This week, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) kicked-off a national dialogue to improve our nation’s readiness for extreme weather. At the Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation workshop, held in Norman, Okla., participants assessed why the nation has become more vulnerable to severe weather and identified ways to improve the public’s awareness, preparedness and response to future extreme events.
More than 1,000 lives have been lost this year to extreme weather, including about 550 from tornadoes. And the economic losses are equally staggering—at least 12 separate weather disasters, each with $1 billion or more in economic losses.
These impacts moved NOAA’s National Weather Service to launch an initiative called Weather-Ready Nation. The goal is to improve America’s readiness for weather events and save more lives and livelihoods. The Norman event is the first in a series of Weather-Ready Nation activities to be held across the country.
On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and National Weather Service Director Dr. Jack Hayes welcomed a diverse group of national experts and leaders including emergency managers, academics, private sector weather forecasters, communication experts, news media and decision-makers.
Dr. Lubchenco called Weather-Ready Nation a shift in mindset. “Severe weather threats can no longer be looked at as inconveniences, or viewed fatalistically. Victims don’t have to be caught ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’,” she said.
“Becoming a Weather-Ready Nation is a shared responsibility from the federal government to the individual citizen and everyone in between,” said Hayes. “This national dialogue will help us understand the individual challenges we face, and lead to coordinated actions that will produce a truly Weather-Ready Nation.”
The three-day workshop had experts work in small groups tackling topics such as improving the forecasts and warning system, communicating threats to the public, increasing community resilience, and identifying gaps in our current understanding of planning, coordination, and decision-making in a community.
Cataloguing the variety of devastating weather disasters—from ice storms to extreme drought to deadly tornadoes—that have plagued her state since her inauguration a year ago, Gov. Fallin praised NOAA for taking steps to help America better prepare for severe weather.
NOAA’s Deputy Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, who participated in the working groups, spoke about the importance of today’s interactions and idea sharing. “The surest path to big outcomes are little bets we can make with each other,” she said.
Findings and recommendations from the workshop will be presented Jan. 23 at Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation on Tornadoes and Severe Weather town hall at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in New Orleans.