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National Weather Service[Part_2]

Randy Stewart takes us on an audio tour of the National Weather Service offices near the Springfield-Branson National Airport.

RANDY: The day I was there, there was one more meteorologist/forecaster on duty in the operations area, Gerry Claycomb, who was working on the seven-day forecast.

GERRY CLAYCOMB: We do seven-day forecasts twice a day, and we issue updates as needed. We have several different (computer) models that are available to us. We've got to figure out, first of all, which model is right (Randy laughs), because they all come up with different solutions. There's a British model, a European model, Canadians have a model, and the U.S. has at least two different models. And they all have slightly different solutions to the forecast. Perfect example is today, where the European model is, like, 180 degrees different from the U.S. model! So it can be a challenge.

RANDY: So what do you like best about the job?

GERRY CLAYCOMB: Service--service to the community. I think we provide a very important service to the local community, and we help save lives.

RANDY: Service to the community is priority one for the local National Weather Service Meteorologist-in-Charge, Bill Davis... or as he describes his job:

BILL DAVIS: I am the chief bottle washer! I wear many hats: I also take care of things like payroll, performance, this type of thing; basically running the office; (I am) an advocate for the public out there; and coaching, mentoring the young meteorologists I hire. Hiring folks is another big part of the job. So it encompasses everything, all the way from taking care of the building and the facilities, right down to getting the grass cut, that type of thing.

RANDY: Bill has been at the Springfield office since February 1994, and has worked in meteorology since 1971 when he was in the Vietnam War. And he's seen big changes in technology in those years.

BILL DAVIS: A bunch, okay? The new building; the Doppler radar; more NOAA weather radios; an upgrade to how we do NOAA Weather Radio. We used to use four-track tape, now it's all digital. New automated systems out in the field. It's been the technology that's made big changes.

RANDY: Bill currently has 23 employees working under him, and he things the Springfield Weather Service office is here to stay.

BILL DAVIS: Right now we have got 122 offices across the United States, and we've actually downsized from about 250 offices.

RANDY: Any chance of more downsizing going on?

BILL DAVIS: No, and I think it's because these offices have proven their success. And also, we have to back up each other. If there was consolidation, and an office went down--like during the ice storm, when we lost our power--we had to send some of the work to St. Louis. So if you consolidated three or four offices, there would be way too much work. So I think that 122 is a very good balance.

RANDY: Getting important, even life-saving information out to the public is the whole point of the National Weather Service, says Bill Davis.

BILL DAVIS: Let me tell you, when we hear of the first death or the first injury when we know we've had a warning out and in ample time, believe you me, it affects all of us. And you go, "Well, jeez, I had a warning out...." Well... we know we're doing our job in getting the information out. From there, people have to take it seriously.

RANDY: Is that really the biggest challenge of doing this job--the pressure that you feel, knowing that you have to get this information to the public, and hoping that they will take heed?

BILL DAVIS: Actually, we enjoy getting that information to the public. We do. We're all weather geeks, we're all passionate about our job and everything. I think the pressure is to keep educating the public. And to this day and time, with all the media and all the technology we have, you think, ""Hey, everybody should have this information"--the cell phones... and you come to find out there are still people who don't know what the NOAA Weather Radio is, who go to the Internet and don't know about how to get weather information. It's one of those things where you want to go door to door and tell people, "Hey you need to take (cover)"--you know, be the Paul Revere... but we can't do it. And that's why we rely on you guys--the media, the television stations, the Internet, the Weather Radio, to get that information out. And now, I mean, people on cell phones can get weather information! It's available--it's there--it's just that you've got to set up for it, and it's got to be of importance to a person. And until it affects you, until you really feel the impact of a tornado, or get hit by lightning, you don't pay much attention. It's always, "The OTHER guy's gonna be affected by it." Unfortunately we're ALL affected by weather--be it heat, lightning, flash flooding, winter storms, ice storms... weather affects us all. I love everything about this job! I think I have the best people in the Weather Service here, because I hand-picked every one of them and hired them. To me, everything about the job is fantastic. I wouldn't want to do any other type of job... except maybe build houses, which is what my family did.

RANDY: To find out more information, visit www.crh.noaa.gov/sgf/.

Links:

  • National Weather Service, Springfield MO