Weatherfest April 9 focuses on safety, severe weather

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The 11th annual Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium and Family Weatherfest April 9 will feature information about safety and severe weather.

The event will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Hardin Hall. The family-oriented event is free and open to the public. Learn more at

Ken Dewey, a climatologist in the School of Natural Resources, organizes the symposium each year to share his passion for weather. "Besides sports, weather is the number one thing people talk about," Dewey said. "I moved here for the weather. The weather here in the center of the country is far more extreme than it is anyplace else."

He hopes to turn people's fascination with extreme weather into better prepared, safer communities. This year's event includes, for the first time, a public severe weather safety workshop. The National Weather Service will present "What Not to Do During Severe Weather" to help people make their homes, neighborhoods and workplaces safer.

The theme of this year's symposium is "Professional Storm Chasing for Research and Photography," and presentations will focus on VORTEX2, an ambitious field research project that studies how severe weather and tornadoes form. Researchers on the project will explain what they're learning. Visitors can tour the Doppler on Wheels radar truck and see the unmanned aircraft system that geoscientist Adam Houston uses to collect data and take video of developing severe storms. Storm photographers Jim Reed and Ryan McGinnis will share some of the photos they've taken on travels with the VORTEX2 team.

The Lincoln Camera Club will host a community-wide photography contest and photo display, as well as free seminars on weather photography and spectacular storm chase videos throughout the day.

The Family Weatherfest, on the second-floor lobby, will illustrate "Weather and Climate All Around Us," with hands-on activities for students of all ages, including "Be Weather-Wise with Weather Whys" and "Weather and Climate Hit or Myth." Boy Scouts can earn weather merit badges, and Girl Scouts can earn "Weather Observer" badges. Exhibitors on the first floor will include emergency management agencies and organizations as well as various university science departments.

Authors of weather-related books will be on hand to autograph copies. Local weathercasters will meet people in the heated hospitality tent, where people can also buy food and beverages. Conditions permitting, a weather balloon launch will be part of the day.

In past years, attendance has been estimated around 3,500. Free parking will be available in lots surrounding Hardin Hall. For more information, including detailed schedules, visit Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium.

- Kelly Smith, School of Natural Resources

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