NWS Des Moines Decision Support Services

The National Weather Service continues to provide decision support services (DSS) for specific events and/or incidents to partners and stakeholders throughout the year. Most DSS provided is for scheduled events such as county fairs, races, parades, concerts, and even RAGBRAI. Occasionally, the NWS will be asked upon to provide DSS for emergency incidents including one recent event that occurred in Graettinger, Iowa (Palo Alto County) when a train derailed on the morning of March 10, 2017.  A total of 27 cars where involved with the train derailment in which a few were loaded with alcohol and was unfortunately set ablaze (See image below).   The Palo Alto Emergency Management requested daily DSS briefings which included highlights of upcoming weather, hourly forecast graph, a detailed 5-day text forecast, and resources (See Figure 1).   The briefings finally ceased by Wednesday March 15th and this incident is just one of several examples on the DSS that the NWS provides to their partners. 
NWS Decision Support Services Include (but not limited to): 
  • Weather briefings provided at designated times and through requested formats including phone calls, emails, video conferences and on-site deployments
  • NWS maintains a constant weather watch for the event or incident
  • If hazardous weather is imminent, the NWS will contact the provided point of contact(s)
  • Support provided for your requested impact and decision making thresholds
  • Location specific situational awareness webpage
Last summer, the NWS deployed a new DSS Calendar Tool to aid in the NWS Des Moines partner support.   Requests can be made by NWS partners and once a request is received and details of the DSS is finalized, then the event/incident is listed in the DSS Calendar.  The NWS Des Moines also has several Decision Support Pages available for anyone to use:  NWS Des Moines Decision Support Page.  The DSS varies from severewinter, fire weather and flooding. Radar, satellite, current watches and warnings, webcams, road conditions, and the latest observations are all available on the aforementioned links.  
KCAU-TV/Nexstar Media Group

KCAU-TV/Nexstar Media Group


Figure 1: Example of the decision support services provided to the Palo Alto Emergency Management for the Graettinger, Iowa Train Derailment in March 2017.

Blog post by Kenny Podrazik, Meteorologist


New DSS Events Calendar Tool to Aid NWS Des Moines Partner Support

NWS DMX has been providing support for many partners through our Decision Support Services (DSS) for several years, and this year has a new tool to help with this support, the DSS Events Calendar. This tool is being rolled out across the Central Region NWS offices so each office has a consistent baseline for partner support. The calendar works by NWS partners such as Emergency Managers (EMs) providing input about their events through a web-based form. This information is then organized into a web-based calendar so that our office and meteorologists are aware of each event being held across our county warning area. These events tend to be outdoor events that gather a large attendance which are most vulnerable to the impacts of weather, and more specifically severe weather. 

Many days several events are ongoing across Central Iowa with as many as 15 to 20 on one of the busier days. NWS DMX meteorologists stay aware of these locations while issuing warnings and can place special statements in the severe warnings about the outdoor event locations that may be occurring in a warned area. The event location is included in the input and then is directly loaded into the office computer system used to issue warnings, so that these event locations can be included in a warning if necessary.

County Emergency Managers maintain contact with our office throughout the event as well, by logging into a chat program or via the phone to obtain the latest information about any threatening weather. If requested by an EM, NWS DMX will also provide a localized briefing detailing any hazardous weather that may be expected throughout the duration of the event. One example is a video briefing held with the Jasper County Emergency Management officials for high-attendance races held at the Iowa Speedway, another example is a daily email briefing during RABGRAI provided to public safety officials, County EMs, neighboring NWS office management, and regional NWS management.

This tool has allowed NWS DMX to streamline its operations regarding event support to the local county officials, helped NWS DMX meteorologists to maintain awareness of these large events in case hazardous weather is approaching, and help keep everyone safe so they can enjoy these events to their fullest.

If you have weather hazard concerns for an event, please contact your county emergency coordinator who will work with the National Weather Service before and during impactful weather conditions.


Blog post by Mindy Beerends, Senior Forecaster, NWS Des Moines

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


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


Showers and thunderstorms approaching the Iowa Speedway and exposed crowd.