Hurricane Harvey- A messaging nightmare for the weather enterprise (215)

Jeffry Evans, NWS Houston/Galveston, Dickinson, Texas

Frank Billingsley, KPRC2-NBC

Tim Heller, KTRK-ABC13



How do we urge decision makers and the public to listen, believe and then properly respond to weather threats and impacts that they have never experienced? These were some of the questions facing the weather enterprise as a whole as Hurricane Harvey, and its remnants, battered southeast Texas in late August of 2017.

Hurricane Harvey was the first category 4 storm to strike Texas in 56 years, and was the first &lsquomajor' hurricane to make landfall in the CONUS since 2005. Unfortunately, after landfall, Harvey only moved inland approximately 50-75 miles and stalled for two to three days before remerging over the Gulf and making a second landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border six days later. Throughout that stretch, Harvey's rainbands produced record amounts of rainfall and historic flooding across the upper Texas coast from near Victoria eastward across Port Arthur/Beaumont. In addition to catastrophic flooding, nearly all of southeast Texas endured continual and overlapping threats from tornadoes, tropical storm winds and storm surge for 4 to 6 consecutive days.

This presentation will discuss the challenges in communicating the multiple, recurrent and overlapping threats of a storm like Harvey which lasted continually for nearly a week. We will also present some best practices and lessons learned from the weather enterprise around Houston as they dealt with making these communication decisions under continual stress and fatigue.