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Photos taken at Weather Festival 2015
Rio Grande Valley Weather Festival 2015 Shines Brilliantly
More than One Thousand Enjoy the Festivities in Brownsville on March 28th

Education, partnerships, food, and fun were a recipe for a great time on Saturday, March 28th, 2015 for visitors to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley campus. Azure blue skies and fresh breezes greeted families who spent part of their day learning about the NWS’ core mission to protect life and property from the dangers of hurricanes, hail, flooding, tornadoes, and more. Guests were able to meet our friendly and passionate staff who make weather predictions used by decision makers of all kinds to keep the Rio Grande Valley safe. Several invited partners in Emergency Management and the media were on hand to provide visitors information on how they turn NWS information into life-saving action. Most people left with a new appreciation of how vital their local NWS office is to the region.

Activities were plentiful for children and adults. The following is a flavor of all there was to savor:

  • Tours. Meteorologist in Charge Steve Drillette led visitors into the Conference Room, where Information Technology Officer Pablo Gonzalez described NOAA Weather Radio and its bilingual benefits. Visitors were also able to take in museum–quality displays on hurricanes, hydrology, aviation weather, careers in meteorology, and social media, while video on Hurricane Beulah’s impact was shown. Forecaster Justin Gibbs, aided by Forecasters Blair Scholl and Meteorologist Chris Birchfield described our collaborative decision support–centric operations area (panorama image, below), and answered dozens of questions from rapt audiences for more than five hours. Thirty tours were given to more than 620 individuals during the Festival.
  • "Mock" Weather Balloon Releases. Meteorologist Erin Billings described the process of upper air atmospheric soundings, including the weather baloon and the attached GPS–enabled box of sensors that measure wind, temperature, pressure, and humidity. After the brief description, the balloons were launched – one each at Noon and 2 PM – to a thrilled combined audience of several hundred persons.
  • Partner Displays and Demonstrations. The City of Brownsville’s Office of Emergency Management provided a Lenco Bearcat® vehicle for Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The Willacy County Regional Medical Response, in association with Texas Department of State Health Services Emergency Medical Task Force, had the Evacuation Ambulance ("AmBus") on display. The South Texas Division of the American Red Cross was on hand to explain their role in recovery from events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, and showcased their Emergency Response Vehicle. The Texas General Land Office offered one of their air boats, and explained how weather information can impact operations on the Laguna Madre and surrounding areas when protecting the coast from man made and natural hazards. The U.S. Coast Guard (South Padre Island) was also on hand. Partner private and public organizations, including the Texas Department of Insurance (Austin) and the Rio Grande Valley section of the U.S. Small Business Administration hosted small booths as well.
  • Fun and Games. Children learned how waterspouts work by viewing the NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley life–size tornado chamber; Forecaster Blair Scholl, and recent Texas A&M graduate, student volunteer, and City of Brownsville Emergency Planner Bianca Villanueva taught kids how to make a cloud, discover how rain is collected, and play "tornado in a tube"; Senior Forecasters Geoffrey Bogorad and Joseph Tomaselli hosted the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS) "fill up the rain gauge" game, where children competed with water pistols to achieve the highest total.
  • Raffle. Forecaster Maria Torres, Senior Forecaster Mike Castillo, and Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith provided bags of coloring books, cloud charts, hurricane tracking charts, pencils, and magnets to visitors entering the building, and gave away more than $2,000 in prizes. Prizes included ten NOAA Weather Radios, home tool kits, flashlights, and dozens of food coupons from area restaurants.
  • Media Promotion. News Talk KURV radio broadcast the Sergio Sanchez Open Lines Show live from the Festival between 9 and 11 AM. Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith worked with Mr. Sanchez to create more "buzz" as the Festival got underway. We also thank Telemundo Channel 40 for interviews and film, and AIM Media (Brownsville Herald), for their coverage and full page article on Page 2 the day after the festival (March 29th).


