NSSL technology helps American Red Cross respond faster

A family of six was in this home when an EF4 tornado struck

Faster responses to weather emergencies are now possible as a result of a partnership between the American Red Cross and NSSL. The American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma is using a suite of tools developed by NSSL to revolutionize the disaster assessment process following severe weather.

The NSSL experimental system, Warning Decision Support System – Integrated Information (WDSS-II), integrates all the current observational data so that warning forecasters and decision-makers of all types have the best possible information available to make decisions when it comes to severe weather threats, according to Doug Forsyth, chief of NSSL’s Radar Research and Development Division.

The system receives data in real-time from the nationwide networks of weather radars, satellites, surface observations and lightning detectors. WDSS-II then processes, analyzes and displays the data in a way that is useful to people who need to diagnose severe weather quickly.

“The NSSL application helped us tremendously with the delivery of goods and services to our community following the May 10th and 19th tornadoes,” said Steve Klapp, Disaster Assessment Lead for the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, who is training other American Red Cross Chapters in the state. “This technology cut our disaster assessment time down from 72 to 24 hours.”

Another part of WDSS-II used by the American Red Cross is the On-Demand Severe Weather Verification System, a web-based tool that can be used to help confirm when and where severe weather occurred.  The system uses data gathered and sorted by WDSS-II to estimate the tracks of rotating storms and where hail fell.  The hail swath or rotation track data can be overlaid on high-resolution street maps in Google Earth/Maps to pinpoint areas affected by the hazardous weather.

“Disaster assessment drives the bus and NSSL has supercharged our bus motor!” Klapp said. The NSSL application training taking place this month will help local and community chapters by providing them the technology and skills to speed up their service delivery to clients in rural Oklahoma following a tornado event, Klapp added.

““NOAA and the Red Cross have similar goals in providing the best possible service to the public during severe weather events,” Forsyth said. “This is a great example of how new technology is improving these services.”

WDSS-II products are available online at http://wdssii.nssl.noaa.gov.