The Greater Miami Chapter of the AMS presents
"Florida's State Meteorological Support Unit"
State Meteorologist for Florida
May 15, 2008 at 1 PM.
Broward County Convention Center
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
State Meteorologist Ben Nelson will discuss the role of the State Meteorological Support Unit at the Florida Division of Emergency Management, lessons learned from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, and the 2008 budget storm that has invaded Tallahassee and the State of Florida. This seminar will be held at the 22nd Annual Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference. However, you do not have to register for the Conference to attend the talk.
For those who are not attending the Conference, but wish to come to the meeting, the Convention Center is on the grounds of Port Everglades.
Broward County Convention Center
1950 Eisenhower Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL
We convened our meeting at the Broward Convention Center, which was hosting the Florida Governor's Conference on Hurricanes, to hear Ben Nelson, State Meteorologist for Florida speak on "Florida's State Meteorological Support Unit". Ten people attended the talk, which took place during the lunch break.
After some brief chapter business, treasurer Rusty Pfost introduced our speaker, who assumed his post in 2004, just weeks before Hurricane Charlie hit. This trial by fire was followed quickly by handling three more hurricane strikes on the state. Crisscrossing the state and viewing damage in Black Hawk helicopters gave him a profound appreciation for the responsibilities of his position.
Not all state governments have a meteorologist on staff, but Florida's special relationship with its weather insures the need for one within the Office of Emergency Management. His primary task is providing operational weather information to the state's emergency response teams in crisis situations, including not only weather disasters, but also during potential man-made emergencies, such as terrorist threats and nuclear plant accidents. During Florida's recent wildfires, Mr. Nelson worked closely with Florida's Division of Forestry meteorologist Dr. Deborah Hanley. He helps interpret information coming from the National Weather Service for the emergency managers, so they get the information relevant to them.
Another of his tasks is community outreach, including severe weather awareness week. This week is held in early February as Florida's tornado season is peaking. He speaks to groups across the state to foster awareness of all the weather hazards to which Florida is prone. The state government also sponsors an annual severe weather poster contest in the schools to involve children in their family's preparedness.
The emphasis at this year's Governor's Conference is on individuals and families taking personal responsibly for coping with disaster, and for local government to assume the lead role in responding to crises. The state will tailor its response to ensure the resources are sent to those areas most needing them. The embarrassment of handing out ice and water in the parking lot of grocery stores that had already re-opened following a hurricane will not be repeated.
Lastly, Mr. Nelson spoke about the future, as Emergency Management moves into its new emergency response facility. He expressed optimism that Florida's government will continue support for emergency services despite recent budget cutbacks in other areas.