WFO Jackson, Miss. ER-Met trailer (Photo: WFO Jackson)
(Jan. 14, 2011) -- When a major natural gas leak occurred at a well site near Collins, Miss. on December 28, an Emergency Response Meteorologist from the National Weather Service office in Jackson was on scene providing critical weather support to emergency managers within hours. But there was nothing unusual about that. What was unusual was that this one showed up with his own, fully-equipped ER-Met trailer.
Responding to a request for help from area emergency managers, Decision Support Program Meteorologist Dan Byrd was on the road, arriving at the site to provide support within four hours. Over the next three days, Byrd provided numerous weather briefings to state and local emergency management in the ER-Met trailer. The incident management team was most concerned about lightning which could cause the well head to catch on fire.
The ER-Met trailer enabled Byrd to provide on-site support during the evening of December 29 when showers and thunderstorms were in the area. He was able to give continuous updates on the proximity of lightning strikes until the threat ended shortly after midnight. After the leak was brought under control, severe weather continued to pose a risk, prompting Byrd to stay on-site through Dec. 30 to provide additional briefings to the emergency management staff.
The forecast office in Jackson was actively developing an on-site support capability for the last several years as part of its decision support program. Byrd, along with Electronics Systems Analyst Mike Ryan and other staffers worked to develop the ability to literally take the forecast office "on the road".
This capability includes a travel trailer which was obtained from FEMA when that agency was distributing excess trailers. The unit was then converted into an Emergency Response Meteorology trailer, which would provide work, briefing and sleeping areas. The office also procured deployable observation equipment and wireless internet access.
"This is an excellent example of how two federal agencies can work together for the benefit of the public we both serve," said Bill Proenza, regional director of the National Weather Service Southern Region. "Congratulations are also in order for the folks in our Jackson forecast office for their innovative response to the needs of our vital emergency management partners."
Over the last year, Byrd has functioned primarily in a decision support role, working with emergency managers to provide support in Hazmat exercises using the ER-Met trailer.
"A number of emergency management personnel who worked the gas leak event told us the support provided by our office was invaluable," said Alan Gerard, meteorologist-in-charge of the Jackson forecast office. "We plan to continue to work with those managers to determine best practices and to further improve our on-site decision support capabilities for the next event."