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Deepwater Horizon Incident & National Weather Service Decision Support Services . WFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge April 21, 2010 – October 15, 2010. The Event.

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Deepwater Horizon Incident& National Weather Service Decision Support Services

WFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge

April 21, 2010 – October 15, 2010

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The Event

  • On the night of April 20, 2010, the semi-submersible production petroleum platform “Deepwater Horizon” exploded during a drilling operation.

  • After burning intensely for 36 hours, the rig sank on the 22nd, resulting in a massive oil spill from the ruptured well head.

  • Well head located 5000 feet deep over the Macondo Dome on the edge of the Continental Shelf.

  • Macondo Well over 18,000 feet deep.

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WFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge (LIX) Engagement

  • The office received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard, notifying us of the incident shortly after the initial explosion.

  • USCG requested a detailed weather forecast for the location – Mississippi Canyon 252 oil lease area, Lat 28.74N and Lon 88.44W.

  • The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) requested the initial spot forecast on April 21st.

  • The Spot Forecast would be produced twice a day for much of the entire incident response.

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Deploying to Incident Command

  • Not automatic!!!

  • ‘Not needed’ initially by BP

  • Had to gain trust and prove performance

  • Rapport with USCG and other federal agencies was key.

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Battle Rhythm

  • Started out a 24 hour cycle

  • Around day 75 – 2 day cycle

  • Around day 98 – 4 day cycle

  • After static kill - a 7 day cycle

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Multiple Aspects of Forecasting

  • Aviation

    • Low level dispersion flights

    • 2nd level spotter flights

    • Mid-level reconnaissance flights

    • Terminal forecasts for non-TAF locations

      • Hancock County-Stennis Airport (MS)

      • Terrebonne-Houma Regional Airport (LA)

  • Marine

    • Near shore in protected and unprotected waters

    • Offshore spill location (62nm from mouth of the MS River)

    • Wave steepness, swells, period, source regions

  • Fire Weather

    • In-situ burning of oil on water (able to smell at WFO)

  • Heat Stress

    • Oil clean-up in Tyvek protective covering during summer

    • Outsider assistance not accustomed to Gulf humidity

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Multi-layered Aviation

  • Over flights

  • Reconnaissance

  • Dispersant Flights

    • Use of tstm outflow boundaries

  • VIP over flights

  • Animal/Wildlife search and rescue

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Decision Support Modifications

  • Emergency TAFs for staging airfields

    • Terrebonne-Houma Regional Airport, Houma, LA

      • Incident Command Center location

      • Overflight and surveillance flight operations

    • Hancock County – Stennis Airport, Stennis, MS

      • Military dispersant flight staging

      • Government VIP staging

  • Presidential Visit toVenice, LA

    • “Synthetic” TAF temporarily established for Boothville-Venice ASOS location to support POTUS logistics.

    • Other direct support

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Multi-national effort

  • Canadian Coast Guard and Icelandic Coast Guard

    • SLAR over flights for intelligence gathering on daily spill footprint.

    • Weather sensitive for winds and seas

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In-Situ Burns

  • Not your typical wildfire or prescribed burn

  • Critical operating levels based on wind direction and sea state

  • Main motivation for the hourly spot forecasts issued every day by WFO LIX

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Aviation Weather Briefings

  • Most operations were heavily dependent on weather decision support

  • Most often weather was the GO/NO GO factor on a daily basis

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Marine Support

Deepwater fleet – many vessels in tight operations area

Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) Fleet

Boom Deployment near shore

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Intelligence Gathering

  • WFO LIX prepared a daily overflight forecast to aid in satellite imaging data quality

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Heat Stress

  • Very critical factor to beach cleaning limitations

    • 40-20 rule and 20-40 rule

    • No Tyvek covering

      • 40 minutes each hour, 20 minutes of supervised rest in a tent.

    • Full Tyvek protection

      • 20 minutes work each hour, 40 minutes of supervised rest in a tent.

