DHS use of Accuwx

In another thread, Glen Romine typed:

>THREAD HIJACK ALERT - but on a similar note, I've seen
>rumors, yet confirmed by a reliable source but mentioned
>in the Democratic Congressional Science Board report on
>Katrina, that the Department of Homeland Security was
>using Accuweather for forecasts as opposed to FEMA which
>was using the NWS.

Confirmed. The text below is courtesy of NWSEO (www.nwseo.org) and was posted on the union website the day of the hearings. Not sure if it's still buried there somewhere...but I did save it:

---------------------------

The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings this afternoon on Katrina. The House Science Committee will be holding hearing Wednesday morning (9/21). Sen. Ben Nelson (Florida) asked Max Mayfield whether it was true that Secretary Chertoff (the head of homeland security) & Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used Accuweather for hurricane forecasts of Katrina and he confirmed it.

The National Infrastructure Command Center in DHS prepared an "overnight summary" for Secretary Chertoff on Katrina that was based on Accuweather hurricane predictions rather than hurricane forecast information from the National Hurricane Center. This dates from when former PA. Governor Ridge was Secretary of homeland security.

What's even most shocking is that the "NOAA Desk" in the DHS Ops Center, staffed by a primary & two backup NWS meteorologists, prepared forecasts for Secretary Chertoff based on the National Hurricane Center; however, it is unsure that this ever made it to the Secretary. To make matters worse & even more confusing, FEMA relies solely on NWS products, which includes those issued by the National Hurricane Center. So FEMA (which only uses NWS) and the DHS (which uses Accuweather) are not even looking at the same forecasts!

The NWS NHC's track for Katrina was significantly different & more accurate than Accuweather's. Just recently, Accuweather's track for Ophelia brought it across Florida & into the Gulf. In both cases, Accuweather's forecast was dead wrong. The end result is that the head of homeland security & DHS & FEMA received conflicting forecasts.

Sen. Bill Nelson also asked Max Mayfield about consolidation and downsizing of WFOs and Max Mayfield unequivocally said it was a very bad idea, and that he hopes that it doesn't happen and that the local WFOs are an essential part of NWS. Senator Nelson also trashed Accuweather and, without naming Santorum, blasted those who would try to take NWS off the air and off the internet to help commercial interests.

-----------------

[End of NWSEO text.]

Me again, speaking for myself as usual.

So there you have it. What do you think that the right hand (FEMA) wouldn't use the left hand's (NHC) vastly superior experience, credentials and expertise, and instead settled for a scientifically atrophied and vastly weaker pinkie finger from someone else's hand (Accuwx)?
 
What was the actual forecast that DHS got from AW? (Not the "Bastardi outlook" - the real one?) Is there a connection between this forecast and the response problems? Do we know that DHS did _not_ look at NHC?
 
I was sent the same discussion as Roger posted above. I tried to search for more specifics - but found a lot of the same information. I honestly don't know how much it really would have mattered - unless DHS has taken over some of the FEMA coordination aspects - otherwise I would assume that FEMA would have been the only entity that really needed to know where the storm would make landfall. DHS probably justed needed to be aware that a bad storm was out there - and even Accuweather was probably able to provide that. It's clearly sad to see, but it's about what I expect from DHS.

Glen
 
What was the actual forecast that DHS got from AW? (Not the "Bastardi outlook" - the real one?) Is there a connection between this forecast and the response problems? Do we know that DHS did _not_ look at NHC?

I saw that discussion the other day and tried to find Accuweather's forecasts for Katrina and they seem to have dropped from any accessible sources where you normally would expect to find them. Normally you would expect Accuweather to try and show their superiority to NOAA but I think someone is a little embarrassed. Although, it could be that Accuweather's forecasts have been taken from the public eye due to legal reasons and possible lawsuits that may come from a delayed response time from FEMA during Katrina.
 
"Although, it could be that Accuweather's forecasts have been taken from the public eye due to legal reasons and possible lawsuits that may come from a delayed response time from FEMA during Katrina."

I don't get what you are saying... FEMA utilized NHC forecasts, so if their response was delayed you are thinking that it was NHC's fault and AccuWeather could face a lawsuit? Even if FEMA used AW's forecast, there CLEARLY is an issue within DHS/FEMA operations, not a result of a good or bad track outlook.

- Rob
 
I took what Roger stated and thought that maybe there was a possibility that FEMA could have used an alternative source such as Accuweather. Is this the first time that the DHS has used a private company for forecasting in a situation like that and if so could FEMA have done the same thing? All in all I was stating that something did go wrong with emergency operations and I think that maybe the Katrina forecasts and their sources could have had a role in it.
 
FEMA was the responsible agency, they are just a part of DHS. FEMA used NHC, as Roger's excerpt above noted. So anything that went wrong because of a bad forecast (which I -highly- doubt to be the case) would be the fault of NHC/NWS.

- Rob
 
The Katrina forecasts issued by the NHC were amazingly accurate with more than ample lead time. In fact, it may have been their best forecast ever. So, in my opinion, the ball was not dropped by the NHC forecasters/forecasts. I think we know who and what dropped the ball. But that is a whole other forum that I will not even begin to touch.

