Emergency Preparedness Day visitors at WFO Amarillo display (Photo: Krissy Scotten, WFO Amarillo)
(Sept. 23, 2011) – Just as 2011 Amarillo Emergency Preparedness Day activities were getting underway outside an Amarillo Wal-Mart store on Sept. 16, a real emergency was developing in the downtown area.
A number of emergency and safety experts were quickly called away due to a hazmat Incident involving several rail cars. Mandatory evacuations near downtown were ordered as well as shelter-in-place advisements. Fortunately, there were only a few minor injuries reported, and the Hazmat spill of molten sulphur and a flammable liquid called Isopentane was quickly contained.
During this event, two National Weather Service Emergency Response Meteorologists were dispatched to the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Emergency Operations Center to provide on-site decision support for the duration of this potentially catastrophic event. The forecasters provided numerous weather briefings including running a NOAA Hysplit model.
Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Maribel Martinez, said, "As always, thanks for all the weather, NOAA Hysplit and personnel support during this event!"
Meanwhile, the preparedness outreach event back at the Wal-Mart was successfully attracting and educating visitors about emergency preparedness. It was co-sponsored by the Amarillo forecast office and the operations center. The event was held in conjunction with September being National Preparedness Month and the National Weather Service's Weather-Ready Nation initiative.
Experts were on hand to discuss safety preparedness and disaster topics including severe weather, wildfires, blizzards, flash floods and house fires. In addition to National Weather Service staffers, local representatives included the Texas Department of Health Services; Metropolitan Medical Response System; Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management; Texas Panhandle Association of Contingency Planners; Blackmon Mooring; American Red Cross; and the Amarillo Fire Department's Kid's Safety FireHouse.
"I am extremely proud of the Amarillo staff," said Jose Garcia, meteorologist-in-charge of the Amarillo forecast office. "Many people depend on our spirit of service, and the staff performed excellent team work in supporting both an outreach and Hazmat event simultaneously!"
This Hazmat event illustrates that even though the best laid plans are made, you never know when that next disaster will strike. It certainly underscores the importance of being prepared.
Amarillo Fire Department Hazmat Unit investigates rail yard event (Photo: Amarillo Fire Dept.)