Fort Worth Emergency Operations office prepares for severe weather during COVID-19 crisis

With potential severe weather in the forecast, local emergency managers are working on plans to deal with the potential for rescues and damage amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic is also having an effect on the way weather is being forecasted.   

The Fort Worth Emergency Operations Center staff is preparing for double duty this weekend with possible severe weather in the forecast.

Mike Drivdahl with the EOC says they’ve spent the last month preparing for this kind of situation, adding additional employees from nearly every city department.

“Half of them are working from home, and half of them are working in our EOC,” he said. “And what that allows us to do is to actually monitor two separate situations if we need to.”

And by postponing non-emergency tasks, Fort Worth firefighters remain healthy and available to respond.

“We do have three shifts of firefighters,” Drivdhal said. “There’s about 250 on every shift that staff our fire trucks every day. So that’s 750 firefighters in our operations.”

The city continues to work closely with the National Weather Service, which has noticed a domino effect set off by COVID-19.

NWS Meteorologist Jason Dunn explains that commercial jets typically collect a great deal of wind and temperature data during takeoff, landing and inflight. But the drastic reduction in flights means less available information.

“There has been about a 40 percent reduction globally in the number aircraft observations that are going into computer models,” he said.

Dunn says short term forecasts, like this weekend, likely won’t be affected due to other tools like satellite and weather balloon information. But meteorologists looking at long-term trends may see an effect from the lack of airplane data.

And on the eve of what’s typically the busiest outdoor weekend in the city, Drivdahl hopes cloudy, grey skies give everyone a little nudge towards practicing social distancing.

“Hopefully the weather is not severe,” Drivdahl said. “Hopefully we get the rain and it does keep people at home.”