A Behind the Scenes Look at Forecasting for Hurricane Harvey with Sean Luchs

September 22, 2017

 

In this episode, we're joined by Sean Luchs a meteorologist at the Houston-Galveston National Weather Service. Sean earned his B.S. and M.S. in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma. He spent four-and-a-half years as the state fire meteorologist at the Florida Forest Service. When we originally scheduled Sean, we were hoping to talk about fire and smoke - his expertise. But because Hurricane Harvey was such a big event in his office, we shifted the discussion.

 

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The Interview

 

His role during Harvey:

 

"I was on vacation... ...I saw a tweet from the the Houston office... ...about fifteen minutes later I got a text from my boss, 'when are you back in town again?"

 

"My role through the event was to focus on new products that are entirely tropical specific. Making sure everything lines up forecast-wise with what the Hurricane Center and Weather Prediction Center are doing in terms of track, winds, and rainfall." 

 

"Then making sure our hurricane threat hurricane grids are made. We can create images that indicate what the threats are from each of the different parts of the storm"

 

"I got to write things in the hurricane local statement that I can't say I ever imagined I would ever be writing, professionally. It was kind of surreal at some points."

 

On saving lives with his forecasts:

 

"I'm not sure it fully sunk in yet"

 

"You hear things from your partners, especially emergency management, they talk about the actions that they took because of our forecast. They suspect 'you guys have surely saved hundreds if not thousands of lives".

 

On the how the Weather Service Office faired during Harvey:

 

"We are co-located with Galveston Emergency Management. When you work with emergency managements they are thinking 'how can I avoid the absolute worst possible thing that could happened at all times'. When they built their building... ...they raised the ground they built it on. Most of everything is on the second floor. It was a building that was built to withstand the worst possible storm that could be thrown at it."

 

His advice for young meteorologists:

 

"Know what animates your dream... and focus on that."

 

Listen to the entire episode on iTunes or the player above.

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