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Emergency operational meteorological considerations during an accidental release of hazardous chemicals
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  • Description:
    The accidental release of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere has always been of great concern among local emergency response authorities. Evacuation of persons in and around the affected area, the amount of chemical spilled, and atmospheric conditions governing the downwind concentrations are among some of the more pressing issues confronting local hazardous materials (HAZMAT) personnel. Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has embarked upon a program to provide chemical dispersion models to local HAZMAT groups. Greater public awareness of the dangers of toxic chemicals will likely mandate greater involvement by a number of government agencies, including the National Weather Service (NWS). HAZMAT personnel have not yet fully utilized the services of NWS meteorologists. In the future, NWS meteorologists and meteorological technicians may be asked to provide weather data as well as initial and short range weather forecasts (including trajectory forecasts) to emergency response managers responsible for protecting people from accidental releases of toxic spills. While a wide number of dispersion models exist, many are very similar when it comes to the type of meteorological input required to run them. This paper focuses on this input so that meteorologists may be better informed when they are called upon to provide assistance during a hazardous chemical spill in their area.
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