"We were in constant contact with the National Weather Service, and we were constantly trying to figure out what was coming, when it was coming and get people to a position of safety as best we could with the information that we had," Klotz says.
This was the problem in a nutshell: The Fair officials were "playing meteorologist" -- trying to figure out for themselves what was coming.
In the "weather and business" seminars I have been conducting across the country this summer, I talk about "best practices" for businesses when extreme weather threatens.
Best practice #1 is get out of the weather business.
Meteorology is a complex science and determining the safety of thousands of people is not a role for amateurs.
Using Saturday night as an example, I understand how the "fine line" (on radar) representing the "gust front" (visually) looked benign to an untrained eye.
|The dangerous winds at 8:30pm EDT, 19 minutes before the stage collapsed.|
Arrows denote the leading edge of the strong winds.
White dots are the locations of cloud-to-ground lightning (via Vaisala).
|With the permission of photographer Ernie Mills, his photo prior to the|
collapse clearly shows the gust front approaching the Fairgrounds.
The gust front corresponds to the "fine line" as viewed on radar.
But, the Doppler display, which depicts winds (and is rarely seen on television) shows an entirely different story: Dangerous winds of 58 to 72 mph were nearby and closing in!
|Dark blue = 58 to 72 mph. Light blue = 73+ mph at 8:30pm. Click to enlarge.|
Our AccuWeather meteorologists correctly identified the situation and issued a warning for a client near the Fairgrounds that called for "60 mph winds" a half hour before the time the winds collapsed the stage.
Given this was the third outdoor stage collapse due to wind this summer, there is no reason these tragedies need to continue, at least at the rate they have the last three years. Weather risk mitigation, while newer than other areas of disaster planning, has a time-tested process that works.
So, how should businesses plan for extreme weather? The process looks something like this:
- Work with a professional meteorologist that specializes in extreme weather.
- Meet with the meteorologist do a comprehensive analysis of weather issues and vulnerabilities.
- Determine weather thresholds for your specific enterprise (i.e., winds 40 mph, hail 1" or larger, etc.) that should trigger action. Then, put an action plan in place for when those thresholds are going to be met.
- Determine who needs to get the warning and failsafe communications methods to receive warnings as they are issued.
- Contract with the meteorologist to provide warnings specific to your business.
- If a warning is issued, immediately communicate the warning and implement the plan.
One of things our clients like most about our service is that they only hear from us when they should take action. There is no "figuring out" or interpretation to be done.
I wrote Warnings to explain the rapid progress we have made in storm warnings the last ten years and how those warnings can be used to save lives. It is distressing to see these needless deaths and injuries continue to occur.
By posting this and the other blog entries below, I'm hoping others learn and, by preventing future tragedies, some good will come from the Indianapolis collapse.