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Saint Louis University Earns NWS StormReady Designation

by Bridjes O'Neil on 09/17/2021
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Bridjes O'Neil
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The National Weather Service (NWS) has designated Saint Louis University as StormReady, thanks to the efforts of SLU meteorology students. 

The 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.

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Kevin Deitsch, warning coordination meteorologist at NWS-SL office, middle, presents SLU with a StormReady certificate during a campus ceremony. Pictured from left to right: Michael Parkinson, SLU’s emergency preparedness coordinator and Clery compliance officer; and Benjamin P. Schaefer,  a senior meteorology student who led the StormReady initiative. Photo by Bridjes O'Neil.

The dedication came during a campus ceremony Friday, Sept. 10. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, ceremony guests were limited to those directly involved with the initiative. 

In attendance was Kevin Deitsch, warning coordination meteorologist at National Weather Service St. Louis (NWS-SL) office. NWS-SL is part of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

After brief remarks about the program, Deitsch presented a small group of SLU’s undergraduate meteorology students with a certificate and a placard. 

“A direct partnership with a campus helps with public safety,” Deitsch said. “It hasn’t happened in a while, but tornadoes do occur in the City of St. Louis. One of our biggest fears as a meteorologist is a tornado ripping right through campus.”

Benjamin Schaefer, a senior meteorology student at SLU who led the student effort, said the last time the University was certified was in 2011 which he said was a record-breaking year in the St. Louis metropolitan area for severe weather. 

“Unfortunately, weather-related injuries and fatalities occur because people aren’t informed,” said Charles Graves, Ph.D., chair in SLU’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Now, we have mechanisms in place thanks to these students and their efforts.”

At Graves' encouragement, students partnered with NWS-SL and SLU’s Department of Public Safety to seek the StormReady designation. Graves attended the ceremony along with Michael Parkinson, SLU’s emergency preparedness coordinator and Clery compliance officer.

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SLU undergraduate meteorology students with Kevin Deitsch and Michael Parkinson celebrate the University's StormReady designation during a campus ceremony. Photo by Bridjes O'Neil.

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 storm spotter training by hosting a webinar for SLU’s campus. Topics covered included severe weather safety procedures, interpretation of forecasts, and how to recognize severe weather patterns. Students also equipped all residential buildings with functioning weather radios and implemented ongoing tornado drills. 

Parkinson said his department looks forward to working with the students in the future to provide additional training for the SLU community. Students are required to conduct at least one training session each year to maintain the University’s designation status. The NWS StormReady plaque now hangs on display at the Busch Student Center. 

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.