A little Humor: Did you hear yesterday's news conference where George Bush was asked what his view was on Roe versus Wade? He said he doesn't care if they rowed or waded as long as they got out of New Orleans safely.
 
I noticed while rotating coverage during Katrina that Fox News was making extensive use of Accu-Weather staff and graphics, including the URL for the website. I don't remember how much they featured NOAA products as well; I'm not suggesting that they didn't. However, I was struck that they gave extensive airtime--almost what looked like a segment--to Accuweather mets and products. I found this a little odd since they have their own mets and access to the NHC live video updates, which is what other networks used.

I don't know how much if any influence Senator Rick Santorum has on either Fox News or the Department of Homeland Security, but it's at least interesting to note the specific places that Accu-Weather is making sudden inroads, despite poor performance. I think we can all agree that Santorum is in Accu-Weather's pocket and he is not a minor political figure.
 
I noticed that with CNN... I remember thinking to myself, "CNN has their own meteorologists; why don't they use them?"

Seriously, WTF is going on with AccuWeather? I wish we had someone in the biz here. My impression is that they're PAYING for airtime as a sort of infomercial to ramp up their name branding.

Tim
 
I believe the problems came when trying to coordinate response efforts. Different agencies using different forecasts means resources in different locations. I don't think it was the forecasts either as much as a breakdown somewhere along the line in the individual organizations.

That said, score one for NHC.

...Alex Lamers...
 
I haven't see anything from any source within or outside of DHS that blamed response issues on conflicting forecasts, and I've done plenty of research. Could you point me to something in particular?
 
For me the issue isnt response but $$. The DHS is a federal department paid for by taxpayers. They have acces to NWS/NHC forecasts including inhouse meteorologists but instead turn toward a private company.

My issue is did they pay for this service? And if so Why waste taxpayers money paying for a service already supplied by a federl agency? That is paying double since the NWS forecasts used data collected by government equipment paid for by us.

Hell Accuweather uses data garnered from government equipment then charge us for it. We as taxpayers should charge their ass for using the data for profit.
 
"That is paying double since the NWS forecasts used data collected by government equipment paid for by us."

Paying double would be paying AccuWeather to give us the NHC forecast. They give us a forecast developed by their meteorologists, and they aren't paid by the US taxpayers, so it's not double.

"We as taxpayers should charge their ass for using the data for profit."

I agree. We need to stop selling GPS units to consumers, because it's provided by the government for free yet greedy companies like Garmin actually have the nerve to charge us to receive the signal!

Thread hijack in progress. I want to know how the AccuWeather forecast to DHS caused problems in the recovery effort as has been posted here...
 
thread re-hijack ;)

I guess it comes down to what "value add" means to everyone. I think Accuweather has a place in the world...I just don't want it to be my only choice ;)
 
Paying double is exactly what happened if DHS paid for the forecast. We as taxpayers had already paid for the data used in forecasting. If we then also pay Accuweather for a forecast garnered from that data instead of using the NHC forecast which was available including mets onsite at DHS then its bilking taxpayer $$. Unless ofcourse Accuweather used its own recon planes, satellites, w88d's, and bouys to get the raw data (ya right). Then it would be fair for them to charge. Otherwise they are using data we have already paid for and then charging again for the forecasts.

If people want to pay a private company for their forecasts thats fine. Let them waste their $$ but when a federal agency on the taxpayer payroll uses a private company to get the same information available from another gov't agency for free I have a BIG issue with that. If our senator from Mass. had anything to do with DHS using them I think conspiracy and embezlement charges are in order as I am sure he gets a kickback (in campain contributions ofcourse) from AccuWx.

And they wonder why we are soo against the bill they want passed :roll:
 
"Otherwise they are using data we have already paid for and then charging again for the forecasts."

Remove the word "again" please. DHS is paying for the forecasts. End of story. The data is paid for by everyone, for everyone. The forecasts are something you have to pay additional for. The forecasts are not a part of the data.

"agency on the taxpayer payroll uses a private company to get the same information available from another gov't agency for free I have a BIG issue with that."

MANY government agencies buy weather forecasts from the private sector. Any idea how many DTN units are in use in the public sector? Or how many AccuWeather clients are Transportation Department agencies?

"I think conspiracy and embezlement charges are in order"

Wow. All I can say to that. Wow.
 
For me the issue isnt response but $$. The DHS is a federal department paid for by taxpayers. They have acces to NWS/NHC forecasts including inhouse meteorologists but instead turn toward a private company.

I haven't gotten through the entire thread yet, but suffice to say this is a holdover from the Tom Ridge days at DHS. Nothing like a little nod to your home state, eh? :roll:

I think what Jay means to say is that the government has its own meteorological service, which many (most?) would argue is vastly superior. Why, then, pony up more dough for a private forecast? Me, I'm sure it was just bureaucratic oversight, like I said, left over from the Tom Ridge days.
 
Back
Top