It helps to know what’s coming your way

Jons truckNo one has perfected weather forecasting but having a professional outlook on the weather headed our way is essential to many of our functions, especially as we move into the winter season. This year, our maintenance office has contracted with a weather forecasting service to provide all Iowa DOT employees video forecasts twice a day, available on the service’s website.

Tina Greenfield from the Office of Maintenance, said, “We’ve always had a text forecast available on the weather forecasting service’s website, but it wasn’t very prominently displayed and was really geared towards those of us who needed specific details on upcoming storms.”

Greenfield said, “Near the end of last winter, we were having conversations with folks around the DOT and realized that many of them weren’t getting a warning of storms, so we worked with our vendor to get a video format like what they provide other customers in place for us this winter.” The new video format will contain valuable information that’s relevant to all weather events along with easy-to-understand graphics.

 The video format is geared toward those employees who need an overall, statewide perspective on what weather is coming. Greenfield said, “There are several offices like Strategic Communications who can start planning messages for the public in advance if they are aware of what’s coming. The Traffic Management Center needs general information to make staffing decisions in preparation for potential winter driving incidents. They don’t necessarily need all the details, but they can use the general information to better complete the tasks they are responsible for.” For those who need to dive deeper into the information, detailed site-specific maps, graphs, and charts will still be available on the weather provider’s website.

DTN screenshot

Another benefit of the twice-daily video forecasts will be to help those of us who are responsible for a variety of tasks related to winter weather know when to ramp up operations as a major storm is approaching. Greenfield said, “We have a threshold set for when certain offices kick into ‘winter weather mode,’ whatever that might mean for their operations.”

The criteria includes:

  • Six inches of snow at any location
  • .25 inches of ice
  • Blizzard conditions
  • National Weather Service winter weather warning

Once any of these criteria are met, the forecasts will automatically be emailed to a group of our employees who play a role in winter operations response instead of waiting for them to go out to the website and get them. “These are generally the people who were involved in winter coordination calls in the past,” said Greenfield. “In addition to our own staff, forecasts will also be emailed to the National Weather Service, Iowa State Patrol, Federal Highway Administration, and Iowa Homeland Security.”

She continued, “The emailed forecasts serve as a trigger causing keys staff to switch into a different mindset. With an easy-to-view forecast, hopefully, the upcoming storms won’t take anyone by surprise.”

Iowa DOT employees who need help logging into the weather website should contact Tina Greenfield at [email protected].

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