Accurate Weather Information Is aCritical Element in the Daily Lives ofMost Americans
In many cases, weather information helpstravelers determine when to take a trip,which route, or whether to go at all. Whenweather turns severe, it can not only changedaily travel habits, it can also be deadly.Over 17 percent of all fatal crashes occurduring severe weather conditions. Of those,60 percent happen in rural areas (most onnon-interstate roadways). Many peopleexperienced with weather informationsystems believe more accurate andaccessible weather information is thesolution to these issues.
“As part of Washington State’s mountainpass conditions reporting, we put pass roadweather information on the Internet to helptravelers. After getting 10 million hits on theweb site during the 1997–1998 winterseason, we discovered the traveling publichas a voracious appetite for road andweather condition information.
With thatknowledge, we joined a consortium ofagencies that need weather information andare implementing a plan to use high-resolution modeled output, integratingobservations from 400 sites we’ve identifiedaround the state, to create useful productsfor travelers, highway operations, andsurface transportation in general. We areeven installing automated weather stationson our state ferries crossing Puget Sound!” —Guy Coss, Road and Weather ProjectManager, Washington State Department ofTransportation, Seattle, Washington
Many States Are Currently ImplementingIntelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)Technologies To Improve WeatherInformation for Surface Transportation
Several multi-state initiatives are bringing ITStogether with advanced weather predictionsystems to create operational highwaymanagement and traveler informationsystems throughout North America. Theprograms envision a widely accessible real-time road and weather information systemthat will support seamless informationsharing for travelers and highwaymaintenance managers. The goals of theseinformation systems are to improve safety(save lives) and improve efficiency of thetransportation system.
“We receive satellite broadcast weatherinformation, weather radar data from a NextGeneration Weather Radar (NEXRAD) datavendor, forecasts four times per day from alocal forecast service, and data from roadweather installations. We use the informationyear-round to manage all of our weather-sensitive operations. We can call out ourpersonnel more efficiently and curtail ouroperations quicker knowing when theweather will start and stop. We can evenforecast the likelihood of summertimepavement blow-ups. By being proactive we’veincreased our level of service and reduced ourcosts, especially overtime in the winter.”
—Norm Ashfeld, Maintenance AreaSuperintendent, Minnesota Department ofTransportation, Minneapolis Metro Area
“Road Weather Information Systems havesome definite benefits in reducing manpowerand material cost.”
—Jon Schierman, Maintenance Engineer,Idaho Transportation Department
One of these initiatives is the AdvancedTransportation Weather Information System(ATWIS) in North and South Dakota. TheATWIS is the first rural road conditioninformation and weather forecast in-vehiclesystem in the U.S. Forecasts are madeavailable to cellular phone users through acomputer telephone system that queriesusers on their location and direction of travel.
“I use the ATWIS system all the time and lovethe information.”
—Phillip, a motorist from North Dakota
ROAD WEATHERINFORMATION SYSTEM