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My Journey Into Meteorology

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Meteorologist Michael Armstrong - My Journey Into Weather Meteorologist Michael Armstrong - My Journey Into Weather

My journey into the field of meteorology began while I was a young boy growing up in Ponca City, OK. Unlike many other meteorologists, I don't really have a specific moment such as a close call with a violent tornado or life-changing weather event that suddenly convinced me I wanted to become a meteorologist at an early age. As a matter of fact, I never even considered studying meteorology until I was a junior…in college! Even still, I attribute my desire to be involved with weather from my days growing up in Kay County and my 4 years of college at the University of Arkansas.

My story begins with those familiar springtime sounds Oklahomans know so well: beep, beep, beep. I can recall those scary, yet exciting moments of hearing those infamous beeps interrupt one of my favorite shows like The Dukes of Hazzard. It didn't matter whether I was even watching television though. I would stop whatever I was doing and devote my full and undivided attention to that severe weather report until I heard the closing words of Gary's cut-ins, "Stay with TV9, we'll keep you advised." And that is exactly what I did. I'm often still amazed to have the opportunity to work right along with Gary.

My dad was what I consider to be a true scaredy cat when it came to severe weather, and tornado shelters weren't exactly commonplace. The elementary school I attended also served as a community tornado shelter because it had a huge basement where the cafeteria was located. Now you would think that you would need to be an employee at the school, or maybe a member of the school board to have a key to that school right? Well, my dad was neither, but I'll give you 3 guesses as to who had a key and 2 don't count. It seemed that we were always the first ones to arrive at the school, but it didn't start out that way in the beginning. Maybe someone just felt sorry for my siblings and me since we were stuck outside in a few storms waiting for someone to unlock the door. Either way, we didn't have that problem for very long, and neither did anybody else in our neighborhood!

Fast forwarding to my college years, I earned both music and academic scholarships to the U of A in Fayetteville, AR. As a music education major, I just knew I was going to be involved with music for the rest of my life. Little did I realize where I would end up in a few years. I will admit that a significant event took place in 1996 that had a major impact on my future in meteorology. A half-mile wide F3 tornado struck Fort Smith and Van Buren, AR between 11 PM and 11:30 PM. 2 children were killed in Forth Smith along with as many as 50 injuries. Initial media reports indicated that the tornado struck without warning. The storm had already produced several tornadoes in southeast OK between 10 PM and 11 PM that night, but a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the Fort Smith, AR area because of a perceived decrease in the rotation of the storm at 10:54 PM. Later, the warning was upgraded to a tornado warning at 11:08 PM, but the tornado caused a power outage and Ft. Smith emergency officials did not sound the emergency sirens because they did not receive the tornado warning. You can read more here: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/pdfs/ftsmith.pdf

A little over 1 year later I had transferred to the University of Oklahoma as a student in the meteorology department. I finally knew the career that would help me fulfill my lifelong desire of helping people, and my Oklahoma upbringing in the heart of tornado alley made all the difference.

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