Childhood Meteorology Stories

Sep 26, 2022
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Allendale, Michigan
My Story has nothing to do with Encountering a tornado, it was something even more rare for someone like me.

My Star Moment was a couple years ago, when i was 12 years old. I had WOOD TV 8 meteorologist Matt Kirkwood visit my school and gave a presentation to the entire school. after the presentation, i had a long talk with the guy. knew a lot more than me at the time, and still does.

Now, I still dont know if it was my mother who did this or if matt saw some kind of light from me. but a couple weeks later, I got the opportunity of a lifetime for a 12 year old weather nut: a private tour and visit of the TV studio in its raw glory.
I could not sleep for a night. Why the heck would I, a 12 year old goofball, out of all the people there are in this world, get a PRIVATE SPECIAL ASSESS TOUR of something most Weather Nuts of all ages can only Dream of doing? I HAVE NO IDEA.
we went there very early in the morning, and it was the most complex and dynamic i ever imagined.
first we went into the main control room, and talked with the director(?). Nice guy he was, he gave me some limited access to the controls, which freaked the hell out of me.
my memory got blurry from here as my excitement was unsurprisingly going through the roof.
I also got to say hello and talk with the TV crew there, but the tour got paused due to the morning news about to start. so me and my mother sat behind the cameras. they were huge, hundred thousand dollar robot kinds of cameras.
also, i went to peak at the raw document they received that day from the GR NWS, and got a copy of it. that data Document copy still hangs in my room to this day.
 

James K

EF4
Mar 26, 2019
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Colorado
Apparently when I was very young a hurricane or maybe a couple of them came through where we lived (this obviously being before we moved to CO).
Even though I remember nothing of it (just something my mother mentioned), or anything at all for that matter from way back then, maybe that's what helped initiate my love of storms.....
 
May 10, 2007
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North Little Rock, AR
I can remember Hurricane Carla in Houston when I was 9 years old. But I was interested in weather long before that, and I can't remember a weather event that would have caused that.

However, my parents and my aunts and uncles told me that I had learned to read the weather forecast off the front page of the Houston Post before I ever went to kindergarten. Each day, there was a small cartoon (Mr. Weatherbee, as I recall) just above the forecast, and I have always wondered whether that cartoon drew my attention to the forecast.

Of the forecasters I worked with at the WFO, virtually every one said they had been interested in weather ever since they were small children. Only one person, a young woman, didn't decide to get into meteorology until after she got to college. After she became a forecaster, she quit the NWS and became an FBI agent!
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Of the forecasters I worked with at the WFO, virtually every one said they had been interested in weather ever since they were small children. Only one person, a young woman, didn't decide to get into meteorology until after she got to college. After she became a forecaster, she quit the NWS and became an FBI agent!
Makes me regret that I didn’t follow my own childhood weather interest and make it a career… I considered it, but quite frankly did not have the aptitude for the high-level mathematics (and also had some practical concerns around availability of jobs - this was back in the late ‘80s, so the job market in meteorology may have been better or worse back then, I don’t know).

So, I became an accountant instead, which most people outside of the profession think requires “math,” but it’s really just arithmetic and algebra, occasionally involving some higher-level equations supported entirely by canned functions in today’s spreadsheet software… But there are parallels between meteorology and the corporate financial management I do at my current late-career level, in terms of analysis and pattern recognition feeding forecasts, and how those forecasts are communicated to users without the same expertise. Of course, at this stage of my career, much of what I do is about building and leading teams, which probably becomes a similar focus of a lot of meteorologists that ascend to management roles.

Anyway, I would venture to guess that while many meteorologists had a childhood interest in the subject, there are many, many more like me, that had a childhood interest and did not become meteorologists, including many on this forum… It would be interesting to know what lines of work they went into, and whether there are any that are more common than others because of some sort of underlying parallel, however tenuous, such as I noted for accounting.
 
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Makes me regret that I didn’t follow my own childhood weather interest and make it a career… I considered it, but quite frankly did not have the aptitude for the high-level mathematics (and also had some practical concerns around availability of jobs - this was back in the late ‘80s, so the job market in meteorology may have been better or worse back then, I don’t know).

So, I became an accountant instead, which most people outside of the profession think requires “math,” but it’s really just arithmetic and algebra, occasionally involving some higher-level equations supported entirely by canned functions in today’s spreadsheet software… But there are parallels between meteorology and the corporate financial management I do at my current late-career level, in terms of analysis and pattern recognition feeding forecasts, and how those forecasts are communicated to users without the same expertise. Of course, at this stage of my career, much of what I do is about building and leading teams, which probably becomes a similar focus of a lot of meteorologists that ascend to management roles.

Anyway, I would venture to guess that while many meteorologists had a childhood interest in the subject, there are many, many more like me, that had a childhood interest and did not become meteorologists, including many on this forum… It would be interesting to know what lines of work they went into, and whether there are any that are more common than others because of some sort of underlying parallel, however tenuous, such as I noted for accounting.

