2016 Hurricane Awareness Tour reaches new audiences

July 25, 2016

NOAA’s National Weather Service collaborates with local, state, and federal partners to help the public understand the importance of being adequately prepared for all weather hazards. Nowhere is this more apparent than the annual NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour, a NOAA-U.S. Air Force outreach event that has been 30 years in the making. The tour allows Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) to engage with local partners, including emergency managers, airports, schools, and media. This year, the Hurricane Awareness Tour reached new audiences by adding an inland stop and webinar to their annual event.

2016 Hurricane Awareness Tour.

Each of the five stops along this year’s Hurricane Awareness Tour played host to hundreds of school children. Frank Revitte, WFO New Orleans Warning Coordination Meteorologist, summed it quite well: “It would be hard to beat a field trip for the targeted school aged group where they can not only tour hurricane hunter aircraft and related displays, but also have the opportunity to talk and interact with the on-board personnel who fly/navigate the planes and vessels; and of course the opportunity to interact with local NWS and National Hurricane Center meteorologists.”

It would be hard to beat a field trip where they can … tour hurricane hunter aircraft.

Frank revitte, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, New Orldeans Weather Forecast Office

For the first time, the Hurricane Awareness Tour made an inland stop at San Antonio to highlight the inland threats from tropical storms. Inland flooding continues to play a significant role in fatalities and dangers associated with landfalling tropical weather systems. Many of the significant historical flash flood events across South Central Texas (Austin-San Antonio) can be attributed to tropical systems. New residents to that area and all along the Southeast U.S. coast do not necessarily realize the risks they face from an inland tropical storm. Even if a storm is not classified as a hurricane, it is still tropical in nature and can produce copious amounts of rain. During this stop, the San Antonio office partnered with FLASH (Federal Alliance for Safer Homesoffsite link) to help push the #Hurricane Strongoffsite link message.

The Hurricane Awareness Tour visited Naples, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas; and San Antonio Texas.
The Hurricane Awareness Tour visited Naples, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas; and San Antonio Texas. (NOAA)

For students not located along the coast or at one of the Hurricane Awareness Tour stops, this year the National Hurricane Center partnered with University of Rhode Island to offer a live national webinar for school kids across the country. The webinar was conducted from the Galveston, Texas, stop since this was the location of the deadliest U.S. hurricane, which occurred in 1900. More than 500 classes and 9,000 students participated.

On the recent Hurricane Awareness Tour, several stops drew tens of thousands of new residents in locations that have yet to experience a landfalling hurricane in recent years. Residents new to an area may not be aware of the weather threats in their new location. The Hurricane Awareness Tour provided an opportunity to learn about hazards, meet the emergency managers for their area, and to gather relevant information from their local National Weather Service personnel. Longtime residents also turned out in record numbers. Even locals can become complacent and this event served as a reminder of how destructive a tropical storm or hurricane can be to lives and property. Events like these help to educate the public and enhance awareness of the mission and operations of NOAA with respect to hurricane forecasting and warning operations.