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National Weatherperson's Day (Feb 5) (1 Viewer)


Devil's Advocate
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Fayetteville, AR
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So for years I've heard people in weather circles talk about how Groundhog Day should really be a national holiday held in honor of meteorologists and those associated in the weather community as a whole. Well in my research I found out that there is an unofficial holiday of sorts called National Weatherperson's Day that takes place each year on February 5th. NationalDayCalendar.com defines the holiday:
Always celebrated on February 5th, National Weatherperson’s Day, which is also known as National Weatherman’s Day, is a day to honor all individuals in the fields of meteorology, weather forecasting, and broadcast meteorology. Volunteer storm spotters and observers are also recognized on this day as well as any others that work in the weather field.

The date was selected as it is the the birthday of Dr. John Jeffries who was born in 1744. He held several jobs including being a surgeon and scientist and is considered one of the first documented weather observers in the country. His weather records pre-date the birth of the United States, as he started his documented observations in 1774 and he continued to collect data through 1816. Now while he served as a surgeon for the British Army (<chant> USA, USA, USA </chant>) he is still an important figure in history with several significant entries in historical records. This includes collecting weather observations via hot air balloon over London in 1784, performing the first air flight over the English Channel with Jean-Pierre Blanchard and arguably sent the first air mail message by dropping a letter to the ground from a balloon. That letter is in his private collection now housed at Amherst College.


So why bring this up? Well I think it is important we honor and thank those who helped all of us become more interested in meteorology. I would truly love if a few of you would consider sharing your experiences and highlight those in the meteorology field who shaped your interests. On February 5th a few of these posts will be highlighted on social media as we help spread the word about National Weatherperson's Day.

I'm glad to start the conversation with two Huntsville meteorologists and I would like to also thank a teacher as well. As a younger child I had a love hate relationship with the weather. Storms scared me a lot, I loved snow (which was almost always a major letdown living in N. Alabama) and I always wanted to know what the forecast was. That's where former WAAY-TV (Huntsville) meteorologist Gary Dobbs comes into the picture. Gary was always entertaining and helped demystify the weather. The memory of him I remember the most was how calm he was during the EF-4 Huntsville 1989 Airport Road Tornado. I remember being at my grandparents watching him all afternoon with severe weather break-ins and finally at 4:30 he started wall-to-wall coverage as the tornado touched down. He was the picture of calm and relayed the information as it came in and that stuck with me. The funny part is Gary was known for being kinda the crazy met. He wore loud jackets, he joked on air and made people enjoy the weather. All of that went away when the weather situation became serious. Gary is retired now although he occasionally pops up on social media. Here is a portion of the documentary about the events of the 1989 tornado:

and well a bit of Gary's silly side...

As I got older I still had fears about storms and it was an elementary science teacher that realized this and worked with me to understand how weather patterns works. She pointed me toward books, gave me and several other students special sessions about weather events and allowed us to report a weather forecast in class. Ms. Reid was an amazing influence and her persistence in allowing me to learn more about weather helped turn my fear into a passion. A funny side note that I actually ended up working with Ms. Reid at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. She took a summer position to be a presenter and I was working as the Membership and Volunteer Coordinator. It was fantastic to have an opportunity to reconnect with her.

The other influential meteorologist in my life was Dan Satterfield at WHNT-TV in Huntsville. I think we all know that meteorology isn't an easy subject to understand. However, he has always had a knack for explaining weather concepts in easy to understand methods and even going the extra mile to give more in-depth information to anyone that inquired. I had a lot of respect for Dan because he was the last voice I heard when an EF-4 tornado struck my hometown of Arab, AL in 1995. (audio below). I heard just enough before the power went out to know that I needed to be in a safe place quickly While in junior high school I was lucky enough to take part in a new program called "Supercomputing" where we had access to 14.4k modem connection (split between 10 of us) to the internet provided by the University of Alabama in Huntsville. We were tasked to complete projects using the "vast" resources on the internet (we were using Gopher... lol google it) and prepare to present those projects at state-wide event at the end of the year. I teamed up with my friend Joey and naturally we did a weather project. Hurling Hurricanes was our project where we trying to do the math to give an idea of how far different objects could be thrown in different strength hurricanes. Looking back on the project I can't help but chuckle, but it was Dan Satterfield that responded to my e-mail and helped me better understand the Saffir-Simpson scale and even helped us with a little bit of the math required to make our charts. Joey and I won first place for our project and I was forever grateful for his personal touch. He ruffled some feathers in the Huntsville market, at one point coming under fire for basically issuing his own tornado warnings. However, it wasn't often he was wrong and most of the time an official tornado warning would come out soon after. He understood the importance of technology and worked hard to bring new tech to the Huntsville market and was running a blog before there were blogs. Dan's Wild Weather Page is still online today via archive.org and was a resource I would use for many years. He has since transitioned to formal blog called Wild Wild Science Journal hosted by the American Geophysical Union. He is still on the air at WBOC-TV in Salisbury, Maryland. Here is a great video from 2011 of a tornado in downtown Huntsville caught on the Saturn V camera at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center -

Audio from coverage of 1995 EF-4 Joppa/Arab Tornado:

Research for this post comes from the fine folks at https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-weatherpersons-day-february-5/, https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jeffries-john-1745-1819 and the picture is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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