I wanted to become a meteorologist for as long as I could remember up until I took my first calculus class o_O🤣. I just have a hard time keeping track of mathematical processes. So, I chose construction instead 🤣. I was a Construction Loan Verification Inspector for a little while and hopefully going to get an Assistant Management position in construction. Construction is very practical. The white-collar side of construction is people based and mainly knowing how to manage people, projects, and a LOT of details.

I figured I'd drop the "dream" of meteorologist and just keep chasing as a hobby. I think I would rather chase anyways NOW than like what I wanted to do which was more of making forecasts for private companies. You don't HAVE to work for the NWS or NOAA. I guess there are companies that hire independent meteorologists just so they can run their businesses efficiently. I guess I am just past the point of wanting to go to school and go into debt. Also, can't guarantee I'll be able to even pass a math class now haha rip. I learn a lot from you veterans on this site and I respect what you have to say. So at times, I take your discussions like small meteorological classes.

I love chasing because it gives me a thrill. I remember once when I chased in Illinois and where I was it was so flat and there was just nothing it seemed like between the Earth and the sky but myself. The sky was a deep bronze from the suns angle through the dust and rain of an approaching storm. You can watch that video here... (14649) April 30, 2022 - Central Illinois Storm Chases ME! - YouTube

I'm fairly new to chasing and don't know a whole lot of the technical "sciencey" stuff. But I DO know that I will forever love the weather.
 
Apr 23, 2010
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Spann does a lot of school visits.
I joked with him that the F scale was really based on lifting the hairpiece of his NBC counterpart. He’s been ABC for longer…but I still think of him as “the new guy.”

Growing up, I barely go to look at storms—my Mom dragged us to the basement at a clap of thunder. I missed the Nov. 1986 bolide I know I would have seen (I spent a lot of time outdoors)—but no….I had to have a haircut.
 
May 12, 2022
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South Jersey
This is an interesting topic that spurred me into researching some of my childhood memories. I can't say that I ever aspired to be a meteorologist, but I definitely had a few distinct experiences that evoked awe, fear, and a lifelong fascination with severe weather. My earliest memories are too fuzzy to pinpoint a date, but I can clearly recall an event that happened 27 years ago.

It was a typical summer night with extremely hot and humid conditions, when something stirred me out of a dead sleep. I had a friend spending the night, and I initially thought he was responsible for waking me. But when I got my bearings, I realized he was still fast asleep. We had been sleeping on the floor of my family's living room, and every window was open since we didn't have central AC.

I got up to look out the open front door onto the screened-in porch, and an eerie feeling settled over me. Everything was completely still as if choked out by the humidity, and not a sound was to be heard. Living out in the country, you get accustomed to the song of frogs and other wildlife ringing out into the night, but there was nothing.... absolutely nothing. I actually got a sense of something malevolent and creeped myself out, so I quickly laid back down and started to drift off.... then all hell broke loose!

I'm not sure how long I had been asleep, but I was jarred awake to the sound of the interior shudders that lined the kitchen windows slamming violently from a now cool, crisp wind. Man did that scare the ever-living shite outta me, lol. Initially confused, I quickly realized a storm was upon us when a deep rumble of thunder shook the house. Within seconds, my friend jumped up equally confused, and my parents came running from the bedroom yelling to shut the doors and windows. The poor dogs and cats went scrambling from the commotion, only adding to the melee, while we started buttoning up the hatches. The storm that followed was only matched in intensity by the 2012 Ohio Valley/Mid Atlantic Derecho, which demolished portions of South Jersey along with several other states. The next morning I was astonished to see our garden was completely flattened, trees uprooted, and cosmetic damage to our house.

I didn't give it much thought at the time, but that memory has stuck with me quite vividly over the years. I'd imagine most people have a similar story which fuels a reverence for the power of nature and a curiosity that stretches into adulthood, but the majority leave it as just that.... a curiosity. I never considered being a meteorologist, and my current career working at a nuclear facility has little to do with the weather, but I believe my love of physics and my enjoyment of learning complex processes loosely ties them together.

I was actually surprised I was able to narrow down the timeframe, and found the report for those that wish to see the details.... Storm Events Database - Event Details | National Centers for Environmental Information

Sorry for being long winded, lol!
 
My first ever purposeful storm chase was with my brother. He and I drove into a tornado warned storm (radar indicated) because why not I guess. We ended up meeting directly underneath a rotating funnel cloud and I remember there were a few newly planted trees around us, the ones that get put in for landscaping, that were failing around like those car dealership blowup dummies.

The funny part of this story, we had to take cover at a morgue with a carport overhead because it was raining so incredibly hard. A convenient place to RIP if it were any worse haha.
 
Mar 28, 2016
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Hyannis, MA
A tale of two Memorial Day Weekends: 1997 and 1998 in the St. Louis area.

1997: Saturday was marked by stratiform rains off and on all day, into the overnight. Sunday was the action day. Scuddy/grungy start turned into explosive afternoon development. My mom and I went on for errands late in the morning, and it was cool to see storms building in front of us. We went mini golfing that evening at Tower Tee (RIP) and as we were heading home a line of storms pushed in. I'm pretty sure I also saw a positive flash that Sunday night. Memorial Day had spectacular lightning early on in the morning, and then in the afternoon it became chilly for late May standards.

