Saturday, February 23, 2013

Panel of local Tampa Bay area meteorologists talk about Florida’s severe weather risks

Posted by on Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Meteorologists panel at WCFLAMS meeting
  • Left to Right: Jennifer Collins, Brian LaMarre, Paul Dellegatto, Mike Clay, Bobby Deskins, Brooks Garner

Florida is a high risk location when it comes to storms. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes all seem to find an easy fit into Florida’s weather. Brian LaMarre suggests that the main cause of hurricane deaths is due to the storm surge and flooding. According to the Paul Dellegatto, Florida’s western coast has a “small shelf so water piles up” and causes severe flooding and devastation. Despite the risk people are not afraid and many still come to live and vacation in Florida.

The West Central Florida Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (WCFLAMS) held the monthly meeting on USF Tampa campus on Friday to discuss the weather with local TV broadcast meteorologists. Chapter President Dr. Jennifer Collins and VP for the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference and Mereorologist-In-Charge Brian LaMarre asked meteorologists Paul Dellegatto from Fox 13 News, Mike Clay from Bay News 9, Bobby Deskins from Channel 8 News and Brooks Garner from Channel 10 News about their jobs and their take on Florida’s weather.

The panel agreed that a meteorologist’s job is meant to warn the public about possible weather threats, but that it's not that simple. Paul Dellegatto believes that “meteorology is part art and part science” and that “some of the best forecasters are the farmers because they are out there dealing with it every day.” Bobby Deskins agrees that the job requires a lot of experience because "it is not an exact science" and even when it is “three or four days out [from the big storms like Hurricane Debby], we just don’t know.”

These meteorologists are using every tool at their disposal from all the different weather data sources to the public's commentary on social media. Deskins believes that social media like Facebook and Twitter “helps to broaden our audience.” Dellegatto enjoys updating his status every day and it even allows him to “present the seven day forecast even before Judge Judy is over.”

In times of calmer weather, the TV and social media can be great ways of obtaining the weather, but Mike Clay warns people to “get back-up weather sources” for those times when the weather causes power outages and cell towers are no longer working. Brooks Garner even suggests people get a NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) to prepare for black out situations.

Garner mentions that the last major hurricane to hit the Bay area was the 1921 Tarpon Springs Hurricane, which is nearly three generations ago and people seem to have forgotten the power of the storm’s devastation. During Hurricane Charlie, a large percentage of people decided not to evacuate their homes and “I am worried that so many people are going to die if the big one comes.”

Deskins reminds people to “run from the water and to hide from the wind.” Dellegatto also mentioned that the people “need to take care of themselves” and “if you’re not going to leave, then you’re an idiot.” The important thing to know, all of the weathermen assured, is that Florida is the perfect place for storms and it is important for people to be prepared for even the worst storms.

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