Early Forecast Says Below-Average Hurricane Season

8 04 2016

The 2016 Hurricane Season will soon be here.  Everybody should begin preparing for the annual season which begins on June 1st.  Fort Bend County’s Office of Emergency Management completes approximately 40 preparedness tasks during the Spring to get adequately prepared for the Hurricane Season.  Updating the County’s Traffic Management Plan is a priority.  The Traffic Management Plan guides evacuations through Fort Bend County when our neighbors in Galveston County and Brazoria County need to evacuate.  Even though Fort Bend County citizens do not generally need to evacuate because of a hurricane, but it is critical that our jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies have a plan to keep our evacuation routes open and clear during a large-scale exodus from counties near the coast.

I have copied a recent article from Emergency Management magazine (March 22, 2016).  The article was written by Kimberly Miller from The Palm Beach Post in Florida.  The crux of the article is that a well-known hurricane prediction expert is indicating that hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean may be lessened in 2016 because of cold water.  This is an early prediction; more predictions will be coming out from experts in the coming weeks.  But, don’t let the hint of a “timid” forecast make you procrastinate about taking preparedness actions.  In 1992, there were only seven named storms, but one of them was Hurricane Andrew which, at the time, was the most destructive hurricane to hit the United States.  Even a much smaller hurricane will severely disrupt the lives of our community; so please use this Spring to prepare for the 2016 Hurricane Season.

hurricane

Article from Kimberly Miller:

A below-average hurricane season this year? Floridians will take that, even if it is just an early prediction.

Phil Klotzbach, a leading hurricane expert, made that prediction Monday, based partly on the fact that frigid waters flowing out of the North Atlantic Ocean may limit activity as warm seas that feed energy to storms cool.

“The far north Atlantic is one of the few really cold areas on the globe right now, and those cold anomalies are bleeding down toward the west coast of Africa,” said Klotzbach, a researcher with Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science. “From there, they alter pressure patterns, winds and churn up the sea surface making the Atlantic not as conducive for a super active season.”

Klotzbach, who made his prediction Monday at the week-long National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, won’t deliver his official storm forecast until April.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also weeks away from releasing its official 2016 hurricane forecast, but meteorologists have been buzzing about whether the end of El Nino will leave the U.S. more vulnerable to storms.

El Nino, a global weather phenomenon that begins with a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean, is characterized by strong westerly winds that cut down Atlantic storms.

The 2015-2016 El Nino, one of the strongest on record, is expected to weaken by summer.

But like a pendulum, the mighty trade winds that take a backseat during El Nino, can roar back, awakening La Nina – a more accommodating hurricane host.

The most recent forecast by the Climate Prediction Center says there is a 50 percent chance La Nina will arrive by September. Hurricane season runs June through November.

“The higher the chances of La Nina, the higher the chances for a bigger than usual hurricane season,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground, in an interview earlier this month. “You have less wind shear and more favorable conditions for showers and thunderstorms to develop into hurricanes.”

But Klotzbach stressed Monday that the atmosphere doesn’t always react immediately to change, meaning an El Nino hangover may linger to help thwart storms. Also, other factors, such as an area of low pressure he says has been a predominant factor over the East Coast have acted against storms. Low pressure turns in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing hurricanes away from the U.S. coast and to the north.

“I think the best example of this was 2010 when there were 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic and not one hit the U.S.,” Klotzbach said. “We were extraordinarily lucky that year.”

In fact, while Klotzbach looks at decades worth of data to see what patterns produce weak or active hurricane seasons, he said sometimes a hurricane miss is just providence.

The U.S. has not been hit by a major hurricane – Category 3 or higher – in 10 years. Florida’s last hurricane was 2005’s Wilma.

“There has been a significant luck component,” he said. “There have been 27 major hurricanes in a row with none hitting the U.S. The odds of that are one in several thousand.”

Klotzbach is lead author on the annual hurricane forecasts by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. He took over the task in 2006 from noted hurricane researcher William Gray.

