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Category: Hodgepodge

Proud To Be From Birmingham!

| 10:26 am July 23, 2015

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Magical things are happening in Birmingham right now. The re-urbanization of the City Center is well underway and gaining momentum. The Uptown Entertainment District is a huge success and a critical asset to attracting bigger and better conventions to our city. Other entertainment districts like Lakeview and Avondale are happening organically. Railroad Park and Regions Field have been game changers.

I recently answered a question on Trippy about what there was to do with a group coming to Birmingham in September. The answers just flowed!

Our very own Lynn Oldshue has recently written an excellent article for her website The Southern Rambler. If you are from Birmingham, it will make you proud.

Weather Apps And Other Things

| 7:04 am July 6, 2015

I think most of you know by now the “James Spann 24/7″ weather app is in the process of being replaced by a new app that will be offered by ABC 33/40; this will have all the functionality of the old app, along with our news and sports content. Basically a “one stop shop” so you don’t have to have multiple apps on your phone or tablet.

The new app is not available yet, but hopefully it will hit the app stores within the next 7 days. Of course, it will be free.

I was very excited to offer the “James Spann 24/7″ app since it was all human powered. Real weather discussion written by real meteorologists that explain the weather. It basically offered all of my products and services on one place. These blog posts, the Weather Xtreme video, WeatherBrains, and much more. All of these elements will be in the new app… thanks for your patience.

Some so many of you are asking about weather sources, apps, etc these days… here are some thoughts that might help.

WEATHER INFORMATION IS A COMMODITY: You can get a weather forecast anywhere these days. I have seen weather forecasts on everything from furniture store apps to political candidate web sites. Weather apps by the thousands are available on your “app store”, and most of them don’t cost a dime. While this sounds great, the problem is accuracy and dependability.

The stock weather app on your phone, and almost all other weather apps and web sites, generate automated forecasts using raw computer “model output statistics”. Not one professional meteorologist (and, in most cases, not one human) reviews the forecasts before they are made available. And, boy, can these automated forecasts steer you wrong.

Here is a screen grab from a weather app yesterday…

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And, most of these “forecasts” show a nice little icon of the weather (sun, storm, clouds, etc), and three numbers. High, low, and “probability of precipitation”. While this works on some days, on really active weather days it is of no help. You have no idea if there is a severe weather threat, the amount of rain or precipitation expected, timing, and placement.

Many of you know our frustration, and we often call these “crap apps”. Trust me, I fully understand very few people wait on the television news to come on to get a weather update, and I am delighted to offer round the clock weather products at your convenience. No, I don’t get much sleep, but it is a delight to be able to offer weather products and services at all hours of the day and night since that is my passion in life.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: You need to get weather information from a source that offers content put together by a real meteorologist, that understands the people, culture, and geography of your home state. A written discussion that goes beyond the little cartoon pictures of weather, that is updated frequently. And, preferably a video that explains what to expect and doesn’t treat you like an idiot. If you app features videos that tell you to go into an air conditioned room during hot weather, you might look elsewhere.

RECOMMENDED SOURCES/APPS: So, what apps do I need? Which ones are reliable? Here are some suggestions…

THIS BLOG: If you are reading this, then we are preaching to the choir. The Alabamawx.com blog is unique, and a strong source for Alabama weather information. Yes, we get it wrong sometimes. But, our short term (48 hour) accuracy is in the 92-95 percent category. And, when I miss the big one, I am open and honest.

There are seven meteorologists who write here, with over 100 years combined weather experience in Alabama. The Weather Xtreme video is posted twice daily weekdays, and once daily weekends.

If you live outside Alabama…. do your best to find a similar source.

ABC 33/40 APP: When the new version is released, you should be able to get all of our human powered weather information there, including blog posts and the Weather Xtreme video. It will be free, and available on iOS and Android. I will let you know when it is released into the wild.

WARNING APPS: Getting severe weather warnings is extremely important. Yes, the built in “WEA”… or wireless emergency alert system seems to work well for flash flood and tornado warnings, but we really don’t know how that works, and we really don’t know the reliability. My favorite warnings apps are “WeatherRadio by WDT”, and “MyWarn”. I have no financial interest in either app, and they both work very well. Your generic, free weather app won’t do this well.

RADAR APP: RadarScope is the winner by far. They offer a version for iOS, Android, and OS X (Apple computers). And, you can get radar with this on your Apple Watch. And yes, I love it. And, over on the Windows side, the Gibson Ridge radar software is excellent.

LIGHTNING APP: I use BoltMeter, but for some reason that is not available now within the US app stores. I have purchased the lightning add-on within “WeatherRadio by WDT” which offers real time lightning data, and alerts are well. This is a critical function for outdoor events, especially on summer afternoons. RadarScope offers real time lightning data as well for a small price.

Have suggestions? List them in the comment section.

The one thing I try and do is be available to answer your weather questions. I don’t have a 15 minute chat session we advertise on TV… I am around most hours of the day and night. Best way of getting me is social media…

Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
Instagram

My personal email is here… and I respond quickly. The only thing I don’t do is a phone call; I have not answered my work phone since 1998. Too much time consumption.

Your pictures and reports are so helpful, and I thank all for engaging with me in the new digital world. And again, I will let you know the minute the new ABC 33/40 app is available…

James Spann App Update

| 9:22 pm July 1, 2015

Again, I apologize to all of you who have not been able to access weather data from the James Spann 24/7 app over the past 48 hours. Here is the situation….

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*Unfortunately, the James Spann 24/7 app is going away. Functionality will not return.

*The developer was sold, and they opted not to support the app, and to take it offline yesterday. Nothing we can do.

*On the positive side, we have decided to roll out one new app for ABC 33/40. No more separate apps for James Spann, weather, news, and sports… just one very clean app. All of the content that was available on old James Spann 24/7 app, and the old ABC 33/40 weather app, will be there. It has been submitted to Apple and Google for their app stores, and we are just waiting for approval.

I do believe this will make it easier for all of us, but we are so sorry James Spann 24/7 went offline before the new one hits the app stores.

FOR NOW: This is how to get all of the various products that are on the old James Spann 24/7 app…

WEATHER BLOG: If you are reading this, then you are on the blog. I post two detailed meteorological discussions daily here, and during active weather the blog is updated very frequently. Our posts are written by meteorologists that understand Alabama weather, and the needs of the people that live here. We work long hours keeping this updated.

SEVEN DAY FORECAST: Our seven day is available on the blog anytime here.

WEATHER XTREME VIDEO: This twice daily video is embedded in the blog discussions I write. You can also see the video via YouTube here. And, we also offer this video as a video podcast… just search for Weather Xtreme video in your favorite podcast app. Here is a link to the iTunes version.

WEATHERBRAINS: Our weekly show all about weather has a video and an audio version. For the audio podcast, just search for “Weatherbrains” in your favorite podcast app; here is a link to the audio files from our provider, Libsyn. For the video version, here is the YouTube link.

And, for show notes and more details on the show, just see the Weatherbrains web site. We produce the show most weeks Monday night at 8:30 CT… here is a link to the live stream and chat room. You can also watch it on our digital weather channel, “James Spann 24/7″ on cable systems around the state.

SUMBIT PICTURES/VIDEO: One of the great parts of the app was the ability to do this easily. You can send pictures or video to me anytime via email directly.

SOCIAL MEDIA: You can find me on all of the major social networks here… you can always submit pictures, ask questions, or share comments on any of these platforms.

Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
Instagram

I will let you know the minute the new app is available. And again, thank you for your patience!

App Issues

| 8:52 am July 1, 2015

Most all of you have noticed by now the “James Spann 24/7″ app is not functioning. The issue started early yesterday, and there has been no resolution as of this morning.

It seems as though the company that developed the app for us has been sold, and they have decided “not to support” it anymore. Very frustrating, and we are working on a quick fix with a new developer. Hopefully the app will be operational again very soon.

I am truly sorry about the inconvenience… I am honored that you have downloaded this app, and I don’t take your loyalty for granted. I am honored you are coming here for weather information.

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The goal of the James Spann 24/7 app was to have all of my products and services available in one place on a phone or tablet.

With the app being down, I just wanted to let you know how to get all of the various products that are on the app.

WEATHER BLOG: If you are reading this, then you are on the blog. I post two detailed meteorological discussions daily here, and during active weather the blog is updated very frequently. Our posts are written by meteorologists that understand Alabama weather, and the needs of the people that live here. We work long hours keeping this updated.

SEVEN DAY FORECAST: Our seven day is available on the blog anytime here.

WEATHER XTREME VIDEO: This twice daily video is embedded in the blog discussions I write. You can also see the video via YouTube here. And, we also offer this video as a video podcast… just search for Weather Xtreme video in your favorite podcast app. Here is a link to the iTunes version.

WEATHERBRAINS: Our weekly show all about weather has a video and an audio version. For the audio podcast, just search for “Weatherbrains” in your favorite podcast app; here is a link to the audio files from our provider, Libsyn. For the video version, here is the YouTube link.

And, for show notes and more details on the show, just see the Weatherbrains web site. We produce the show most weeks Monday night at 8:30 CT… here is a link to the live stream and chat room. You can also watch it on our digital weather channel, “James Spann 24/7″ on cable systems around the state.

SUMBIT PICTURES/VIDEO: One of the great parts of the app was the ability to do this easily. You can send pictures or video to me anytime via email directly.

SOCIAL MEDIA: You can find me on all of the major social networks here… you can always submit pictures, ask questions, or share comments on any of these platforms.

Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
Instagram

Again, as soon as I know more about the status of the app I will post it here. Thanks for being patient…

Loss Of A Legend

| 7:26 pm May 11, 2015

When J.B.’s son Steve broke the news to me this afternoon, it almost took my breath away. Yes, we all know J.B.’s heath was failing, but I don’t think anyone expected his death so soon.

J.B. Elliott was born April 17, 1932, about one month after a generational tornado outbreak that killed hundreds of Alabamians on March 21 of that year. He would live through, and work two of those events in his long career; April 3, 1974, and April 27, 2011.

I could not ask for a better role model in the field of meteorology, living out the Christian faith, or being a husband and father.

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J.B. is a 32-year veteran of the National Weather Service. (It was known as the U.S. Weather Bureau when he signed on in the spring of 1957.) Ironically, at the moment he arrived at the office at Birmingham Airport for the very first day on duty, a tornado was on the ground in Walker County causing several fatalities.

J.B. spent his entire NWS career in the Birmingham office and witnessed numerous major Alabama weather events. He always was especially interested in severe weather and spent many long hours on duty during adverse weather, including tornadoes, hurricanes, snow events and ice storms. He worked for 17 hours in a row without a break during the famous tornado Super Outbreak of April 3, 4, 1974. He was also on duty as part of a team when a powerful F5 tornado ripped across the western section of Birmingham in April, 1977.

It was known as the Smithfield tornado. During all his years in severe weather work, he was awarded not only a U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal but also the Silver Medal.

When growing up in West Alabama’s Hale County (Havana Junction!) he always wanted to be a weatherman, newspaper reporter, radio broadcaster or photographer. His career in meteorology has included all of that. He was one of the persons that handled the NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts from the Weather Service. He was responsible for thousands of weather stories, warnings and special feature items over the years.

As a kid, he built a small radio “studio” in the corner of his bedroom and practiced doing newscasts, and of course weather, with a wooden “microphone.” His main source of news was a day-old Birmingham Age-Herald, The Tuscaloosa News, The Greensboro Watchman and jotting down items he heard on WJRD Radio, Tuscaloosa. He also printed a two page weekly newspaper, “Hometown News” by hand and mailed a copy to relatives in Worcester, Massachusetts and charged them five cents. It cost three cents to mail it!.

Of course weather was often the main headline.

He ordered a $4 plastic rain gauge from a catalog. His parents bought him a 29-cent thermometer and a 5-cent notebook. He started keeping weather records and was hooked. At Akron High School, one of his teachers, W.W. Duncan, was very interested in weather. He encouraged J.B. to follow that and gave him an assignment to brief the science class once a week on all of the new developments in weather.

During his NWS career, J.B. was very active in photography and the duty of photographing storm damage sort of defaulted to him. In fact, for several years it was his responsibility to do storm surveys and determine the “F” rating of a tornado, path length, width, fatalities and injuries for the official NWS publication, Storm Data. The Super Outbreak in 1974 was an enormous task.

I met J.B. in the 1970s when I was an electrical engineering student, but with a true passion for weather. We bonded instantly, and during my early days as a television weather anchor in Birmingham at Channel 13, we spent much time together, especially during my break between the 6:00 and 10:00 newscast, and when he was also on the “night shift”. He was a friend, mentor, and father figure to me. My dad walked away from my family when I was 7 years old, so he filled a very important role in my life.

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J.B. was always there with an encouraging word, and some weather knowledge for me to take away. It was that way when he worked for the National Weather Service, and when he worked for our private weather company after his retirement from government work, which came in 1989.

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For many years J.B. would ride with me to school visits across Alabama. I cherish the stories and laughter we enjoyed on the roads less traveled.

Many loved hearing J.B. on our weekly show “WeatherBrains”, and he had countless fans that loved reading his afternoon weather discussion here on the blog, along with the adventures of his beloved dog “Little Miss Molly”.

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J.B and his wife, Judy, were married for over 50 years. She grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, Ironically, she and J.B. met out at the Birmingham Airport when she and her “boy friend” visited the weather office. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. Son, Steve Elliott is a Birmingham and Center Point fireman. Daughter, Debbie Broome and her husband, Robert live in the Birmingham metro.

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Thank you, J.B., for being my friend, mentor, and encourager. You never had a bad day… and if you did, you never let us know. See you again one day.

Sad News To Report

| 4:40 pm May 11, 2015

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My long time mentor, J.B. Elliott, who worked at the National Weather Service in Birmingham for over 30 years, passed away this afternoon. Some of you recall hearing him on NOAA Weather Radio for years, and most of you loved hearing him on our show WeatherBrains. He wrote countless posts on the blog.

More to come…