NWS Des Moines Provides Decision Support Services to Jasper County EMA at the Iowa Speedway

National Weather Service Des Moines provided on-site decision support services in Mid-May to Jasper County Emergency Management at a command post located at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA. During the two day event, nearly 15,000 people were in attendance at the speedway for NASCAR Xfinity Series races and a large concert.

NWS Des Moines Meteorologists Mindy Beerends, Ken Podrazik, Brad Small, Allan Curtis, Senior Hydrologist Jeff Zogg and Warning Coordination Meteorologist Kelsey Angle provided on-demand and scheduled briefings to the Incident Commander on potential impacts and timing of associated weather hazards which included thunderstorms and strong winds to the large exposed crowd.

Weather briefings to the command post were held prior to the start of each event with emergency personnel reviewing and briefing safety evacuation plans and procedures to the command staff. Providing on-site decision support services to emergency management in the interest of public safety is a component of National Weather Service’s Weather-Ready Nation Strategic Plan

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NWS Meteorologist Ken Podrazik monitoring changing weather conditions and providing briefings to the Incident Commander seated to the right.

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Showers and thunderstorms approaching the Iowa Speedway and exposed crowd.

Coop Awards

The National Weather Service has an expansive network of volunteers throughout the United States that provide timely and accurate vital weather information to their local NWS Weather Forecast Office. Throughout the Nation, there are roughly 10,000 volunteers from various locations such as farms, urban and suburban areas, National Parks, Conservation Areas, water treatment plants, local radio and TV stations, just to name a few. The COOP program was initially formed under the 1890 Organic Act in which a system was set up for volunteers to be recruited and trained in weather observations. The mission of these valuable volunteers consists of two parts:

  • To provide observational meteorological data, usually consisting of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour precipitation totals, required to define the climate of the United States and to help measure long-term climate changes.
  • To provide observational meteorological data in near real-time to support forecast, warning, and other public service programs of the NWS.

The data is invaluable to an extensive climate database across the United States. Although the majority of the NWS observers take daily measurements of maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall, there are other observers that provide soil temperatures, frost depth, river levels, and greenness or grassland curing data (for fire weather purposes). All this data that is collected from our volunteer observers helps several industries such as litigation, water resources, insurance, engineering and architectural, medical, manufacturing, communications, public utilities, transportation, agriculture, natural disasters/hazardous material mitigation, housing and real estate. We at the National Weather Service are extremely grateful and fortunate to have some amazing folks volunteer their time to provide such crucial data everyday. Length of Service Awards are given every 5 years to individuals or institution that have dedicated their time to help complete the NWS Mission. So far this spring 2015, the NWS Des Moines have presented four Cooperative Observer Length of Service Awards.

Janet Lindstrom of Rockwell City receives her 20 year Length of Service award. Presenting the award was Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA.

Ross Rekemeyer of Albia receives his 30 year Length of Service award presented by Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA. Ross Rekemeyer of Albia receives his 30 year Length of Service award presented by Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA.

Brad Mueller of Greenfield, IA (pictured) recently received his 10 year Length of Service Award. Presenting the award was Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA Brad Mueller of Greenfield, IA (pictured) recently received his 10 year Length of Service Award. Presenting the award was Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA.

Robert “Lightning” Petersen (pictured) recently received his 30 year Length of Service Award. Presenting the award was Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA Robert “Lightning” Petersen (pictured) recently received his 30 year Length of Service Award. Presenting the award was Brad Fillbach, HMT, WFO Des Moines, IA.