Weather Festival was a winner due to dedication of an entire team, from those already mentioned to those who helped promote the event, sold food and drink to guests, provided snacks to partners and vendors, and kept the flow of traffic inside the campus safe. We couldn’t have done it without them!

  • The City of Brownsville for all they provided:
    • Barricades, tables and chairs, "Weather Festival" signs
    • Snacks and drinks to hungry, thirsty partners, vendors, and NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley staff
    • Chick–Fil–A Restaurants
    • Posters to hang in local businesses to promote the Festival
    • Traffic control
  • Electronics Systems Analyst Paul Schaafsma and Electronic Technicians Derek Urch and Everett Briggs for ensuring the operations area was ready to roll, supporting vendors and partners with electrical needs, and helping keep vehicles and pedestrians safe
  • Other Staff and Spouse Assistance. Thanks to Senior Forecaster Timothy Speece and Kirk Caceres for some true "heavy lifting" after an overnight shift to help set up outdoor tables, chairs, and other items; and to Forecaster Jason Straub and NWS Corpus Christi Information Technology Officer Joel Veeneman for escorting large groups from the office to the upper air shelter prior to both balloon launches. We also greatly thank Michele Goldsmith for keeping tour groups in order prior to entering the building, and Rossana Bogorad for floating around the campus and ensuring folks were having a good time.
  • Rio Grande Valley Media Partners:
    • R Communications (News Talk 710 KURV), specifically Sergio Sanchez who promoted Weather Festival with interviews during the weekday morning show, as well as the onsite broadcast
    • KGBT–TV Action 4 News Sunrise (Victoria Marshall–Cisneros) for Weather Festival and Severe Weather Awareness Week Promotion
    • KFXV–FOX–2 TV Good Day Valley (Alfredo Vela) for Weather Festival and Severe Weather Awareness Week Promotion
    • KVEO–TV Newscenter 23 (Emily Jimenez and others) for Weather Festival promotional interviews
    • KRGV–Channel 5 News (TV) Promotion on Noon and Evening Weather Broadcasts
    • KNVO–Univision–48 (TV) Promotion on Alegre Despertar (morning programming)
    • KTLM–Telemundo&ndas;40 (TV) (Mayra Galván) Promotion on Buenos Días Frontera Morning Show
    • City of Edinburg Cable Network Channel 12 (TV, Irma Garza) Promotion and Show
    • KGBT–FM 98.3 "Solamente Exitos" (Armando and staff) for his support and promotion
    • Radio Esperanza live broadcast and promotion
    • KJJF Rio Grande Valley Public Radio 88FM – Public Service Announcements promotions
    • Brownsville Herald (Laura Martinez, Gary Long, and Victoria Brito) for pre–event story and post event feature article on ’Page 2’
  • Raffle Contributors:
    • Midland Radio Corporation
    • Lowe’s Home Improvement
    • The Home Depot
    • Brownsville Museum of Art
    • Gladys Porter Zoo
    • The City of Brownsville
    • Don Johnson Motors of Brownsville
    • Tipsy Canvas, Brownsville
    • House of Frames, Brownsville
    • Historic Brownsville Museum
    • Cristy’s Cake Shop
    • Lola’s Bake Shop
    • Cobblehead’s
    • Vermillion Restaurant
    • Antonio’s Mexican Village
    • Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, Brownsville
    • Chicken Run Barbeque
    • Sasi’s Thai Restaurant
    • Texas Roadhouse Steak House, Brownsville
    • Spices and Grains


Thanks to everyone, from those who worked tirelessly to make Weather Festival a success, and to you, the residents and visitors of the Rio Grande Valley, our special guests. We sincerely hope everyone had a great time!

Panorama view of the NWS Brownsville/RGV reconfigured operations area
NWS corporate logo City of Brownsville Office of Emergency Management logo Weather Festival header logo City of Brownsville logo NOAA logo