  • Numerous Heat Advisory Days during the episode

  • Most event related injuries/illness were heat stress related (about 40% of all reportable injuries).

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Tropical threats

  • Tropical Storm Bonnie

    • July 23-25

    • A direct threat to the area of operations

    • Weakened before moving over operations area

    • Prompted a 3 day shut-down of operations at the source

    • A 1 day Shelter-in-place stand down at Houma ICC.

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Tropical threats

  • Tropical Depression Five

    • August 10-11

    • A direct threat to the area of operations

    • Dissipated before making landfall

    • Still prompted a 3 day shut-down of operations at the source

    • A 1 day stand-down, shelter in place at Houma ICC.

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NOAA Line Office Collaboration

  • NOS - Office of Coast Survey

    • Oil Trajectory forecast maps produced daily

  • NOAA – Office of Response and Restoration

    • Initiated 2-a-day spot forecast requests

    • Frequent teleconference weather briefings

  • NOS / USCG weather briefings for decon operations

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Incorporating Science and Technology

  • Trajectories

  • Loop Current interactions

  • Tropical Wx interactions

  • Dispersant behavior

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Multiple levels of government

  • NWS Director Jack Hayes visits the Incident Command Center in Houma, LA, pose in front of the LA GOHSEP response vehicle.

  • Pictured from left,

    • ER-Met Tim Erickson (WFO LIX)

    • NWS Director Hayes,

    • ER-Met Mike Efferson (WFO LIX)

    • Kenneth Graham, WFO LIX MIC

  • Not pictured – LA State Police response vehicle next to GOHSEP.

  • Heavy parish/county EOC presence.

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Media Interviews and briefings

  • Oil vs Hurricanes; Hurricanes and oil

    • Talking points generated by WFO LIX/NHC/WSH/NOAA.

  • Formal briefings: approximately 1200

  • Informal briefings: approximately 5000

  • International, national and local media interviews: 150

  • Often became overwhelming from a workload standpoint.

  • Recommend bringing in a Public Affairs or HQ person to handle interviews.

  • MIC spoke at press conference with Alabama governor.

  • MIC on panel at 4 NOAA town hall meetings.

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Meanwhile, Back at the office

  • Initiated the ER-Met Desk

    • Two event coordinators appointed by MIC

    • 24 hr coverage – 2 twelve hour shifts

  • Fire Weather Spot Forecast formatter modified

    • In addition to traditional grid based parameters…

    • TAFs for aviation ops staging terminals

    • 3 day Areal Aviation Outlook

    • Sounding data to support in-situ burning ops

    • Tide information

    • Radar summary

    • Watch/Warning/Advisory Summary

    • Issued hourly from 0500 to 1900

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Making it work

  • Enacted an emergency schedule to account for 4 forecasters out of the regular rotation

  • National and regional assistance with back fill staffing

  • All product templates were developed ‘on-the-fly’ to meet specific forecast needs

  • Back-fill staff contributed greatly to the success of this undertaking by bringing skills and best practices into the local operations!

  • Web page presence developed at WFO LIX by intern Shawn O’ Neil (pictured above). Linked on White House website.

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Hourly spots

  • Originally generated for the spill location

  • NOS – OCS requested two shore-based spot forecasts for shoreline clean up and harbor boom deployment

    • Port Fourchon spot for waters west of the MS River

    • Hopedale spot for the LA sounds east of the MS River

  • Issued from 0400 through sunset each day

  • Sensitivities with LOOP facilities serviced out of Port Fourchon, LA

  • Last hourly spot issued Aug 24th

  • 3,920 hourly spots issued for entire event.

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Across the board contributions

  • Virgil Middendorf – WFO Boise, ID

    • Assisted greatly with Spot Forecast formatter modifications

  • Angel Montenez – WFO Birmingham, AL

    • Added and modified grid fields and AWIPS workfiles to facilitate Spot Forecast generation

  • WSH Office of Hydrology

    • Provided scripting to parse tide data from RiverPro hydro database

  • SRH – brought in team to make local Active Directory work more efficiently.

