Education, partnerships, food, and fun were a recipe for a great time on Saturday, March 16th for visitors to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley campus. Gusty winds were no match for the nearly 1,000 people who spent part of their day learning about the NWS’ core mission to protect life and property from the dangers of hurricanes, hail, flooding, etc. Guests were able to meet our friendly and passionate staff who make weather predictions used by decision makers of all kinds to keep the Rio Grande Valley safe. Several invited partners in Emergency Management and the media were on hand to provide visitors information on how they turn NWS information into life-saving action. Most people left with a new appreciation of how vital their local NWS office is to the region, and several asked if another festival was being planned for 2014!
Activities were plentiful for children and adults. The following is a flavor of all there was to savor:
- Steve Drillette led visitors into the Conference Room, where Senior Forecaster Joseph Tomaselli introduced people to the office through a virtual tour. Science and Operations Officer Doug Butts, Senior Forecaster Geoff Bogorad, Forecasters Jason Straub and Justin Gibbs, and Hydrometeorological Technician Fred Vega then showed off our redesigned, collaborative decision support–centric operations area (panorama image, below), and answered dozens of questions from rapt audiences for nearly six hours.
. Meteorologist in Charge
- Jim Campbell described the process of upper air atmospheric soundings, including the weather baloon and the attached GPS–enabled box of sensors that measure wind, temperature, pressure, and humidity. After the brief description, the balloons were launched – one each at Noon and 2 PM – to a thrilled combined audience of several hundred.
. Data Acquisition Program Manager
- Office of Emergency Management provided a Mobile Command Center, a Lenco Bearcat® vehicle for Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, and a fire truck. The South Texas Division of the American Red Cross was on hand to explain their role in recovery from events such as hurricanes and tornadoes. The Cameron County Health Department described how they help local residents in poor health find safe haven from dangerous weather. The Texas General Land Office showed how weather information can impact operations on the Laguna Madre and surrounding areas when protecting the coast from man made and natural hazards.
. The City of Brownsville’s
- Blair Scholl, Texas A & M meteorology student Bianca Villanueva, and Senior Forecaster Mike Castillo taught kids how to make a cloud, discover how rain is collected, and play "tornado in a tube"; and Forecaster Kirk Caceres along with Senior Forecaster Geoff Bogorad hosted the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS) "fill up the rain gauge" game.
. Children learned how waterspouts work by viewing the NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley life–size tornado chamber; Forecaster
- Maria Torres, Meteorologist Erin Billings, and Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith provided bags of coloring books, cloud charts, hurricane tracking charts, pencils, and magnets to visitors entering the building, and gave away nearly $1,000 in door prizes. Prizes included several NOAA Weather Radios, official NOAA rain gauges, safety lights, a marine radio, a home tool kit, and more than a dozen food coupons from area restaurants.
- Sergio Sanchez Open Lines Show live from the Festival between 9 and 11 AM. Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith interviewed with Mr. Sanchez to create more "buzz" as the Festival got underway.
. News Talk KURV radio broadcast the
Weather Festival was a winner due to dedication of an entire team, from those already mentioned to those who helped promote the event, sold food and drink to guests, provided snacks to partners and vendors, and kept the flow of traffic inside the campus safe. We couldn’t have done it without them!
- The City of Brownsville for all they provided:
- Barricades, Port–a–Potties, tables and chairs, "Weather Festival" signs
- Snacks and drinks to hungry, thirsty partners, vendors, and NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley staff
- Chick–Fil–A Restaurants
- Posters to hang in local businesses to promote the Festival
- Electronics Technicians Bryan Ramos and Cesar Ochoa, and Information Technology Officer Toan Tran for ensuring the operations area was ready to roll, supporting vendors and partners with electrical needs, and helping keep vehicles and pedestrians safe
- Maira’s Cafe for the delicious tacos, Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee and Smoothies (Los Fresnos franchise), and Donna and Steve Wright of Harlingen who displayed their unique, drought–resistant Tower Garden
- Rio Grande Valley Media Partners:
- R Communications (News Talk 710 KURV), specifically Sergio Sanchez, Tim Sullivan, and Fred Cruz who promoted Weather Festival with interviews on six occasions, as well as the onsite broadcast
- KGBT–TV Action 4 News Sunrise (Victoria Marshall) for Weather Festival and Severe Weather Awareness Week Promotion
- KFXV–FOX–2 Good Day Valley (Jessica Montoya, Adriana Treviño, and Antonio Rodriguez) for Weather Festival and Severe Weather Awareness Week Promotion
- KGBT–FM 98.3 "Solamente Exitos" (Brenda Lee Huerta) for her gracious support and promotion
- Brownsville Herald (Mark Reagan and Melissa Montoya) for pre–event story and post event feature article on ’Page 2’
- KVEO–TV Newscenter 23 for Weather Festival promotional interview (Matt Fernandez)
- KMBH Public Radio 88 FM for Weather Festival (Mario Muñoz) promotional ’spots’ interspersed with local community programming
- Raffle Contributors:
- Midland Radio
- Lowe’s Home Improvement
- The City of Brownsville and News Talk 710 KURV
- Gladys Porter Zoo
- Johnny Carino’s Country Italian
- Vermillion Restaurant
- Campero’s Grill and Bar
- Antonio’s Mexican Village
Thanks to everyone, from those who worked tirelessly to make Weather Festival a success, and to you, the residents and visitors of the Rio Grande Valley, our special guests. We sincerely hope everyone had a great time!