NWS Weather Festival set for Saturday in Brownsville

The festival is the first the NWS Brownville has held since 2015 and will feature mock weather balloon launches at noon and 2 p.m. among a variety of educational activities to promote weather awareness.

All events are free, but people who attend are asked to bring one or several non-perishable food items to donate to the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley to receive additional tickets to raffles, which will be held every 15 minutes. There will be free water, and food and drinks will be sold on-site. The event is at the NWS campus at 80 S. Vermillion Ave. near the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

“The goal is to connect our communities with the people who help keep them safe during dangerous weather, with this year’s focus being flooding rainfall,” said Barry Goldsmith, warning coordinating meteorologist for the NWS Brownsville.

Goldsmith said flooding rainfall that struck the Valley in June 2018 and affected every major city prompted weather officials to focus the weather festival on that particular phenomenon.

He said if one were to ask Valley residents a generic question about what weather they fear the most, most would probably say hurricanes. “If you ask them what weather has impacted you personally, most would probably say flooding rain. Everybody has probably had some experience with flooding rain,” he said.

“The bottom line is that many people are really not prepared on what they need to do to protect their property and at least be at an advantage to protect lives,” Goldsmith added.

Another festival goal is to let people experience how weather works. The mock weather balloons to be launched at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. illustrate what weather professionals do twice a day in unison around the world.

Goldsmith said the balloons measure wind, barometric pressure, temperature and humidity going up 20 miles.

“The main idea is to take that snapshot twice a day. For us it’s at sunrise and sunset. That information goes into the predictive models. It’s a very important piece to have that good snapshot, and people will get to see how that’s done,” Goldsmith said.

State and local emergency management will be on hand, as will private industry partners, including representatives from Allstate Insurance to provide information to help people make informed decisions about flood insurance, Goldsmith said.

NWS officials will provide tours of the facilities throughout the day. There will also be weather-related games and activities for children of all ages.