Local NWS Acquires System to Mitigate Meteorologist Shortage

3 years 11 months 4 weeks ago Wednesday, April 12 2017 Apr 12, 2017 April 12, 2017 5:48 PM April 12, 2017 in News

BROWNSVILLE – The National Weather Service Office in Brownsville is set to get a system upgrade with a little more than a month until hurricane season.

The center is currently short on a number of meteorologists. Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith said many other NWS offices across the nation are going through similar problems.

“You’re looking at extra time, overtime, compensation time, limiting weekends and things like that. That’s where we’ve been,” he said.

Goldsmith said it shouldn’t have an impact on major several weather events. However, he said they are not as flexible for minor storms, like surveying the hail storm last week in Rio Hondo.

Goldsmith said they had to rely on images from residents to gauge the severity of the storm.

“I couldn’t leave the desk abandoned because I had functions to do and survey tends to take – even a short survey like Harlingen and Rio Hondo will take about six hours if need be,” he said.

The meteorologist said they can’t be as flexible due to regulations. Two forecasters must be present at the NWS site at all times.

“There was always a need. When we opened the new offices back in the 90s with the new radars to have 24 by 7 coverage, and back in the day we needed two people,” he said. “There were multiple forecasters tasked and the models were only few and far between. We didn’t really have internet and if we did it was very slow, and social media didn’t exist.”

Goldsmith said they will soon obtain a new upgraded system called Operations and Workforce Analysis. He said this means two meteorologist won’t have to be tied down at the office all the time.

“Instead of having two people dedicated to the seven-day forecast, we may only have one person dedicated for all seven days, and they’ll concentrate on the first 35 to 48 hours where it matters most cause the rest of the time will be pretty well forecasted,” he said.

Goldsmith added the change will not affect eh weather data they produce.

The new program will also let the National Weather Service be more active with first responders during a severe weather event. It will allow crews to provide accurate information as quick as possible.

The reason NOAA decided to create the new system was due to a severe storm six years ago.

“(It) came out of a big tornado outbreak in April of 2011 in the south east states, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia where over 300 died despite great warnings. So we started to figure out well what’s going on here,” he said.

Goldsmith said they will be prepared if a hurricane were to happen this season. 

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