There are a record number of attendees for this year’s National Weather Association Conference in Birmingham.
No doubt this correlates with the record number of tornadoes in 2011.
Today was dedicated to the Broadcasters Workshop. The room was filled with TV weathercasters…from local affiliates to those who work for the major networks including The Weather Channel. In fact, Nick Walker, on-air meteorologist from The Weather Channel welcomed the broadcasters to today’s session.
James Spann, Chief Meteorologist of Birmingham’s ABC 33/40 addressed the broadcasters next talking about the April 27th killer tornadoes that raked through his coverage area. While James was thrown into the national spotlight for his incredible live TV and internet coverage, he reluctantly refrained from getting into specifics stating “the incredible loss of life leaves me speechless”.
Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel then spoke about the year of incredible weather and introduced Dr. Greg Forbes, his colleague on TV during times of severe weather and tornado outbreaks.
Dr. Forbes spoke of the severe weather parameters that led to the incredible tornado outbreak that started Easter weekend and progressed through April 27th. Dr. Forbes was a student of Dr. Ted Fujita during the Super Outbreak of 1974 and made some interesting comparisons to that outbreak and the one from this year.
Not long after Dr. Forbes’ talk, my good friend Davis Nolan of WKRN Channel 2 in Nashville had a great presentation of the incredible flood of May 2010. He showed video of I-24 with cars and buildings floating down the interstate. He also spoke of miscommunication that happened between the National Weather Service and the Corps of Engineers on the release of water from Old Hickory Dam and how this led to much higher water levels in downtown Nashville than was forecast.
One of the more interesting presentations of the day came from Michael Brown of Mississippi State University. His staff surveyed the people of Smithville, MS that was struck by an EF5 tornado of April 27th. There was so much severe weather there that day, their outdoor warning sirens sounded an incredible 4 times…with the last sounding being the killer tornado. Even though the town had 45 minutes of lead time, many thought the tornado warning and the sounding of the outdoor sirens was another false alarm. 24% of those surveyed said when they heard the siren, they took no action. Not only that, many said they wanted to see “proof” the tornado was coming before they would seek shelter.
Not long after this presentation, Jason Senkbeil of the University of Alabama talked about how many people actually sought out shelter from the EF4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa. When surveyed, an incredible 51% said they did not have a shelter plan!
One of the most moving presentations today was from Brian Davis, meteorologist from KOAM-TV in Joplin, Missouri. He spoke of the May 22nd twister that devastated a huge part of the city and became overwhelmed with emotion as he spoke of the destruction he witnessed. He credited early warning and the use of social media to saving many lives that day.
All in all, it was a great day of presentations, fellowship and learning. I feel very privileged to be in the same room with other TV broadcasters and meteorologists from across the country. I look up to them and regard them as the best in the business.
Tomorrow, more learning and some training on new software that will enhance the weather you see on WBKO!