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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

Deepwater Horizon Incident& National Weather Service Decision Support Services

WFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge

April 21, 2010 – October 15, 2010

the event
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.
wfo new orleans baton rouge lix engagement
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.
deploying to incident command
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.
battle rhythm
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
multiple aspects of forecasting
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
multi layered aviation
Multi-layered Aviation
  • Over flights
  • Reconnaissance
  • Dispersant Flights
    • Use of tstm outflow boundaries
  • VIP over flights
  • Animal/Wildlife search and rescue
decision support modifications
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
multi national effort
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
in situ burns
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
aviation weather briefings
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
marine support
Marine Support

Deepwater fleet – many vessels in tight operations area

Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) Fleet

Boom Deployment near shore

intelligence gathering
Intelligence Gathering
  • WFO LIX prepared a daily overflight forecast to aid in satellite imaging data quality
heat stress
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).
tropical threats
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.
tropical threats17
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.
noaa line office collaboration
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
incorporating science and technology
Incorporating Science and Technology
  • Trajectories
  • Loop Current interactions
  • Tropical Wx interactions
  • Dispersant behavior
multiple levels of government
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.
media interviews and briefings
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.
meanwhile back at the office
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
making it work
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.
hourly spots
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.
across the board contributions
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.
back fill contributions
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)
gis generated graphics
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
web page development
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

graphic forecast
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.
severe weather surveillance
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
nwseo role
  • 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.
simultaneous incident responses
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)

continuity of operations coop
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)
miscellaneous factors
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
future considerations
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)
  • 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.
contact information
Contact Information
  • Kenneth Graham, MIC
    • 985-645-0565, extension 222
  • Robert J. Ricks, Jr.
    • 985-645-0565, ext 4

Thank You!