High Honors; A Big Thank You

| January 9, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

Tonight I accepted the American Meteorological Society “Award for Broadcast Meteorology” at the AMS annual meeting in Austin, Texas. Bernie Rayno of AccuWeather snapped this shot from his table…


I also received the other major national award for a broadcast meteorologist, the National Weather Association “Broadcaster of the Year” award back in October at the NWA annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin.

The AMS and NWA are the two professional societies for meteorologists.

As a young TV weather anchor, I never dreamed I would have a chance at winning one of these. Winning both back to back is beyond belief.

Thanks to those who nominated me, and wrote letters of support.

On April 27, 2011, 252 Alabamians died on my watch during a generational tornado outbreak. That is simply inexcusable. I thought the death toll should have been close to 30. The warnings that day were excellent, and we thought the coverage was comprehensive and reached all people groups across multiple platforms. But, so many died. Precious people. Little boys and girls, moms, dads, senior adults, people of wealth, and those with low income. The number 252 will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life.

I learned after that event I am not as good as I think, and, across the weather enterprise, we are not as good as we think. Humility is missing in our science. There is so much we don’t know, and many things we can’t do. So much to learn. We must focus on getting better, not only in the physical science aspect, but also on the social science side. All of my energy for the rest of my career will be spent on making the warning process better. That is my focus.

But, I do understand there comes a time when we celebrate the lives that were saved April 27, 2011 by the warning process. I have heard the stories, and know that many are alive today thanks to their action based on hearing an urgent tornado emergency message on ABC 33/40, through one of our radio partners, or on Twitter or Facebook. I can’t help but wonder how many went to shelter after seeing one of those 62 tornadoes on our SKYCAM network, or on a live stream by heroes in the field like John Brown, Mike Wilhelm, John Oldshue, Ben Greer, or Terry Sasser on that day.

The point of this message tonight is to thank those who support my work. The men and women in academia that teach, nurture, encourage, and train, researchers that bring remarkable technology to the table, and those that work at NOAA units like the Storm Prediction Center, or local National Weather Service offices like the ones in Birmingham and Huntsville. Many in the weather community have worked long, hard hours for many years to make the warnings better. These awards with my name on them are an extension of the work of multitudes of people.

A sincere thank you to all.


Category: Hodgepodge

About the Author ()

James Spann is one of the most recognized and trusted television meteorologists in the industry. He holds the AMS CCM designation and television seals from the AMS and NWA. He is a past winner of the Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year from both professional organizations.

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