Last year, the duo’s April hurricane forecast said there would be seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. The season ended in November with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“2016 will be a good test since we won’t have El Nino,” said Klotzbach, who believes the Atlantic may have entered a climatic pattern of fewer hurricanes. “It would definitely increase confidence that we are moving out of an active time for storms.”

Klotzbach is among dozens of weather and emergency management experts speaking at this year’s National Hurricane Conference. About 1,500 people are registered for the week-long event.

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Fort Bend County Still Among the Fastest-Growing Counties in the United States

29 04 2015

FBC mapThe primary purpose of this blog is to focus on emergency management.  Of course, we want to pay special attention to Fort Bend County and its efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for its citizens and businesses.  The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management coordinates disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities to provide the safe environment noted above.  So, you might ask, why does this blog sometimes feature articles on economic development and population growth?  Because the construction of more housing, the locating of more businesses, and the arrival of new families has a direct effect on emergency management activities in the County.

Our County is now the 10th largest county in Texas having experienced a 57% rate in growth over the last decade. The efforts of our elected officials and the business community in Fort Bend County have caused this expansion which has created more jobs, more tax dollars, and dynamic business centers to create opportunity and diversity like no other place in Texas. Day in and day out, our population of almost 700,00 enjoys a fantastic environment for working and going to school and playing in a County which is the envy of most others, not only in the State of Texas, but in the nation.

On March 26, 2015, The Texas Tribune published an article about the growth of Texas’ population and the clear trend that the suburbs in metropolitan areas are demonstrating the quickest growth.  The article was written by Alexa Ura.  The reporter indicates that three of the State’s counties ranked among the fastest-growing areas in the United States based on recently released demographic information released by the United States Census Bureau.  Ura writes that “Fort Bend County, home to about 652,000 people in 2013, grew by 4.7 percent and ranked as the sixth-fastest-growing county. Southwest of Houston, Fort Bend has been called the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. because its population comes the closest to having an equal division of the nation’s four major ethnic communities — Asian, black, Hispanic and white. The county comprises several Houston suburbs, including Sugar Land and Richmond.”  Additionally, Lloyd Potter, the State of Texas demographer estimates that “Fort Bend County would eventually outgrow the suburb label given the rate of its population increase.”

However, this creates a challenge—— to paraphrase from familiar scripture—– “though we are blessed in Fort Bend County, much is required to make sure that our beautiful landscapes, historic landmarks, and stable community is not devastated by natural or man-made threats.”  Fort Bend County, through the leadership of County Judge Bob Hebert and the Commissioners Court, recognizes the need to improve the quality of life in our County through economic development, but also the charge to, not only protect the safety of our citizens, but also to instill confidence that Fort Bend citizens can go about raising families, conducting business and living their lives without abnormal fears from those who wish us harm, or the unpredictability of natural disasters.

 





Time to Start Thinking About the 2015 Hurricane Season

11 04 2015

jpg-HurricaneGetReadyBelow is a short article by Heather Nolan, NOLA.com, The Time-Picayune.  The article was published on April 9th. The forecast, from a very reputable source, indicates a lower than average hurricane season.  I often get asked by citizens— how bad a hurricane season are we going to have this year?  There is never a totally accurate answer.  All predictions of hurricane activity are estimates—- they cannot be viewed as being precise.  I am glad to hear that the forecast is calling for a “mild season.”  But, one must always remember———— it only takes one hurricane making landfall in our region to turn a “mild season” into an “active season.” So please do two things.  First, read the article below.  Second, start getting ready for the upcoming hurricane season by going to the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management website and review the information posted about preparing for a hurricane.  Here is the link:  http://www.fbcoem.org/go/doc/1528/258151/

Colorado State University climatologists are predicting a lower than average Atlantic hurricane season, with three hurricanes and seven named storms in 2015. They predict one of those three will be a major hurricane – a category 3 or higher.  In a forecast released on April 9th,  climatologists Philip Klotzbach and Bill Gray said the combination of a moderate-strength El Nino and a relatively cool tropical Atlantic would keep hurricane activity low.

