Town Hall Meeting for 40th Anniversary of Hurricane Camille

by Phil Hysell

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Blacksburg conducted a Town Hall Meeting at the Leslie Gillis Theater in the Center for Leadership and Ethics in Lexington, VA on Tuesday August 18th.   The purpose of this meeting was to promote safety and awareness of dangerous weather; discuss how the collection of weather data, warning decisions, and communications have changed since Hurricane Camille struck this region 40 years ago; and to take questions and address concerns from patrons and customers.

Approximately 58 people participated in this gala event.  Each attendee was provided with a program and information packet which included frequently asked questions, a list of NWS web sites for weather information, and a participant’s survey.  Weather safety brochures were also available.

A 45-minute DVD, provided by the Virginia State Police, showing a series of videos and images of the destruction Camille brought 40 years ago was shown at the conclusion of the meeting.

The Blacksburg office has developed and maintained strong relationships with local media and emergency management, and their involvement was instrumental to the success and quality of the event.  Robert Foresman, Emergency Management Coordinator for Rockbridge County, VA, was instrumental in securing the location for the Town Hall meeting and helped promote the event through the Rockbridge Alert system and the Rockbridge County twitter page. 
Local television stations WDBJ and WSLS promoted and publicized the Town Hall Meeting through stories on their local evening news broadcasts.  In addition to local television, the Blacksburg office advertised the meeting through local newspapers, local radio stations, several web sites (including their own), e-mails to spotters and emergency managers, and through dissemination of public information statements that also aired on the NOAA Weather Radio “All-Hazards” system.

Just prior to the Town Hall Meeting, the National Weather Service conducted a separate workshop specifically geared for first responders and Emergency Management officials.  During this meeting, NWS Blacksburg provided an overview of NWS digital and mobile services, reviewed weather safety information, and answered questions. Michael Cline, Virginia State Coordinator of Emergency Management spoke about the changes in Emergency Management since Camille struck in 1969.

The success of both events was due in large part to the active participation by much of the NWS Blacksburg staff.  The following individuals were instrumental in the administration, promotion, and presentation of the Town Hall Meeting: Peter Corrigan, Service Hydrologist; Phil Hysell, WCM; Steve Keighton, SOO; Ken Kostura, Forecaster; Dave Wert, MIC, and Jim White OPL.

The Town Hall format is a great means for the NWS to promote its products and services as well as obtain direct feedback from its patrons and customers.  This is the third Town Hall meeting that the Blacksburg office has conducted in as many years.  To continue this dialog and to further enhance its presence in local communities, the Blacksburg office plans on conducting annual or semi-annual Town Hall meetings across the rest of its forecast area in the next several years.

National Weather Service staff at the Town Hall Meeting
August 18th, 2009 Town Hall Meeting.  From left to right:  Phil Hysell, WCM; Steve Keighton, SOO, Ken Kostura, Forecaster, Peter Corrigan, Service Hydrologist, and Jim White, OPL.  Photo taken by Rockbridge County Emergency Services Coordinator Robert Foresman.

MIC David Wert speaks to the public

Meteorologist in Charge, Dave Wert, speaks at the August 18th NWS Blacksburg Town Hall meeting. Photo taken by Rockbridge County Emergency Services Coordinator Robert Foresman.