Friday, April 04, 2008

Southeast Severe Storms Symposium

Notes from the Southeast Severe Storms Symposium
Friday April 4, 2008

Meteorologist Sarah Tipton - KAIT 8 TV - Jonesboro, AR
Sarah reviewed her station's coverage of the Super Tuesday Outbreak of 2/5/08. She described planning, day of the event preparation, behind the scenes work, on-air coverage, and things that were learned. She mentioned that use of instant message chats, technology, web cams, and viewer photos enhanced their coverage. They received an amazing amount of positive feedback from viewers.

Meteorologist Spencer Denton - WHNT 19 - Huntsville, AL
Spencer discussed his station's use of Dual Polemetric Doppler Radar and their coverage of the Super Tuesday Outbreak. He said that this radar transmits both horizontal and vertical signals, (not just horizontal), which helps in identifying severe hail. This radar was converted from a WSR 74 C-91 radar between 2002 and 2006. He mentioned that they believe this radar may be able to detect debris signatures. He showed some example images of debris signatures from the Lawrence County EF4 tornado.

Meteorologist David Sawyer - CBS 42 - Birmingham, AL
Talked about the importance of connecting and relating to viewers by having a servant's attitude. He mentioned that lives on the fringes of his viewing area were just as important as those in the city. He had an inspiring message about true humility, servanthood, and commitment to saving lives.

Russ Gellar - News Director - WCBI - Columbus, MS
Russ gave tips for broadcast meteorology students who are trying to break into the business. He emphasized the importance of being flexible and willing to wear many hats.

Meteorologist Bernie Rayno - AccuWeather - State College, PA
Bernie discussed changes in the media paradigm. He talked about the consolidation of many stations, increasing competition, and the need for stations to use multiple platforms to present content. He mentioned James Spann as a leader in this area.

Chief Meteorologist Katie Horner - KCTV - Kansas City, MO
Katie had a very informative and inspiring presentation. She discussed her journey that resulted in becoming a broadcast meteorologist. She talked about how she had covered severe weather events well, only to arrive back from vacation to learn that she was being attacked with slanderous feedback, including a blog titled, "". She discussed effective ways of dealing with unfair criticism that would be helpful in any walk of life. She mentioned how one of her competitors, Bryan Busby, came to her defense. Some of her good advice included: keep balanced, don't burn bridges, continue to learn and improve, build alliances, give back to the community, encourage co-workers, let others toot your horn, and be real. Great presentation!
This article, shared with me by Sharp, tells the rest of the story well.

Mike Gibson
, Software Developer - GRAnalyst
Mr. Gibson gave a fascinating discussion of his graphic information systems products. He also described how they could be used intelligently by broadcast meteorologists so that a viewer's experience could be enhanced without becoming overly complicated. He showed numerous examples of how his three dimensional images could be used to identify rotation, significant hail, and debris within storms. This software also provides a better means to identify hail size by dividing VIL (vertically integrated liquid) values by echo tops. "MEHS", or maximum expected hail size is derived by weighing reflectivity by temperature. He saved archived radar data from the National Climatic Data Center onto his hard drive to drag and drop it into his software to provide examples of the products. He showed an MEHS ring around a "hole" (BWER) from NEXRAD data from the Greensburg tornado. His software also clearly showed a rotation core aligned with the bounded weak echo region. He said that "3D radar is the future of radar on TV."

Chief Staff Meteorologist William P. Roeder - USAF
William provided some very important lightning safety information, and dispelled the 10 greatest myths regarding lightning dangers. He also discussed the National Weather Service "Leo the Lightning Lion" safety campaign. He said that lightning is the second leading storm-related cause of fatalities and that it was an "underrated killer". He also pointed out that lightning caused severe lifelong debilitating injuries, including severe headaches and chronic fatigue. Lightning is responsible for 29 percent of storm deaths. The number one safety rule is to be indoors and stay indoors until at least 30 minutes after the last thunder. He mentioned that during the past 10 years that no one has been killed by lightning in a "proper" vehicle. Some of the sayings developed in the "Leo" campaign included, "Don't be a fool, get out of the pool," and, "Don't be lame, get out of the game." Leo's main message to kids is, "When Lightning roars, stay indoors." He mentioned that there is a very popular interactive game for kids on the NOAA Lightning Safety website. He also described the top 10 lightning myths.


Michael Detwiler said...

GREAT report Mike!! WOW...makes me wish I would have gone....WOW

James Payton said...


Excellent job on the day 1 notes. The day 2 notes will be even better...some great presenters all weekend long!

Oh yeah...& what was your final doughnut count for the weekend? I lost count somewhere between the welcome speach & the first session beginning on Friday morning! ;)

Had a great time...look forward to the '09 symposium!!!

James P.

Mike Wilhelm said...'s the final tally:
3 on Friday and 4 today. Oh yes, I also had a cookie and piece of cake. And I can't forget the strawberry shortcake and banana pudding at Pap's Place!

Sharp said...

Man! Catfish and shrimp! I think I noticed one 'vegetable' on someone's plate. (Hey, mayonnaise-soaked shredded cabbage is a vegetable in the South.) Did you smuggle some back into Alabama?

Thanks for the highlights on each presentation.

Everyone can read an excellent interview with Katie Horner on the whole mess at Success Is the Best Revenge. You're right, she has a great attitude. While I agree that sometimes the breathless wall-to-wall coverage can get overdone in the interest of competition (especially when they send an intern out 10 miles south of a cell to stand in the rain and say for five minutes "It's raining. The wind is ... well, it was blowing a minute ago. I see gray clouds. 'Ominous' gray clouds, I mean. Back to you." and repeat it for hours) there's no reason to make it so personal. Katie's response sounds pretty wise indeed. Thanks for the reporting, Mike.

Mike Wilhelm said...

Sharp, I couldn't agree more. I believe in wall to wall coverage during tornado warnings, but you are speaking especially to the quality of the coverage. As important as it is to "be there" the content of the coverage is what makes all the difference, and that is what is so good about James Spann and others.

As for the food, the buffet is awesome! Ribs, fried chicken, catfish, shrimp, dumplings, and on and on it goes. There are too many good things to choose from to even think about green stuff. I did have the slaw though.

I hope you can go with the boys and I to the MSU game down there in 09. If you do, we must hit pap's Place!

Mike Wilhelm said...

Oh, and thanks so much for the link!

I will add it to the post. I already posted it to my comment on Did you see what Bill Murray posted there?

Mike Wilhelm said...

Hey Mike from Tennessee, I wish you could have been there. You would have really enjoyed it and learned a lot!

Dewdrop said...

Great synopsis of the symposium. Looks like a very informative and interesting event. I hate that I missed it.

Mike Wilhelm said...

Dew, wish you could have been there. It would have been "weather heaven" for you!