Weather­man vis­its Rocky Plains

CBS 46’s Chris Smith shows kids the ba­sics

The Covington News - - OPINION - By Jenny Thompson

Chris Smith, week­end me­te­o­rol­o­gist for CBS 46, made his first class visit of the school year to sec­ond-graders at Rocky Plains El­e­men­tary School Wed­nes­day.

Smith per­formed sim­ple me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ex­per­i­ments, showed stu­dents weather in­stru­ments, pro­vided tips for sun and storm safety and ex­plained what he does be­hind and in front of the cam­era.

“Ba­si­cally, I get paid to do what I love for a liv­ing,” Smith said.

Smith asked the stu­dents what they en­joyed do­ing and re­ceived an­swers such as swim­ming, play­ing video games, rid­ing horses and stay­ing in bed all day.

He com­pared his job to re­ceiv­ing a pay­check for any of those ac­tiv­i­ties.

A self-de­scribed “weather geek,” Smith said he knew from a very early age he wanted to be a me­te­o­rol­o­gist. He planned his boy­hood days around the morn­ing, af­ter­noon and evening fore­casts, and even begged friends who had cable to al­low him to watch a few min­utes of the sa­cred Weather Chan­nel.

He grad­u­ated from Florida State Univer­sity in 1996. Even though Smith grew up in the At­lanta area, when he grad­u­ated high school in 1992 no univer­sity in Ge­or­gia of­fered an un­der­grad­u­ate me­te­o­rol­ogy de­gree and HOPE Schol­ar­ships didn’t ex­ist.

Smith worked for a year in Albany, then moved to Ma­con and worked there for eight years be­fore trans­fer­ring to the big-city mar­ket of At­lanta.

“Can you think of any job you can keep even if you’re wrong,” Smith asked the stu­dents.

He ex­plained how he mon­i­tors air pres­sure sys­tems to pre­dict rain or shine.

“All around us ev­ery­day, there’s air pres­sure,” Smith said.

To demon­strate air pres­sure he showed the stu­dents a two­liter bot­tle al­most full of wa­ter. The stu­dents didn’t be­lieve the bot­tle had a hole on its side un­til he un­screwed the top and wa­ter be­gan to spout into a pan.

He told the stu­dents air pres­sure forced the wa­ter out af­ter he took off the lid, just as he could do with the lid on if he squeezed the bot­tle with his hands.

Ac­cord­ing to Smith, and all other me­te­o­rol­o­gists, high pres­sure sys­tems bring in sunny, dry weather and low pres­sure sys­tems usher in clouds and rain.

He told the stu­dents to re­mem­ber this fact with the say­ing “happy highs and lousy lows.” Al­though, high pres­sure sys­tems make room for sunny weather they don’t al­ways af­fect tem­per­a­ture, he added.

Low pres­sure sys­tems also can con­trib­ute to the for­ma­tion of tor­na­does. Smith brought his “pet tor­nado” — two bot­tles, one filled with blue wa­ter and glit­ter, with their necks con­nected — to ex­hibit how de­bris flies around in th­ese storms.

“The worst part of a tor­nado is not get­ting sucked up and thrown out two miles away,” Smith said. “That’s not what typ­i­cally hap­pens.”

Smith said most tor­nado in­juries are caused by fly­ing de­bris, rep­re­sented in his model by the glit­ter.

He af­firmed what the stu­dents have al­ready learned about what to do dur­ing a tor­nado drill — go to a cen­tral lo­ca­tion at home or school and mak­ing their bod­ies as small as pos­si­ble.

The more walls be­tween peo­ple and the out­side dur­ing a tor­nado, the bet­ter, said Smith. He com­pared walls to lot­tery tick­ets.

“Would you rather have one lot­tery ticket, or have 10 lot­tery tick­ets,” Smith asked the stu­dents.

Smith also in­tro­duced the stu­dents to his “magic Fris­bee.” The Fris­bee turned from white to a pink­ish pur­ple in the sun­light, but where Smith’s hand held it, it re­mained white.

He ex­plained how in­vis­i­ble rays from the sun called ul­tra­vi­o­let rays caused the color change and also cause sun­burns.

“Ev­ery time you get burned,” Smith said, “It does dam­age to your skin.”

Be­cause ul­tra­vi­o­let rays have been linked with pre­ma­ture wrin­kling and skin can­cer, Smith told the stu­dents it was ex­tremely im­por­tant to re­mem­ber to wear sun screen.

Af­ter Smith’s pre­sen­ta­tion he an­swered ques­tions from the stu­dents such as what the term “heat in­dex” means and how he knows what to point to on the map while stand­ing in front of a green screen at the CBS stu­dio.

He also gave the stu­dents a tour of the chan­nel’s weather van and the in­stru­ments on­board.

Smith said visit­ing schools was one of his fa­vorite parts of be­ing a me­te­o­rol­o­gist. He said even though he was in­ter­ested in weather phe­nom­ena as a child, he never met a me­te­o­rol­o­gist or toured a television sta­tion’s weather de­part­ment.

He en­joys the thought of in­spir­ing a bud­ding young me­te­o­rol­o­gist to pur­sue his or her dreams, even suf­fer­ing through dif­fi­cult science and math cour­ses be­cause of their pas­sion.

“It’s re­ally about shar­ing my ex­cite­ment for weather,” Smith said.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Tor­nado: CBS 46 week­end me­te­o­rol­o­gist Chris Smith, right, demon­strates his pet tor­nado to the amaze­ment of Rocky Plains El­e­men­tary School sec­ond graders Jer­maine McSween, left, Chris­tion Ma­son, Devron Harper and Tris­ten Perez dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at the lo­cal school Wed­nes­day morn­ing. The sec­ond graders from Jen­nifer Over­felt’s class joined other stu­dents from Brenda White’s, Nancy Hall’s and Rachel Sher­rer’s class­rooms who learned about the weather and were in­tro­duced to how a television me­te­o­rol­o­gist per­forms his job.

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