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Back fill Contributions

  • 44 forecasters TDY to WFO LIX; others to MOB.

  • IMETs deployed to Forward Operations Base (FOB) in Venice, LA

  • IMET briefly deployed to Houma ICC

    • ICS role not well suited to typical Fire IMET functions

    • Lack of familiarization with local environment and government landscape

    • Different weather regime - heavily marine oriented

  • Tide tables developed by back fill (HGX)

  • GIS based gridded data developed by LCH back fill (also assisted in emergency relief at ICC)

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GIS generated graphics

  • Expedited GIS programming provided by

  • WFO LCH Service Hydrologist – Jonathan Brazzell and

  • LMRFC DOH – David Welch

  • Initial hardware challenges

  • Produced automatically by cron on local GIS box; posted to web

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Web Page Development

  • Originally posted basic information and forecasts to existing EM briefing page.

  • Intern with web design skills added thumbnails and Google maps capabilities.

  • Page was posted on site

  • Became the ‘go-to’ page for NWS spill response

  • Hit count: 102,838 thru 10/7/10.

  • Seen on EOC screens

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Graphic forecast

  • FXC generated animated graphicast

  • Encompassed the entire area of response (TX-FL)

  • Used extensively by the ICC, UAC and NOAA Hazmat

  • Posted on the DWH web page.

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Severe Weather Surveillance

  • From April 22 – Oct 09

  • 22 Tornado Warnings

  • 112 Severe Thunderstorm Warnings

  • 358 Special Marine Warnings

  • 26 Flood/Flash Flood Warnings

  • 518 Total warnings during event

  • Challenging for some visitors

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  • LOT efforts to implement emergency schedule

  • Some concessions to accommodate deployed and back-fill transitions

  • NWSEO President visited the WFO LIX and toured Houma ICC on August 12th.

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Simultaneous Incident responses

Mar 30 (pre-spill): Denham Springs Petroleum Warehouse Fire

Sep 2: Another Rig explosion south of Cameron, LA

July 30: Mud Lake in Barataria Bay pipeline leak

Aug 10: Norco Motiva Sulfuric Acid leak

Aug 9: New Orleans East train derailment – 19 cars involved

Aug 12: Paincourtville, Assumption Parish, LA gas leak (108 spots issued)

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Continuity of Operations (COOP)

  • Instructions and templates posted to SRH Sharepoint

  • NWSChat used extensively

    • Deepwateroilchat room established early on and exclusively for Gulf NWS offices only and ICC/ICP.

    • NDBC was added to NWSChat and utilized for buoy data quality collaboration.

  • Cross training with office visits from WFO MOB personnel.

  • Back fill mets exposed to ICS activities

    • Most visited the Houma ICC (brief security hault)

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Miscellaneous Factors

  • Fatigue (awards, food, quotes, visits helped)

  • Long days (12-15 hours, some longer 4/10 – 6/10)

  • Fast paced

  • Not the typical NWS routine

  • Many consecutive days without a break

  • Areal familiarity crucial

  • Ability to be flexible

  • Readiness for other responses

  • Tropical Weather Staff training/drills/outreach

  • Other “routine” operations

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Future Considerations

  • Decision Support Services need…

    • Turnkey approach to forecast product formatters

    • Portability for ICC or UAC deployment

    • Flexibility in policies and protocols to best fit the situation

  • DSS should have robust GIS capabilities and fully integrated data sources.

  • ER-Mets not equivalent to IMET in skill sets for all situations

  • Staffing Area Command

    • FOB – IMETs

    • ICC – local WFO

    • UAC – RH or WSHQ

  • Equipment should be prepared and ready prior to deployment (Active Directory and security issues)

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  • Largest emergency Response in U.S. History

    • Deepwater Horizon Rig Explosion and ensuing massive oil spill.

  • NWS was a key component of federal response, along with other NOAA line offices.

  • Local WFOs provided critical and unprecedented Decision Support Services for their respective AOR.

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Contact Information

Thank You!