Leveraging Partnerships for Safer Georgia Highways during Winter Storms (213)

Keith Stellman, National Weather Service, Atlanta/Peachtree City, GA

Stephen Early, Vaisala Corporation

 

Abstract:

Leveraging Partnerships for Safer Georgia Highways during Winter Storms

Keith M. Stellman1, Stephen Early2

1National Weather Service Atlanta Forecast Office, Peachtree City, GA

2Vaisala Corporation, Boulder CO

The January 2014 Atlanta Snowjam highlighted deficiencies in both the communications of and response to winter storms in Northern GA. Following the event, the GA Governor assembled a task force from all sectors tasked with identifying needs through deficiencies in their subject matter areas. The #1 item on the meteorological list was Road Temperature Sensors, because GA did not have any methods for monitoring road pavement temperatures that were crucial in the 2014 event. The #2 item was the need for a Statewide Mesonet. At the conclusion of the task force, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) was given supplemental monies to implement the #1 and #2 suggestions from the group.

Vaisala Corporation was awarded the GDOT contract in 2014 to initially install 27 Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) across the state. GDOT reached out to and worked with the NWS Atlanta office for help in best placement of the sensors for maximum value. The NWS identified gaps in the current surface observation network, where road information would be most useful, and suggested network density. The RWIS sites provide road surface and 18&rdquo subsurface temperatures, pavement conditions, wind, visibility, rainfall, air temperature, dew point temperature, and pressure. Due to the effectiveness of the original RWIS deployment, 29 additional stations were added in 2015, with more planned for 2018.

The new data enabled improved situational awareness and monitoring road surface temperatures and other critical road weather parameters for the first time in GA, which provided more detailed information about impacts from winter weather to the transportation network. In addition to providing this information to GDOT through Vaisala's road weather Decision Support System, NWS Atlanta soon began using the RWIS data to initialize their own implementation of the MeTRO Road Pavement Model as a way to help better understand how the NWS forecasts might impact area roads, as well as understand model limitations and model accuracy. Over the course of the 2015 and 2016 winter seasons, the NWS, Vaisala and GDOT met several times to discuss the expansion of the road sensor network, the road modeling capabilities from Vaisala (called IceBreak), and potential collaborative efforts between the 3 groups. GDOT, Vaisala, and NWS became part of GDOT's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Pathfinder project implementation in 2015 which identified the group in GA as a &ldquounique model that hasn't been pre-defined in our system&rdquo because of the unique partnership that resulted.

This presentation will overview the collaboration and coordination between the NWS, Vaisala, and GDOT in GA which has resulted in a much more effective approach to winter weather preparedness in GA, and highlight what makes it unique within the Pathfinder Project.