It’s getting closer to hurricane season. Yes, despite the harsh winter that the Lower 48 endured, hurricane season still begins on June 1 for the Atlantic Basin. Therefore, it is time to start planning and preparing for what may lie ahead. One effort to do just that begins next week in south Texas: the National Tropical Weather Conference.
This particular conference focuses on the broadcast meteorology field, an important ally in relaying hurricane information to the public.
The conference director, Alex Garcia, told me in a recent email interview that the conference officially began last year as a continuation of what was the Bahamas Hurricane Conference – put on by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Here is that interview:
MARK: When did the National Tropical Weather Conference begin and why?
ALEX GARCIA: In years past The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism would sponsor a three day conference focused on Tropical Meteorology for Broadcast Meteorologists. It was a great way to get a complete update for the upcoming hurricane season. Topics included, storm surge modeling, forecasting, watches/warnings dissemination, mitigation programs, forecasting and much more. Additionally, it provided an opportunity to meet and interview the top names in tropical meteorology, mitigation and preparedness. In, 2010, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism announced they would not have the 2011 conference. Tim Smith and I felt we had to find a way to bring it back and the National Tropical Weather Conference was born.
MARK: Who benefits from the conference?
ALEX GARCIA: The primary group that benefits from this conference are the broadcast meteorologists that attend. They gain important knowledge about the upcoming hurricane season that they can take back and share with their viewers. The knowledge includes the latest forecasting techniques, disaster preparedness, social media communications, hurricane special production, mitigation elements, and much more. They also have the opportunity to interview conference speakers for their hurricane specials and to go “live” in their hometown weathercasts from the conference to raise awareness about hurricane safety. A secondary group to benefit is the South Padre Island Convention and Tourist Bureau. The coverage and live shots from the conference provide an excellent venue for highlighting the island.
MARK: Tell me about this year’s highlights? Who will be speaking?
ALEX GARCIA: The highlight this year is the announcement of the Hurricane Seasonal Forecast made by Dr. Bill Gray and Dr. Phil Klotzbach “live” at the first session of the conference. Dr. Gray will also be honored and presented the first Robert and Joanne Simpson Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Tropical Meteorology.
Other highlights include a Director’s Panel featuring Directors of the National Hurricane Center that will include Dr. Richard Knabb, Neil Frank, Max Mayfield, and Bill Read. The National Tropical Weather Conference is the only conference that features a number of former directors in its program. Additionally, Dr. Frank will make a special presentation on the Bolivar Peninsula. Other highlights include presentations from Tim Marshall, wind engineer and wind damage specialist, Trenise Lyons from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and special luncheon address from Jack Williams, author of the USA Today’s Weather Book and John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel.
MARK: How do you see the conference growing in the years to come?
ALEX GARCIA: We envision a healthy rate of growth in the coming years. The 2014 conference will be our second conference with twenty-nine broadcast meteorologists attending. This represents a 140% increase from our first year. Our conference is focused on the needs of the broadcast meteorologist and we plan to refine the topics keep a sharp focus on the items and information they need. We also plan to reach out to meteorologists in countries like the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico and others that have hurricane impacts. Our goal is to get 100 broadcast meteorologists at the conference.
END OF INTERVIEW
The conference will also feature several speakers, such as Jim Edds of extremestorms.com, Jason Dunion from the University of Miami, Lew Fincher of Hurricane Consulting, Inc, Nate Johnson from WRAL-TV in Raleigh, Derek Ortt from Impact Weather, storm chasers Skip Talbot and Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Lucas Macdonald from Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center. I will be co-presenting with colleague Mike Watkins on our work intercepting hurricanes and the data that we have collected over the past decade. For a full list of the speakers, click here.