Guest Blog: Mike Cox on Local Weather

weatherphotoLord willing, we will conclude the Studying and Preaching the Bible in the Digital Age series on February 10 (next week’s post will be on income tax for supply preachers).  This week, I have asked my friend Mike Cox to write a guest blog about weather in the region (a very timely topic as we had many churches close for at least some of their services due to snow and ice this past weekend).  Mike, a Bristol, Tennessee native, serves as meteorologist for WHCB 91.5 FM (a local Christian radio ministry with much preaching and teaching), WPWT 870 AM and 100.7 FM, and WHGG 1090 AM.  He received his degree in mass communications from ETSU and a Certificate of Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University, and has forecast weather since 2008.  You can follow his weather blog at www.TriCitiesWx.com.  I appreciate his time and work in writing for us today. – Doug

We live in one of the most beautiful parts of our great country, but sometimes the cold weather makes life complicated!

THE CHALLENGE OF ELEVATION FOR ACCURATE FORECASTING

Elevation makes a big difference in our winter weather, from ice to a little snow to a lot of it.  We live in the border area in more ways than one. As we enter the winter season, we tend to end up with a lot of rain when storm systems come through. For much of the season, the valleys end up right on the rain/snow line. That introduces the possibility of varying types of ice, while the mountains get snow. Once we get deep into the winter, that’s when the big snows happen and pretty much everyone gets a few inches. Occasionally even in the Tri-Cities we’ll see six or eight inches of snow and that can shut down everything like an ice storm can do.

The difference between sleet, snow, rain and freezing rain can be the difference between around 5 degrees over the lower part of the atmosphere. If the entire atmosphere is warmer than freezing, we get rain. Likewise, if it’s all below freezing, it’s snow. The fun begins when it’s not all above or below. That’s not a problem unless either the ground is really cold, or there is enough cold air to freeze the rain into ice pellets, or sleet. If the ground is cold enough, the rain can freeze when it hits the ground, causing freezing rain.

So you have that difficult situation to navigate when either forecasting or just trying to get from point A to point B. As a forecaster, I try to look at every piece of weather information I can find to try to figure out what type of precipitation is going to happen in a certain circumstance. But added to the state of the atmosphere is another complication – our beautiful mountains. Many times two different forecasts are required, one for the mountains and another for the lower elevations, to appropriately describe what kind of weather various locations will see. There’s little time to describe all of this on the air, so that’s where something like a weather blog comes in.

All of that brings a definite challenge as I sit down to look at all the meteorological information and computer models to try to figure out our atmosphere. That is also why the “I wish I could get paid to be wrong 50% of the time” comment is so frustrating. My job entails trying to figure out what type of precipitation is going to happen in an area with 2500 feet in difference of elevation where two degrees difference can spell the difference between an inch of rain to half an inch of ice and total gridlock, to 5 inches of snow.

All that said, I am definitely blessed to be able to try to figure out the atmosphere above us each day. I was practically born with an interest in weather, and sometimes a fear of it that still shows up from time to time. The Lord has blessed me with a love for weather and a desire to understand as much as I can about it. Meteorology is a science that isn’t fully understood just yet, so everyone in the field is still learning if they’re doing the job the right way!

SEVERE WEATHER TRAVEL TIPS FOR SUPPLY PREACHERS

I know a lot of the readers of this blog end up going way up into Southwest Virginia and even into the mountains for pulpit supply, so here are a couple things to keep in mind.

  • First, make sure you allow plenty of time to get where you’re going if you know winter weather is possible. A colleague of mine in Michigan once told her viewers to allow at least double the time…if it takes 20 minutes, allow 40. That’s a good idea.
  • If snow has already happened, make sure you get as much of the snow off your car as you can. I normally will sweep off the area right above the door and around it to make sure as little snow as possible gets inside when I open the door. Then, I’ll start the car, make sure the door is unlocked, shut it, and then sweep off as much of the snow as I can. Not only are you keeping the windows clean so you can see to drive, but you’re also putting the snow from your car in your driveway instead of out on the roadway.
  • Finally, be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast before you’re planning to go out. You can always check my blog at www.TriCitiesWx.com for information.  As I am able, I’ll always try to update the blog with the latest winter weather information. On that site, you can find me and my stations on Twitter and Facebook. There is also a Contact link where you can send me an e-mail if you have any weather questions for me. If you’re more inclined to watch the local television folks for more graphical information on what will happen where, I won’t be too upset about it. In the Tri-Cities, those guys have been here for 25 years each!

Big thanks to Doug Smith for having me share this blog post this week.  I should be back sometime to talk more about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, two things that also have an enormous impact on life here.

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About dougsmith1977

Disciple of the Lord Jesus, husband, dad, student, teacher, preacher, media producer, blogger, writer. Author of Keeping the Faith in a Christian College. I tweet @dougsmith1977 .
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