White Squirrel Weather at WKU named 2020 Weather Ready Nation Ambassador of Excellence
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — White Squirrel Weather at WKU has been recognized as a 2020 Weather Ready Nation Ambassador of Excellence by NOAA and the National Weather Service Louisville Forecast Office.
White Squirrel Weather launched in October 2016 and was selected as NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador in fall 2017. The Ambassador of Excellence award recognizes a WRN Ambassador organization that has made significant contributions to building a Weather-Ready Nation.
White Squirrel Weather’s primary service is to WKU and its community via customized weather monitoring and forecasts, and weather-decision support and intelligence for university operations and events.
“All weather events play a role in the decision-making process, and the weight of that role tends to increase with the magnitude of the weather compared to the type of decision being made,” said Dr. Josh Durkee, University Meteorologist. “WKU understands this relationship and has remained vigilant and forward-thinking with the inclusion of White Squirrel Weather in its all-hazards monitoring and mitigation strategies.”
White Squirrel Weather has expanded its community outreach to partners at Beam-Suntory, Maker’s Mark and Warren County Public Schools, among others. The group also provides daily weather content to over 6,300 followers on Twitter and has a free cross-platform mobile app that updates its customized WKU and community partnered weather station data each minute.
“White Squirrel Weather is an exemplary WRN Ambassador for a multitude of reasons,” NWS Louisville said in announcing the recognition. Those include providing weather monitoring, prediction and alert notification operations for the WKU campus and community; involving students in emergency response action plans, decision-support and outreach in conjunction with numerous private, campus, state, and federal partners; sharing weather briefing slides and hyperlocal forecast content with campus decision makers during hazardous weather; and utilizing a mobile outreach lab for teaching weather safety and preparedness.
The NWS Louisville also noted that thanks to White Squirrel Weather the WKU campus is certified Storm Ready and has been accredited by the National Safety Council as a Safe Community, only the fourth university to do so; White Squirrel Weather provides a public webcam for the Bowling Green area, sends storm reports and partnered with the NWS & Emergency Management to put on the 2019 KenTenn Conference; and White Squirrel Weather is also playing a key role in the new Disaster Science Operations Center (DSOC) that will be housed at WKU, and will provide real-time situation awareness of all hazards through weather monitoring and forecasting. Students in the WKU Meteorology Program will continue to be engaged and trained in robust, innovative ways that will prepare them for all sectors of meteorology and emergency management.
Dr. Durkee said 20-30 students actively participate in White Squirrel Weather. In 2019, about 35 students helped out over the course of the year. The students in the operation include those studying in the Meteorology Program, Emergency Management Disaster Science (EMDS) Certificate Program and Computer Science.
“The rewards are two-fold,” he said. “One, we get to serve in ways that help improve the health and safety and protect life and property of WKU and its community, and two, White Squirrel Weather brings students an overall innovative and robust applied learning and research experience that paves the way for post-graduate success. As such, we continue to see marked interest and growth in our Meteorology and EMDS programs.”