According to their forecast, the Colorado State University climatologists’ 2015 predictions are below average compared to a 29-year period between 1981 and 2010.  Hurricane seasons in those years averaged 6 ½ hurricanes, two major hurricanes and 12 named storms.  The 2015 forecast follows a relatively quiet 2014 Atlantic hurricane season that saw only six hurricanes – two of them major – and eight named storms.  It was the second consecutive quiet year for the New Orleans area since 2012, when Hurricane Isaac flooded hundreds of homes across parts of the area. Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to release its 2015 hurricane predictions in May.

Remember—- the 2015 Hurricane Season starts on June 1st!

ARE YOU READY??





Exciting Day for Fort Bend Seniors

4 03 2015

FBS logoOne of OEM’s key emergency management partners is having a special day today.  Today Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels will be holding its groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new 3,600 square foot administrative building—-more about this project is described below in an article from the Fort Bend Herald that was published yesterday.  For many years, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has worked collaboratively with Fort Bend Seniors to deliver emergency preparedness materials to the clients of Fort Bend Seniors.  Fort Bend County Health and Human Services (HHS) is another key player in emergency management in our County and they also work closely with Fort Bend Seniors to help identify those individuals in our community that might need special assistance before or after a disaster.  So, today, staff here at OEM is very happy for Fort Bend Seniors and we look forward to working closely with the agency for many years to come.

Fort Bend Seniors prepares for the future

Here’s a nod to the Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels, which will be holding its groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate a major milestone in nonprofit’s history with the renovation and expansion of the Senior Center in the O’Shieles Community Center and the construction of a new 3,600 square-foot administrative building, which will be adjacent to the center.
What’s notable about this $3 million capital endeavor, is that it is a collaborative project between Fort Bend County and Fort Bend Seniors, with major funding provided by the county, Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation, George Foundation, Fred and Mabel Parks Foundation, Gulf Coast Medical Foundation and the FBS board of directors.

To date $2 million has been raised completing Phase I of the campaign, and plans are underway to raise the remaining $1 million by the end of 2016.
Since inception 40 years ago, Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels has served over 3.4 million congregate and home delivered meals to older adults age 60 and over, regardless of income, in Fort Bend and Waller Counties.

Through its efforts, Fort Bend Seniors has helped seniors remain independent by enhancing their quality of life through services and resources.

This project is also an important preemptive measure for the nonprofit. Studies show that within the next 15 or so years the population of senior citizens will double and for the first time in history, people 65 years old and older will outnumber children under five years of age.

The groundbreaking will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Bud O’Shieles Community Center at 1330 Band Rd. in Rosenberg. Other elements of capital project include: renovation of the Bud O’Shieles Community Center to provide for a library, education and activity rooms, and a care area for seniors with early signs of dementia; and a new kitchen to more efficiently deliver meals. (Published in Fort Bend Herald on Tuesday, March 3, 2015)





Practice makes perfect………….

17 12 2014

Pulling Trailer Out of Parking BayMVDR 1

In 2012, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management purchased two trailers designed to deploy during times of emergency. OEM’s two Mobile Voice and Data Redundancy (MVDR) trailers will provide critical voice and data redundancy to the County EOC and other county buildings, allowing the EOC and the government operations to function in a complete data outage.

This original purchase of the MVDR trailers enhanced savings by utilizing trailers, since facilities can have connectivity without fixed satellite or cellular backup systems. This project provides data for our seat of government and our EOC simultaneously in the event of connectivity loss by either natural or man-made causes. OEM is able to consolidate equipment to two vehicles and have the same benefit of dozens of satellite dishes and service plans.

Raising the Zumro TentRaising the Zumro Tent

Purchasing the equipment was the easy part.  To ensure that the trailers are ready to use when needed, OEM staff has practiced using the trailer and learning how to get it set-up as quickly as possible when necessary.  This past week, OEM staff spent the day pulling-out one of the trailers from its bay; working through the tasks required to get the trailer ready to use; and documenting all the steps necessary to raise the antenna; remove equipment from the trailer; erect the tent enclosure; power up lights and generators; and a host of other necessary actions.

