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SLU Meteorology Students Seek University’s NWS StormReady Designation

by Bridjes O'Neil on 05/06/2021
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Saint Louis University is one step closer to earning the National Weather Service StormReady designation thanks to a student-led effort. 

A team of SLU’s undergraduate meteorology students is working with the National Weather Service St. Louis (NWS-SL) office and SLU's Department of Public Safety to accomplish this goal on behalf of the University. 

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Victor Geiser, a first-year meteorology student, discusses radar data interpretation during a storm  spotter training webinar for SLU's campus.  Screenshot by Bridjes O'Neil.

The National Weather Service StormReady program focuses on communication, mitigation, and community preparedness to save lives and property from severe weather. Communities, like universities, must meet certain guidelines before the NWS certifies the community as StormReady — a designation that lasts for three years.  

“The last time SLU was certified was in 2011 which was a record-breaking year for severe weather,” said Benjamin Schaefer, a junior meteorology student who led the initiative at SLU.

Schaefer is referring to the Good Friday EF-4 tornado that hit the St. Louis metropolitan area on April 22, 2011, and the deadly and costly EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011.  As a part of the process, students were required to promote the importance of public readiness by developing a formal hazardous weather plan that includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. 

On Friday, April 30, students conducted a storm spotter training webinar for SLU's campus. Topics covered included severe weather safety procedures, interpretation of forecasts, and how to recognize severe weather patterns. They are also equipping all residential buildings with functioning weather radios and implementing ongoing tornado drills.  

“Many of the residential buildings practice fire drills but not tornado drills,” Schaefer said. “Practicing helps students know exactly where to go in an emergency.”

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Benjamin P. Schaefer,  a third-year meteorology student who led the StormReady initiative at SLU, educates an audience about severe weather during a storm spotter training webinar for SLU's campus. Submitted photo.

Michael Parkinson, SLU’s emergency preparedness coordinator and Clery compliance officer,  assisted with the application submission. The team is awaiting final approval from the NWS, Parkinson said. 

“We all share the passion to make sure our community is ready to respond should severe weather impact our campus,” Parkinson said. “We look forward to working with the students in the future to provide additional training to not only our public safety officers but the SLU community as well.”

As someone who was born in St. Louis and later moved to Omaha, Nebraska, Schaefer has experienced his fair share of severe weather. Tornadoes are his favorite weather phenomena, he said.

“It’s the power and the mystery behind them that are so fascinating,” Schaefer said. “The more we learn about them the more lives can be saved.”  

A second webinar is planned for the fall semester. 

About Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 12,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.