal rainfall values for some cities in west Texas; places such as Abilene and San Angelo.





Why Tornadoes Take The Weekends Off in Summer

2 01 2012

This article was published December 29, 2011 by the National Geographic Daily News.  Charles Q. Choi is the author.  Though more research probably needs to be done on this topic, it is an interesting read.

Tornadoes and hailstorms may take the weekends off during the muggy summer months, according to a new study that reveals new ways human activity can inadvertently sway weather.  Scientists analyzed summertime storm activity in the eastern U.S. from 1995 to 2009 using data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.

They discovered that tornadoes and hailstorms occurred at a rate of about 20 percent above average during the middle of the week. In contrast, the phenomena occurred at a rate of roughly 20 percent below average on the weekend.  The findings proved statistically significant—not just a random pattern—and matched up well with similar cycles seen in other kinds of storms, the study authors say.

The team then investigated Environmental Protection Agency air-quality monitoring data and noted that human-made, summertime air pollution over the eastern U.S. peaks midweek. The cycle is linked to more human-made pollution created during the five-day workweek, such as commuters driving to and from work.  This connection hints that pollution might help breed storms, the study authors say.

That’s because moisture gathers around specks of pollutants, which leads to more cloud droplets. Computer models suggest these droplets get lofted up to higher, colder air, leading to more plentiful and larger hail.  Understanding how pollution can generate more tornadoes is a bit trickier. First, the large icy particles of hail that pollutants help seed possess less surface area than an equal mass of smaller “hydrometeors”—that is, particles of condensed water or ice.

As such, these large hydrometeors evaporate more slowly, and thus are not as likely to suck heat from the air. This makes it easier for warm air to help form a “supercell,” the cloud type that usually produces tornadoes and large hail. The pollution-storm pattern is not seen in the western U.S. because the air is too dry and the cloud masses too high and cold for air pollution to influence weather the same way, said study co-author Daniel Rosenfeld, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Overall, the research “provides yet another good reason for reducing air pollution,” Rosenfeld said.Rosenfeld and colleague Thomas Bell detailed their findings in the October issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres.