Weatherman visits Rocky Plains
CBS 46’s Chris Smith shows kids the basics
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.
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.