Chad Hecht is a Research and Operations Meteorologist at the Center For Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) and at California Nevada River Forecast Center.
The work of CW3E is to “revolutionize the understanding, the observations and the prediction of extreme weather events across western North America from drought to atmospheric rivers”. Chad’s research focuses on figuring out what weather data is best suited to include in prediction models to precisely predict the volume of water that an atmospheric river will drop in California and when exactly will it make the landfall. He spoke with us recently. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Where do you live now and how big is your household?
I live in zip code 95661. So that is Roseville, just north of Sacramento, California. I rent a one bedroom apartment on the second floor. And live with my dog.
What kind of disasters have you faced in your lifetime?
I grew up along the banks of Hudson River. I have seen firsthand the consequences of river cresting over its banks. I've been a part of some tropical systems that have curved up to the northeast, whether that be Sandy back in 2012 or Floyd in 1999. I distinctly remember wading through flooded streets from both of those hurricanes. I've been a part of some record breaking snowstorms dropping upwards of three feet of snow in New York.
I volunteered with the National Weather Service and did surveys of families impacted by tornadoes. I have seen the destruction that they bring. I drove through the town of Santa Rosa, California after the Tubbs Fire in 2017 and saw the devastation caused by those fires. Lastly, in my undergrad I studied the effects of the Great Lakes effect and the disastrous consequences of ice storms and high winds on communities in Western New York, especially Buffalo.
How have you prepared for a disaster? And how has your research informed your disaster readiness plans?
My biggest emphasis on disaster readiness is about knowing my disaster risks. When I moved to Northern California I really spent a lot of time researching what hazards are most likely and where I can get more information. I realized fires and flooding are the biggest threat where I live. First thing I focused on was where would I get the information about a disaster. For example, how will I know that I need to evacuate. Whether that be reverse 911 or in Nevada County where it's called Code Red. So really making sure that I am getting as much information as I can. I closely track what evacuation zone I am in. In addition to watch and warning alerts from National Weather Service, I am on Twitter. I to follow information from the local sheriff, the local police department, the fire department, and even emergency managers in our county.
Since I live on the second floor, I am aware that I may have a slight buffer in case of floods. But I recognize the challenges with getting stuck on the second floor for a long time or with exiting from the second floor in case of fires. I do consider myself of decent health. And if I absolutely had to jump from the balcony I would be okay.
I have a go bag packed with all my essentials. And provisions for my dog - food, medications, vaccination record, collar, leashes, etc. I have planned for situations where I am stuck for a week, without being able to leave. I have enough food. I have considered without being electricity. I have non-perishable food that I don’t have to cook.
Being a meteorologist I'm always looking at the weather and being aware of an extreme weather event. Say when a Red Flag Day is coming up, if I can I work from home that day. So I can be around my dog and if we had to get out we can do that as fast as possible. I like to be aware of hotels close by that are dog friendly. I have built in extra time that I would need to evacuate with my dog.