Behind-the-scenes look at National Weather Service’s open house
BLACKSBURG — When the June 29 derecho hit, Carrie Miller and her family found themselves caught outdoors and nowhere near shelter.
Miller said she and her husband quickly scooped up their three young boys and ran nearly two miles to the house as the storm began.
Since then, Miller said the weather had become a priority for her and her family and that she’d been searching for an opportunity to teach her sons more about the subject.
On Saturday, the Miller family, along with hundreds of others, had that opportunity as the Blacksburg office of the National Weather Service held its biannual open house.
The event included a tour of the office and provided guests with a behind-the-scenes look at how weather is monitored, how forecasts are developed, and how weather watches and warnings are determined.
Warning coordination meteorologist Phil Hysell said the Blacksburg office is responsible for monitoring and forecasting the weather for 40 counties and six airports. Hysell informed the guests that the forecasts are updated at least every three hours and can be as precise as a mile-and-a-half radius.
Several members of the office’s 24-person staff were on hand to demonstrate and explain to the groups the software and hardware used on a daily basis to produce such forecasts, including weather balloons that are generally launched twice a day.
The balloons were what Carrie Miller’s son Carson Miller said was his favorite part of the day. Carson said he believed he and a friend had seen the balloons before, but until Saturday he was never quite sure what they were.
“We thought they were UFOs,” Carson said.
That weather balloons are not UFOs is just another fact to add to what was likely a long list of things learned Saturday.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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