Prior to Severe Weather Preparedness Week, we had the opportunity to catch up with Mike Morrison, chief meteorologist for FOX 31 WXFL-TV in Albany, Ga. Mike shared with us some unique items he keeps in his Ready kit, the most severe weather event he’s seen come through Georgia, the difference between a thunderstorm warning and thunderstorm watch, and more.
During severe weather, you’re often on the air sharing important information with your viewers. Have you ever not been able to get to the studio due to a storm?
When severe weather strikes I am likely already in the studio and on the air, if necessary, giving important information about the situation to our viewers. The FOX 31 weather team determines the potential for severe weather days in advance, if possible. Forty-eight hours before an event, we implement a plan that includes pre-event, event and post-event actions. The team will coordinate with local emergency managers, officials and even the National Weather Service to make sure all of our bases are covered in case of a severe weather event. Storms have never hindered me or the weather team from being in place for a severe event.
How often are you asked about the difference between a thunderstorm warning and a thunderstorm watch? What’s the easiest way to explain it?
As a broadcast meteorologist, much of my time is spent educating the public on such terminology.
A thunderstorm watch means that conditions are good for the development of severe thunderstorms, which may produce large hail, damaging winds and even tornadoes during an upcoming time period. During a thunderstorm watch, you should be aware of quickly changing conditions, have a plan in place and be prepared to take action if severe weather hits. At this time, everyone should consider postponing outdoor activities and notify friends and family. People should also always have a way to get frequent weather updates. NOAA Weather radios, local radio stations and television stations do a good job of keeping people informed before a storm.
A thunderstorm warning is a call to action and means one or more of the following threats are occurring or imminent: Large hail (1” or greater), damaging winds (58 mph or greater), and tornadoes. During a thunderstorm warning, everyone should seek shelter in a sturdy structure or building. If you live in a mobile home, you should immediately seek shelter in a sturdier building. A basement is the ideal place to take shelter, but if there is no basement, you should find a windowless closet, bathroom or inside hallway.
What is the most lethal thunderstorm that you’ve seen come though Georgia? What do you remember the most about it?
There have been a few events that come to mind, but the squall line that pushed through the Albany area April 4-5, 2011, really stands out. We experienced strong straight-line winds that toppled trees and even tossed buildings. I remember driving around after that storm being amazed at the size of trees that were destroyed.
What are a few of the most important actions people can take in order to prepare for a tornado?
I would recommend purchasing a NOAA Weather radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings in your area. It is also important to have more than one way to receive warnings and to know how your local warning system works. Additionally, knowing the safest place for your family to take shelter during a tornado is extremely important. I would urge everyone to also perform tornado drills in their home and office, as well as have Ready kit in your home and car.
What are some unique items that you include in your Ready kit?
- I have a helmet for myself and my wife in case of flying debris.
- A cat carrier to keep our pets nearby.
- Supply of chocolate that I regularly replenish in order to keep it fresh.