Water, Water, Where Are You? Unique Hydrologic Decision Support Services during Hurricane Harvey (178)

Katie Landry-Guyton, NWS Houston/Galveston, Dickinson, Texas

Brian Kyle, NWS Houston/Galveston

Sean Luchs, NWS Houston/Galveston



When the NWS is faced with a catastrophic flood, are the standard tools of deterministic forecasts, impact statements, and historical high water marks enough to answer critical public safety and economic questions?

Core partners called upon the NWS to help answer fundamental questions requiring an additional level of detail and accuracy that would aid in the decision making process. On Friday, August 25th, several members of the marine industry consulted the NWS concerning the high freshwater flows emptying into the Houston Ship Channel. They asked, &ldquoWhat are the impacts?&rdquo Two days later, Phillips 66 Headquarters sought out the NWS because one of their refineries began taking on water. The refinery is located approximately 4 miles from the San Bernard River and is not located in the floodplain. They asked, &ldquoWhere is the water coming from?&rdquo On Tuesday, August 29th, refrigeration was lost at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, due to significant flooding. More questions arose including &ldquoWhere do evacuations need to occur?&rdquo

Ultimately, our office was unable to answer these types of questions using the traditional forecasts and historical data. This presentation will explore the various situations in which core partners relied on the NWS to answer lifesaving, economically driven questions that required NWS Houston and partnering agencies to seek other resources, such as imagery and ensembles, in order to provide a deeper level of decision support services.

Although the tools and resources that were used throughout Harvey can and should be utilized in future events, we must ask ourselves, &ldquoCan we provide even better service?&rdquo In an agency that is ever-evolving, it is imperative the NWS work toward new and improved resources for hydrology specific decision support services, because we know Harvey was not the first event of this magnitude and certainly will not be the last.