J14.2
Educating citizens about severe weather awareness following the 22 May 2008 Northern Colorado tornado

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Monday, 18 January 2010: 1:45 PM
B214 (GWCC)
Paul Nutter, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO; and D. Gaardner

Presentation PDF (544.1 kB)

University of Northern Colorado (UNC) meteorology students partnered with Colorado SPIRIT to help educate citizens of Weld County, Colorado about the severe weather events of 22 May 2008. Colorado SPIRIT is a local outreach team funded through FEMA/SAMSHA that was established to aid citizens in their physical and psychological recovery in the aftermath of the tornadic storm. The team consists of specialists having diverse expertise areas who collectively sought to provide tornado survivors with information, case management, referrals, education groups, and crisis counseling. During school visits arranged by Colorado SPIRIT, UNC AMS students described the severe weather conditions of 22 May 2008, assessed the general climatology of severe and hazardous weather in northern Colorado, and discussed best practices for severe weather preparation and safety. The overall goal was to help children, parents, and educators regain a sense of control associated with severe weather safety, preparation, and response. Presentations were customized to suit audiences ranging from elementary school students through adult members of the general community. A typical presentation included visual aids such as a tornado simulator, a vacuum chamber, a PowerPoint slide show, and open discussion or Q&A. After a year of activity, the weather education campaign evolved into a highly valued part of Colorado SPIRIT's emphasis on community recovery. This presentation will highlight (a) the origins of Colorado SPIRIT and their relationship with UNC meteorology, (b) the content of the weather education campaign, and (c) a summary of accomplishments through the conclusion of the SPIRIT campaign. It is hoped that lesson's learned from Colorado SPIRIT and their partnership with UNC meteorology may help improve other campaigns for severe weather education, including both preparation and recovery.