Birds are singing and the sun is shining its rays through a cloud spotted sky. A light breeze rustles the leaves of Aspen trees and the temperature drops a few degrees. Dark gray clouds are forming over the Tetons and almost instantaneously the light breeze turns into gusts of wind. Large raindrops begin to splash over the valley, appearing like curtains being drawn from the sky to the earth. The rumble of thunder echoes over Jackson Hole and flashes of lightning begin to appear. A thunderstorm is orchestrating and Grand Teton National Park has front row seats.
Weather changes like this are quite frequent in the Park this time of year. One moment the skies are clear, the next hail greets us from dark clouds. Grand Teton National Park is StormReady, with enhanced communication capabilities to ensure weather warnings and other emergency information is received and disseminated efficiently to park employees, concession operations, and visitors within the park.
“The StormReady designation also represents a stronger partnership with the National Weather Service (NWS) as we now have multiple ways to provide feedback to the forecasters and communicate with NWS staff, including information on current weather conditions in Grand Teton National Park,” said Heather Voster, Senior All-Risk Dispatcher for the National Park Service.
A rigorous set of criteria must be met to obtain StormReady status. Requirements include:
- Establishing a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
- Having more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts
- Having more than one way to alert the public to severe weather events
- Creating a system that monitors local weather conditions
- Promoting the importance of public readiness through community seminars and outreach
- Developing a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and conducting emergency exercises
“Accordingly, All Hazards Alert Weather Radios have been placed in various buildings where public and employee traffic is common; Dispatch, Moose Administration Building, the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, the Laurance S Rockefeller Preserve Center, Colter Bay Visitor Center, Jenny Lake Visitor Center, and the Jenny Lake Ranger Station,” said Voster.
The All Hazards Radios will broadcast warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards:
Weather (tornadoes, floods, severe thunderstorms, etc.)
Natural (earthquakes, forest fires and volcanic activity, etc.)
Technological (chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, etc.) National (terrorist attacks, etc.)
Local (child abduction emergencies, boil water alerts, 911 telephone outage, etc.)
In addition to the placement of All Hazards Radios, Park Dispatch has several ways to receive weather warnings and other emergency information, such as via telephone, internet, email, and law enforcement teletype.
Formalized Standard Operating Procedures have been put in place detailing how this important information is to be distributed by dispatch, including broadcast on the park radio frequency, internal Instant Messaging, and a phone tree to alert critical facilities and concession operations.
“Grand Teton National Park continually seeks new ways to improve safety for visitors, local residents, and park employees. Completing the StormReady requirements—and gaining the knowledge and network necessary to effectively deal with severe weather events—is an important step in creating a safer environment for anyone residing in, or recreating throughout the park. We are proud to have earned StormReady status, and we intend to effectively implement the StormReady communication system for the benefit of not only the park, but also our neighbors,” said Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott.
There are a number of ways visitors can prepare for weather related emergencies in Grand Teton National Park. “First, before they even leave home, they should do a bit of internet research—find out what the forecast for the area is so they know what to expect and can bring appropriate clothing and gear,” said Voster. When guests arrive, they should stop at a Visitor Center to find the current weather forecast and to learn about weather patterns common to the Tetons. It is also a good idea to be aware of what to do if caught outside in a thunderstorm. Being prepared with rain gear and warm clothing is essential when visiting the Park.
Grand Teton National Park is the first and currently only national park to gain StormReady status. “We hope to be an example for other national parks across the country,” said Voster
Learn more about the StormReady program and how to prepare for various disasters and weather hazards:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
Teton County Emergency Management:
Posted from Katie’s Corner