July 2, 2008
With the arrival of hurricane season, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) is prepared to respond quickly to hazardous material spill incidents resulting from severe storm events. OR&R scientists work with federal, state and local agencies to provide scientific support and assistance before, during and after hurricanes strike.
“NOAA, through the Office of Response and Restoration, is part of the multi-agency response team providing oil spill trajectories and environmental data so that quick decisions can be made on where to collect oil and what measures can be taken to protect critical environmental resources” says Dave Westerholm, director of NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration. “The federal and state on-scene coordinators rely on NOAA’s ability to provide accurate and timely on-scene scientific support, overflights, meteorological data and modeling.”
Located around the country, OR&R’s Scientific Support Coordinators work other divisions within NOAA, U.S. Coast Guard and other response organizations by providing on scene coordination and scientific support. The NOAA scientific team assists with spill response, information management, search and rescue missions, vessel groundings, lost or sunken oil platforms, releases from coastal industrial facilities, and other impacts from hurricanes.
OR&R also addresses longer-term recovery efforts including assessment and removal of hazardous and non-hazardous marine debris, natural resource damage assessment, and restoration of coastal habitats.
“It is important to understand that as a natural resource trustee, NOAA has the added responsibility of assessing any coastal oil or hazardous material impact and developing an appropriate restoration strategy for that area,” adds Westerholm. “Assessment and restoration extend well beyond the initial response and cleanup, and often involves all the response agencies and impacted communities.”
During the 2005 hurricane season, NOAA OR&R staff responded to multiple storms and staffed nine command posts in four different states. One of these storms was Hurricane Katrina. Even before Hurricane Katrina hit land, OR&R was preparing for its impact, providing critical infrastructure assessments, discussing possible points of impact, and coordinating critical personnel in the region.
OR&R performed overflights to evaluate reports of numerous oil spills and vessel sinkings and provided environmental review to the U.S. Coast Guard to address more than 3,000 stranded or sunken vessels. OR&R is still working today to identify and develop abatement strategies for marine debris that was moved to the coastal waters from this hurricane.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.