1998: Compared to '97, 1998 was bigger, beefier, and spicier. Thursday, there was a fast moving MCS that hit after we were out for recess. Twenty minutes later, the sky was pitch black. The lightning was the most vivid I'd seen up to that point. I'm sure there was hail too (don't worry, we were WELL inside at this point.) We seemed to have gotten a lot of MCS's in the STL area during 1998. On Saturday, we were invited to go out on the Mississippi River by some family friends. We were getting off the river when the storm that caused a brief tornado in the Vineyards subdivision approached. We were caught in some sort of rfd. Memorial Day itself was sunny and humid.
 
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Drew Terril

Staff member
I grew up in the 90s, so my first exposure to weather really had nothing to do with any media that I saw, especially as this was prior to Twister being released. My family happened to be caught up in the storm that impacted Catoosa, OK, in 1993. My mom and brother were caught up in the F4 that impacted Catoosa proper, and my Dad, grandpa, and I were on the fringes in what we'd later learn was a separate F3 that spawned from the same storm.

Despite my age, it resulted in me becoming fascinated with severe weather, and I was fortunate enough in the subsequent years to be able to meet Travis Meyer of KTUL (now with News6) in Tulsa, as well as the late Jim Giles who was the chief met at News6 in Tulsa during that era. Most of my family thought I would go into meteorology, but I was aware enough by that point of the lack of jobs that I decided not to pursue that route.
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
Makes me regret that I didn’t follow my own childhood weather interest and make it a career… I considered it, but quite frankly did not have the aptitude for the high-level mathematics (and also had some practical concerns around availability of jobs - this was back in the late ‘80s, so the job market in meteorology may have been better or worse back then, I don’t know).
The last time I spoke with Tim Marshall, he mentioned that a big reason why he pursued an engineering degree was the lack of jobs in meteorology, so the availability of jobs is one that has been around for a long time.

I don't have a degree myself, although I am pursuing an engineering degree myself, but my first civilian job was residential construction. I also have a great deal of experience working factory jobs, so I have a good deal of experience in building things in general. I think that is more a reflection of my general mechanical aptitude that I developed while growing up in a farming family than any interest I had as a child. That said, as a child, I did have a propensity for disassembling things to figure out how they worked. If it was mechanical or electrical, I wanted to know how it worked. I just wish my great grandfather had lived longer, as he was a master at fabricating things and I would have loved to learn from him.
 
Jun 4, 2018
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Altus, OK
I have a couple of weather related events from my childhood that still stick out to me today.

I grew up in Montgomery, AL, and so occasionally we would feel the impacts of the faster moving tropical systems moving inland from the Gulf Coast. In 1995 Hurricane Opal made landfall as a category 3, and moved inland quickly. As it reached the Montgomery area, it was still producing strong tropical storm force winds. My parents grew up in Mobile, AL, and so they were unfazed standing on the front porch watching. I, on the other hand, was only 5 years old and had never before seen wind and rain like that. I'll never forget it.

Fast forward to 1998 and I was a part of some sort of ADHD medication trial at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, AL. The night of April 8th rolls around, and I remember the nurses and staff being up in a tizzy about some storms coming. Then the power in the hospital went out, though it quickly came back on. At this point, the staff had us all in the center common room of the floor. I can remember a few nurses crying, and everyone seemed terrified. Then one of them turned on the TV and while my memory of this part is pretty hazy, I remember hearing about a tornado in Birmingham. Then they had us all call our families to tell them we were ok. It wasn't until several years later that learned the path of the tornado, had it not lifted, would have taken it right over where we were. So while not a direct encounter with the tornado, the overall feeling of that night is still stuck in my mind.

Now we are in 2001, and a small tornado associated with a squall line ran across the grounds of my school. Blew the bolted doors open and everything. It was already terrifying, but when the teachers at your catholic school start throwing themselves across students and screaming prayers, well that took it up a few notches. At this point in my life, I had a pretty debilitating fear of severe weather. Even a cloudy day would have my stomach churning and I wouldn't want to leave the house.

Sometime in 2003 or 2004, we were at my grandmother's house on Mobile Bay, and we saw a waterspout. I was freaking out at first, but after awhile I became fascinated. Here was this thing that I had feared for so long, just spinning and dancing harmlessly out over the water. And it was beautiful. It was at this point that my fear began turning into interest.

I eventually graduated high school, had a scholarship to the University of South Alabama, where I was going to major in meteorology, with a minor in psychology. Well I also liked going to places other than class. I had A's in my meteorology and psychology classes, but was skipping my other ones. Lost my scholarship, floundered around for a few years, and eventually joined the Air Force. I've been doing that for almost 7 years now as an intelligence analyst, and I'll most likely stick with this until I do my 20 years and retire. I'm also working on a psychology degree online through Arizona State.

So while my dream of being a meteorologist didn't work out, I'm overall happy with where I ended up. At the end of the day, I think chasing as a hobby is the best way to approach it for me.