National Weather Service[Part_1]
Randy Stewart takes us on an audio tour of the National Weather Service offices near the Springfield-Branson National Airport.
RANDY: Today we'll be taking you on an audio tour of the National Weather Service offices out in West Springfield near the Springfield-Branson National Airport. As you go out West Division Street, or Highway EE, of course first you have to go past Willard South Elementary and wait for the road to curve around to the north... they tell you to look for the giant "golf ball"-looking thing on the top of the building--that's their Doppler radar. And that's just what it looks like! And it is a good landmark.
Once inside the neat, trim Weather Service offices I meet up with Steve Lindenberg, the Senior Forecaster on duty that afternoon. It's a quiet day weather-wise, so the man operations room at the Weather Service--a series of office cubicles, each with numerous computer screens--is on a skeleton crew today.
STEVE LINDENBERG: Basically I'm in charge of the shift here at the weather office. We do forecasts--aviation and public forecasts. Right now, basically there are just three people on shift on the floor here, and that's typical during the day shift--
RANDY: When the weather's quiet.
STEVE LINDENBERG: Yeah, when the weather's quiet. When it gets more exciting around here, we generally have quite a few more, up to six or seven, possibly even eight people in here.
RANDY: This place, of course, has to be staffed 24/7.
STEVE LINDENBERG: Yeah, we're here 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And we generally work a rotating shift, switching every seven days or so.
RANDY: So, what kind of tools do you use to do the forecasting?
STEVE LINDENBERG: We have satellite and radar, and there are quite a few different computer models that are run on a national level that we use; plus, our knowledge that we've gained over the years, understanding weather patterns and things like that. All of these go into making a forecast.
RANDY: I asked Steve how frantic it gets during major weather events.
STEVE LINDENBERG: Oh, that's what we LIVE for here! (laughs) It's exciting, and really, that's the fun part of our job, for the meteorologists that are here, is to work the exciting weather events. So while it might be miserable for the general public, we're here enjoying what we're doing in putting out the best possible products we can.
RANDY: During those major events, like the January 2007 ice storm or the May 4, 2003 tornado outbreak, Steve Lindenberg says there's sometimes a feeling of helplessness--the meteorologists can see what's about to happen... but they have a job to do.
STEVE LINDENBERG: You know, you're in the heat of the moment, and you still want to give out the best warning and advice to people, so... you're torn between two different emotions there.
RANDY: What's the best part of the job?
STEVE LINDENBERG: (laughs) The best part of the job is that I love doing my job! It's exciting and new every day, and you're always looking at something new.
RANDY: I also spoke to Jim Taggart, the Weather Service hydrologist and flood expert. Now, he had definitely been busy the past few days, after a major rain event caused creeks and rivers to flood.
JIM TAGGART: Quite a few rivers flooded in southeast Kansas and western Missouri, so... my specific job is to analyze river information, if they're going to flood or not; communicate with the River Forecast Centers, get the information from them to figure out what the crest is going to be... (beeping in background)
RANDY: You're getting an alert right now, I guess.
JIM TAGGART: Well, we get alarms every once in a while, with new information coming in. At the height of (the rain and flooding event), my specific job was communicating with the River Forecast Centers and also the emergency managers, local police and sheriffs' offices. And a lot of times, communicating with individual people on the phone. I got several calls, people wondering if this is my OWN phone or something like that, because most of the calls came from me at the height of the flooding! People were out there, they were stranded on both sides of the rivers or streams, and they were like a little island out there. And I was just giving them information about its cresting, how much higher it's going to be. That's basically the bulk of my job! (laughs) I have other things, but that's a little boring! (laughs) Because I have behind-the-scenes (tasks)... I do monthly stuff, statistics and stuff. But this (flood forecasting) is when I get in the bulk of things, when I actually do service to the public. I'm also a meteorologist--if there's no flooding going on, I'm actually working on the forecasting part of it.