BECi Participates in Weather-Ready Nation Program
If you ever spot Roger Erickson at a dinner party and need to make small talk, don’t mention the weather. You’ll probably get more information than you bargained for and your meal just might get cold.
Erickson is the outreach coordinator at the National Weather Service facility in Lake Charles. His job is to educate the public about meteorology while encouraging citizens to pay closer attention to the dangers posed by extreme weather conditions.
At his post since 1995, Erickson says it doesn’t take much prompting to get people talking about the weather. “It’s a great ice-breaker, and they’re intrigued by it because it’s changing all the time,” he said. “Everybody wants to know what the weather is going to be like before they step outside the door every morning. They want to know if there are any threats out there and what the potential impact of the weather is going to be.”
The regional NWS facility covers 16 parishes in southwest Louisiana and six counties in Texas. Staff members monitor atmospheric conditions from their computer stations around the clock and conduct regular conference calls with local, state and federal officials.
The facility’s primary mission is to keep citizens informed and prepared to respond to weather-related threats such as flooding, lightning and high winds. When storm clouds gather, Erickson and the NWS team kick into action to broadcast the necessary alerts, watches and warnings so that the public can respond accordingly. Another goal is to gather, catalog and analyze information to improve the forecasting process. Nearing the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Ike, Erickson pinpoints that event as a prime learning experience.
Before Ike, forecasters typically linked storm surge predictions to the category level of hurricanes and their wind speeds. That changed after Ike came ashore as a Category 2 but delivered a storm surge normally associated with a Category 4. The result was a public that was unprepared for the extensive damage that occurred. “Ike was a game changer. We came to realize a Cat 2 can give you a storm surge anywhere from 5 to 15 feet. Now we issue a separate storm surge warning formula based on other factors and metrics beyond wind speed. We look at the forward motion of the storm, the radii of
Midway through the 2017 Hurricane Season, Erickson said part of his job is to make sure citizens don’t fall into a sense of complacency. He notes that forecasters have altered their prediction for the season to include a higher number of named storms.
“We find interest wanes when we go through a few seasons with no major storms making landfall in our area. It’s human nature to put it on the back burner,” he said. In order to raise and maintain public awareness, the NWS has initiated the Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) ambassador program. Individuals, schools, clubs and other organizations can apply to join the program designed to keep citizens aware of the changing atmospheric conditions and potential threats.
“Of course, we’re always watching the weather and we maintain a state of emergency preparedness yeararound,” Tilley said. “But this program helps us stay even more alert, vigilant and ready to respond to any impending threats to the structural integrity of our power delivery system that spans 5,000 miles over seven parishes.”
“We’re proud to have BECi as part of this program,” Erickson said. “Our ambassadors are leaders in the community that we encourage to inspire others to be better informed, make better decisions, and be prepared.”