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Alfredo Vega of the NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley Public Service Unit answers questions at the 2011 Winter Texas Expo
Hydrometeorological Technician Alfredo Vega answers questions from seasonal residents at the annual Winter Texas Expo in McAllen on January 11th, 2011.

NWS Brownsville/RGV in Your Neighborhood
Outreach Activities Crank Up to Start 2011

Winter Texan Expo
On January 11th and 12th, several of the NWS Brownsville team staffed a booth at the annual Winter Texan Expo at the McAllen Convention Center. An estimated three to five thousand seasonal and permanent residents attended the event, many asking questions about the local weather conditions, the expected conditions for the rest of winter and early spring, and office operations in general. Skywatcher Cloud charts (below), among other items, were quite popular! Thanks to Forecasters Joseph Tomaselli and Ryan Vipond, and to new Science and Operations Officer Doug Butts and Alfredo Vega for their participation!

Seasonal residents of Hidalgo County poring over the popular Skywatcher cloud chart (click to enlarge)

Career Day
On January 14th, Senior Forecaster Greg Flatt and Forecaster Buddy Martin spoke to nearly two dozen high school students on careers in meteorology. The students who attended were treated to an interactive discussion on what it takes to become a meteorologist, followed by information on what the public, military, and private sector offers. Mr. Martin, who holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, helped explain the process in achieving an advanced degree.

Laguna Madre Trip
On January 20th, six member of the team (above right) went on a discovery mission up the Laguna Madre, hosted by Joseph Hilliard of the Texas General Land Office. The mission on a 27 foot vessel began in the Port Isabel Ship Channel, headed to the edge of the Brownsville Ship Channel and Boca Chica jetties, then ran north through the center channel of the Laguna Madre through Cameron, Willacy, and into Kenedy County to the "Land Cut", about one third the way into the county. Click here for a map.

Staff of the NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley office prior to discovery mission up the Laguna Madre, January 20 2011 (click to enlarge)
The NWS Browsville/Rio Grande Valley crew prior to Laguna Madre discovery mission. From left: Meteorologist in Charge Steve Drillette, Forecaster Ashley Butts, Science and Operations Officer Doug Butts, Forecaster and Marine Program Leader Joseph Tomaselli, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith, and Forecaster Ryan Vipond.

Laguna Madre Trip (Continued)
The mission allowed the staff to get a first hand look at the Laguna Madre waters for which daily forecasts and special warnings are issued; waters used by boaters and fishers year round, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and even barge traffic, particularly between Port Isabel and Port Mansfield. Dozens, if not more than a hundred, small to medium sized fishing cabins (below) dot the edge of the channel, many which are vulnerable to a significant storm tide and very strong hurricane force winds. Such winds leveled many cabins in Kenedy County when Category 3 Bret slammed ashore; storm tides flooded or destroyed any existing cabins with Hurricane Allen (1980). Mr. Hilliard educated the crew on the local effects of wind on the chop and waves within the channel at various locations along the route. In Kenedy County, the crew saw up close the impact of a strong front, as smooth waters turned rapidly to a moderate chop (below, center).

Several cabins along the center channel of Laguna Madre in Willacy County, Texas (click to enlarge)
Smooth channel north of Port Mansfield, rare in winter and occurring typically prior to a strong front when winds briefly go calm (click to enlarge) Quick transition to moderate chop as north winds picked up to 15 knots and gusty immediately behind cold front in southern Kenedy County (click to enlarge) Choppy conditions as 25 to 30 knot north winds reached Port Isabel by late afternoon January 20th 2011 (click to enlarge)
Anatomy of a Cold Front at Sea. Left: Smooth waters in the center channel just north of Port Mansfield. Center: A moderate chop (small whitecaps) moments after passing through cold front east of Norias, Kenedy County. Right: The full bore of the front, with choppy waters and waves east of Port Isabel, only an hour after debarking (photo courtesy Joseph Hilliard).

More to Come!
By month’s end, NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley will have been represented at the 91st Annual American Meteorological Society Meeting. February begins a host of activities, including Skywarn spotter training, more student career fairs, and providing speakers for meetings on wildfire potential, drought, some early training on the upcoming 2011 hurricane season, and the Commemorative Air Fiesta. Schedule your activity today! Surf back to our outreach page for more information.