Thinking about PracticingRaising the generators

Though none of this activity is particularly fun, it is very necessary to ensure equipment that is in proper working order and is ready for action at a moment’s notice.  In the real estate business; the mantra is:  Location. Location. Location.

Moving the MVDR generatorsRolling up the matsCalculating the next move

Similarly, the mantra to keep the MVDR trailers ready to roll is:  Practice. Practice. Practice.





Ready Bingo

20 07 2014

A project of the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management was noted in the June 2014 issue of the Fort Bend/Katy Business Journal magazine.  The Office recently received an award from the Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT); the Community Service Award in conjunction with the Arc of Fort Bend County.  EMAT recognized Fort Bend OEM for a project a public outreach tool; “Ready Bingo.”

Kathy Renfrow, Cheryl SewellReady Bingo is a fun and engaging way to teach emergency preparedness using a picture-driven bingo game. Ready Bingo targets a variety of audiences including seniors, children, persons with limited English language proficiency, and individuals with functional and access needs. The Community Service Award honors those who have provided leadership, guidance, facilities, equipment, or support to an emergency management program, a community, or the profession in the furtherance of mitigation, preparedness, response, or recovery activities in the past calendar year.

The Fort Bend County OEM is very proud that Cheryl Sewell and Kathy Renfrow developed the idea for Ready Bingo project which is now utilized across the Houston metropolitan area.  Inquiries about Ready Bingo have been received from other regions of the country also. This really is a result of great cooperation between Kathy and the folks at Ready Houston. Without that partnership and the close working relationships this idea would not have been implemented as successfully.

The Office is committed to communicating with the public in a timely, accurate, and accessible manner.  In particular, Ready Bingo provides an innovative method for sharing preparedness information with the whole Fort Bend County community.





3/4’s of Texas now back in drought

28 11 2012

I recently came across the article below on the HoustonTomorrow website (www.houstontomorrow.org).  In what follows, you can read Matt Dietrichson’s article which discusses a new report indicating that most of Texas is facing severe drought conditions.  At this time, the Fort Bend County average KDBI drought index is 549.  Perhaps not time for a burn ban, but it is definitely drying out in our area and the Office of Emergency Management and the Fire Marshal’s Office will be monitoring the dryness level on a continual basis.  Our neighbors in Brazoria County have a KBDI level over 600 and have implemented a burn ban.  With dry conditions, the possibility of wildfires is a distinct possibility.  Hopefully, a few good thunderstorms will produce the rain that is needed, but as the article below indicates, there is also a good chance of continued dryness.

Though conditions are still much better than they were a year ago, a new report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the majority of the state is in a drought, according to Eric Berger in the  The Houston Chronicle:

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released this morning, shows that more than three-quarters of Texas is now in at least a “moderate” drought, and nearly half the state is in a “severe” or worse drought.

Now to be clear, conditions are still far better than 13 months ago, when the great 2011 drought peaked. At the time 100 percent of Texas was in a moderate drought, 99 percent in a severe drought, and 88 percent in an exceptional drought.

But conditions have gotten quite a bit worse since May, when the drought was at bay for about half of Texas, including the Houston metro area. Now the majority of greater Houston has returned to drought conditions.

Although November isn’t over, it’s possible Texas could end with its driest October and November period since 1950, says Victor Murphy, a climate specialist with the Southern Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service.

Statewide average rainfall for Texas in November 2012 should be about 0.5 inches versus a normal of nearly 2 inches, he said.  That would make the October/November time period total about 1.3 to 1.4 inches, or about 30 percent of the state’s normal of 4.60 inches.

There are two take-aways. First, although climate change is having an effect on Texas, most notably in temperatures, there are no indications it’s having a meaningful effect on rainfall trends, especially in the October/November period.

With that said, it’s a bit concerning to me that the October/November period the state is currently enduring may end up being drier than the October/November period in 2010, when 1.85 inches of rain fell. That launched the state in the great drought of 2011.

I’m not saying that will happen again. It very likely won’t. But it’s certainly not a good way to go into winter.