Blog post by Kenny Podrazik – NWS Des Moines

May 27-29, 1947 Snowstorm

One of the most unusual weather events in Iowa history occurred as an intense low pressure system moved northeast across Missouri and into the Great Lakes region, passing over the far southeastern corner of Iowa. Meanwhile an unseasonably cold area of high pressure spread down the northern plains bringing record breaking cold temperatures to much of the region. A heavy snow storm tracked along the northwestern side of the low across eastern Wyoming and Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and into northern Michigan from May 27-29 producing unprecedented snowfalls for so late in the spring. In Iowa the storm struck on the 28th with most precipitation in the south coming in the form of thunderstorms and rain, sometimes mixed with sleet and snow, while across about the northern half of the state the precipitation fell almost entirely as snow. In Iowa, measurable snow was recorded at most locations north of a line from Council Bluffs to Dubuque with reported accumulations including an incredible 10.0 inches at Le Mars, 8.0 inches at Cherokee, 7.5 inches at Waukon, 6.0 inches at Alton and Hawarden, 5.0 inches at Cushing, Iowa Falls, Milford, and Northwood, 4.5 inches at Mason City, 2.0 inches at Waterloo, and a trace at many locations including Des Moines. In Nebraska several locations received 10 to 12 inches of snow and in Wisconsin 8 to 10 inches fell in a narrow band from Gays Mills to Green Bay. To put into perspective how unusual this event was, no snow has ever been recorded anywhere in Iowa at a later date in the spring. The total of 10.0 inches at Le Mars was the highest snow accumulation on record in Iowa at any time in the month of May until it was bested by the storm of May 1-3, 2013. A series of heavy rains in the following several weeks combined with the snow-melt from this storm to produce historic flooding across many parts of Iowa in June of 1947.

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NWS Des Moines at Iowa Homeland Security Conference

Staff members from both WFO Des Moines IA and WFO Quad Cities IA/IL participated in the 11th annual Iowa Homeland Security Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 21-22, 2014. They led an invited breakout session titled “National Weather Service Support Services in Times of Disaster.”

During the session Melinda Beerends (General Forecaster/WFO Des Moines) and Jeff Zogg (Senior Service Hydrologist/NWS Des Moines) discussed Decision Support Services and related tools the NWS can provide before, during and after weather-related and weather-sensitive events. In addition, they used mock scenarios to highlight the potential utility of NWS Decision Support Services and tools. They also engaged the audience to better understand the needs of NWS Emergency Management partners. The breakout session was well-attended and generated positive feedback as well as subsequent discussions between conference participants and NWS staff. Melinda and Jeff were joined by Ken Harding (MIC/WFO Des Moines), Donna Dubberke (WCM, WFO Quad Cities IA/IL) and David Cousins (Meteorologist/WFO Quad Cities IA/IL).

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Melinda Beerends, General Forecaster, discusses NWS decision support resources with emergency managers.

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Jeff Zogg, Senior Hydrologist, discusses NWS decision support resources with emergency managers.

NWS Director Dr. Uccellini Visits the Iowa Flood Center

The National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, visited the Iowa Flood Center in Iowa City on Wednesday, October 15, 2014. He came to Iowa to learn more about the research conducted at the Iowa Flood Center (http://iowafloodcenter.org/) as well as to discuss the National Weather Service’s role in building a Weather-Ready Nation (WRN).  In Dr. Uccellini’s presentation, he discussed many of the upcoming projects, opportunities, and goals for the NWS and their relationship to building a WRN.  There are 6 strategic WRN Goals (see Figure below) and one area Dr. Uccellini focused on was Impact-based Decision Support Services (IDSS). NWS forecasts are increasingly being based on multi-model ensembles, which has improved forecast accuracy and in turn improved the agency’s IDSS to NWS partners and emergency personnel in preparation for significant weather events. From the long range outlooks down to the short-fuse warnings, forecasters will have higher resolution forecast models at their disposal. You can find the detailed Weather-Ready Nation road map here:  http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/

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Following Dr. Uccellini’s presentation, several of us from the NWS Des Moines office were fortunate enough to enjoy lunch with him and further the discussion about the future of the National Weather Service. We discussed the importance and usages of hi-resolution modeling, damage surveys, observational network, and several other weather related topics.

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From Left: Kenny Podrazik (Meteorologist, NWS Des Moines), Ken Harding (Meteorologist-in-Charge, NWS Des Moines), Wendy Pearson (Central Region Headquarters), Dr. Louis Uccellini (NWS Director), Kevin Skow (Meteorologist Intern, NWS Des Moines), Allen Curtis (Meteorologist Intern, NWS Des Moines), Jeff Zogg (Senior Service Hydrologist, NWS Des Moines). Photo by Chris Vaccaro, NWS National Headquarters.

Blog post by Kenny Podrazik – NWS Des Moines