UNL Weatherfest to Return Saturday, March 31

The lobby of Hardin Hall was packed at Weatherfest 2011.
The lobby of Hardin Hall was packed at Weatherfest 2011.

Are you ready for the 2012 severe weather season? Bring the family and learn about state-of-the-art storm readiness from expert weather watchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's 12th annual Weatherfest and Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, March 31. The free event, sponsored by UNL's School of Natural Resources, will be in Hardin Hall, on the northeast corner of 33rd and Holdrege streets in Lincoln.

UNL's Weatherfest includes information that will keep families and communities safe and secure – how to tune in to up-to-the-minute warnings and what to do when you hear them – as well as hands-on activities for young weather enthusiasts and a demonstration of the effects of weather on wildlife, with UNL Extension herpetologist Dennis Ferraro presenting "Snakes Alive at Weatherfest."

A town hall meeting at noon with Lincoln and Omaha TV meteorologists, the National Weather Service and Lancaster County Emergency Management will provide a chance to discuss emergency communication in Lincoln. Citizens can submit questions ahead of time or just bring questions that day. Midland Radio will give several weather radios away to people at the town hall meeting.

Speakers and videos throughout the day will touch on what forecasters and emergency managers learned from an outbreak of tornadoes May 22-27, 2011, across central and southern states, including the EF-5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., and killed 158 people. Although the 2012 severe weather season is just beginning, it has already brought an outbreak of deadly tornadoes, with 39 killed earlier this month in the South and Midwest.

"What happened in Joplin could happen here," said Ken Dewey, UNL climatologist and lead organizer of Weatherfest. "The Weather Service has documented that several people died because they ignored the warnings. A lot of people think it can't happen in Lincoln or Omaha, but they're wrong. We can't prevent severe weather from occurring, but we can be better prepared."

This year's guest speakers are:
• Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers, presenting "The Accidental Chaser: How a Writer and Weather Weenie Became a Stormchaser Almost by Accident."
• Kenneth Harding, acting chief, Integrated Services Division, NWS Central Region Headquarters, speaking on "Tuscaloosa to Joplin: Lessons Learned and the Path Forward."
• Chris Novy, volunteer weather spotter and communicator with the Emergency Management Agency in Oklahoma's Oklahoma and Canadian counties, on "Hear Me Now, Believe Me Later: Severe Weather Safety."
• Barbara Mayes Boustead, meteorologist and climate program manager, NWS Omaha-Valley, on "A Look Back at the Severe Weather of 2011, and A Look Ahead to 2012."
• Brian Smith, warning coordination meteorologist, NWS Omaha-Valley, on "Situational Awareness Will Save Your Life During Severe Weather."
• Reynolds Davis, Lincoln Amateur Radio Club and Lancaster County emergency coordinator, will present "What You Need to Know to be a Storm Spotter."

Family activities will include "Be Weather-Wise with Weather Whys," "Observing the Weather," Clouds All Around Us," "Weather Hit or Myth," "Severe Weather," "How the Weather Works," and "The Great Reservoir Race."

The day kicks off with a showing of the video “Joplin EF-5 Tornado” which features up-close storm chase video of the Joplin tornado and the damage and recovery efforts in that community.

Outside, refreshments will be for sale in the festival tent on the lawn south of Hardin Hall, and visitors can explore emergency vehicles and a mobile emergency command post. Parking will be free.

More details at: http://snr.unl.edu/cpsws