Severe Weather Symposium and WeatherFest March 29

Severe Weather Symposium and WeatherFest March 29

March 7, 2008

The Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium and WeatherFest will bring four outstanding storm researchers to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on March 29.

The annual event, open and free to the public, will be at UNL's Hardin Hall at 33rd and Holdrege streets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will include a variety of activities and workshops for the entire family, including storm spotter training. Parking will be free in the surrounding lots.

"The Weather Channel will not protect Nebraska," said Ken Dewey, professor of climatology in the School of Natural Resources, and the event's main organizer. "The volunteer spotters will."

Beginning and advanced storm spotter classes will be free. "Even if you don't become a volunteer storm spotter, you can take this knowledge home for your family or where you work, and make this community more storm-ready," Dewey said.

"Perspectives on Severe Weather in the Plains" is the symposium's theme, with a large portion of the day's activities, WeatherFest, designed to appeal to a younger audience. Activities will include storm videos, workshops and presentations by severe weather professionals.

The main speakers, experienced in the challenges of protecting people from severe weather, are nationally prominent authors and policy advisers. Climate policy is an area of intense interest given the current focus of the scientific community on global warming.Joe Schaefer, director of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., will discuss February's outbreak of tornadoes across the southeast and review tornadoes of 2007.

Mike Umscheid from the Garden City, Kan., National Weather Service office will talk about what happened on May 4, 2007, when as many as 123 tornadoes churned over the Great Plains, including an E5 funnel that destroyed the town of Greensburg.

Jon Davies, meteorologist, storm chaser, and author of "On the Trail of Twisters," will give a talk to help inspire kids 8-12 to learn about weather. He'll also visit McPhee Elementary School on March 28.

Mike Mogil of How the Weather Works, an educational company, will discuss illustrations from his book, "Extreme Weather," with an emphasis on the Great Plains.

Dewey said the event is the largest of its kind in the U.S. Last year's symposium drew 3,500 people, and Dewey noted that the event has grown in each of its eight years. The event is timed to coincide with the state's Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Other activities include: meeting local television weathercasters, a weather balloon launch and tracking, book signings by Mogil and Davies, a workshop on using the Internet to get weather information, workshops providing tips on taking better photographs and demonstrations of search and rescue dogs. "Be Weather Wise with Weather Whys," "Weather and Climate: Hit or Myth," and other family-related weather exhibits also will be available at WeatherFest. The first annual regional photography show, as well as a photo contest for young people, sponsored by the Lincoln Camera Club, will be held at this event.

"When we say it's family-oriented for all ages, we really mean that," Dewey said. "My hope is that when it's done, we've become a safer, more weather-ready community."

For more information and a schedule of events, visit the symposium's Web site at

The event is organized by UNL's School of Natural Resources, the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the National Weather Service and the Lancaster County Office of Emergency Management. Major sponsors include IANR, State Farm Insurance, Lancaster County Emergency Management, the National Drought Mitigation Center and Midland Radio.