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March 2015
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Brains Bios

James SpannJames Spann

I am the Chief Meteorologist for the ABC TV affiliate in Birmingham, and produce daily weather forecasts on over two dozen radio stations around the nation. I have been doing the weather on radio and TV since 1978, making me an old geezer, but a guy that still has a blast doing weather across a variety of media platforms. WeatherBrains is my creative outlet of the week; I host the show simply because I have the toys to put it together. I love sitting behind the golden PR-40 every Monday night for our weekly WeatherBrains session.

My TV career started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the local CBS affiliate at the time, WCFT, Channel 33. Along the way I have spent time at WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Alabama (Channel 12), WVTM in Birmingham (Channel 13), KDFW in Dallas (Channel 4), and WBRC in Birmingham (Channel 6). I have been at my current station since 1996; clearly the longest stop in my long career. And, I hope it is the last!

I hold the AMS CBM (Certified Broadcast Meteorologist)… 33rd in the nation. I wanted to be in the top ten, but I just didn’t have time to take the exam right when the program started.

I have been married to my wife Karen since 1981, and we have two boys that happen to be 13 years apart. One is out of college, the other is in middle school. Away from the weather business I serve in children’s ministry at a local church, and still enjoy amateur radio as my hobby. I hold the extra class license, and my call is WO4W. I am blessed.

Bill MurrayBill Murray

I was factory designed to love weather and have loved it since I came into this world. I am the official weather historian for WeatherBrains. My hero is the late, great David Ludlum. Snow is my favorite weather phenomenon, but I am fascinated by hurricanes and tornadoes.

My junior year in high school, I did a science project that stopped hurricanes. In May 1979, that project, entitled “Using Monomolecular Sea Surface Polymer Films to Suppress Tropical Cyclone Development” went to the 20th International Science and Engineering Fair in San Antonio, Texas where it won several awards.

I did television weather for fun at the CBS affiliate in Birmingham for five years in the early 90s and created a weather company called The Weather Source with John Oldshue. We sold it in 1996. Our group formed The Weather Company in 1998. In 2002, I was asked to author an annual weather calendar published by Andrew McNeel. It puts a lot of my weather trivia information to use.

I also own a hotel management company that manages 25 hotels across the country from Texas to Florida. My work on Integral Hospitality Solutions takes me all over the nation, which leads to some interesting settings for my forecasts. Many reports have originated from AMTRAK trains, sporting events and festivals.

Brian PetersBrian Peters

As a kid, I used to kneel on the sofa looking out the window watching thunderstorms in progress. When my family moved to Florida, Hurricane Donna piqued my interest in weather due in part to the professional presentation of a television meteorologist named Roy Leep. Roy was a true degreed meteorologist well ahead of his time who broke the mold of the entertainer as weather person.

It was on to Florida State University where I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology. I was fortunate to work for the Weather Bureau, predecessor to the National Weather Service (NWS), each summer following graduation from high school. While other kids were doing the typical part-time jobs like clerking, grocery bagging, and life guarding, I was learning to take surface weather observations and processing upper air observations.

Working with the NWS across the Southeast US nurtured my interest in severe weather. Another influence on my life came from Alan Moller. I used to go with Alan on some of his spotter training presentations and gained a valuable understanding of the importance of spotters and storm structure. Over time I also gained experience in storm surveys. My exposure to training by Tim Marshall on the effects of wind on structures has proven beneficial when trying to sort out details after a storm.

Having done weather forecasting across the Southeast, I was again fortunate to serve on the Olympic Weather Support Team during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. During my first year with ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, I fulfilled a lifelong desire to fly with the Hurricane Hunters. I was on a flight that went through Hurricane Ivan four times including several passes while it was a Category 5 storm. I later was detailed by ABC 3340 to Gulf Shores to greet the storm as it came ashore.

Weather has been more than just a profession with me. I have a passion about the weather and appreciate the opportunity to share insight into the weather each week as part of the WeatherBrains crew.

Nate JohnsonNate Johnson

Like many meteorologists and weather enthusiasts, I can point to a single day as the genesis of my fascination with weather. A rare “outbreak” of tornadoes from Georgia through the Carolinas one Friday night put a pretty good scare into me, and I’ve been hooked on the weather ever since.

These days, the scare is gone, but the fascination remains as strong as ever. I double-majored in meteorology and computer science at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. While there, I worked with a research group conducting real-time mesoscale modeling of the southeastern US, resurrected a student-led forecasting operation for the campus newspaper and radio station, interned (literally) across the street at WRAL-TV, and did some independent research on the NWS Modernization of the 1990s.

After graduating, I moved to Abilene, TX, to be a meteorologist at KTXS-TV. I spent a little more than six wonderful years there, covering more than a few tornadoes and hailstorms, and meeting the woman that would become my wife. After getting married, I “hung up the clicker”, and we moved to College Station, TX. During that time, I worked for Huntsville, AL-based Baron Services, where did some data product development, implemented a data monitoring system, and had the chance to do radar projects, including dual-pol radar training. In late 2007, left Baron to move back home and work as a meteorologist and executive producer for WRAL-TV in Raleigh. I’m also deep into a master’s degree in communication, where my research interests are – no surprise here! – how people get, use, and abuse weather forecast information. I also teach a broadcast meteorology course at NC State.

Outside of work and school, I enjoy weather watching, traveling, running, hiking, biking, and spending time with family and friends. I am a long-suffering fan of the Chicago Cubs, and in college sports, I pull for both my alma mater (the NC State Wolfpack) and my wife’s alma mater (the Fightin’ Texas Aggies of Texas A&M). One of these days, I want to learn how to fly.

I’m excited to be a part of the WeatherBrains crew!

Aubrey UrbanowiczAubrey Urbanowitz
I live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where I am a Meteorologist at WHSV, the ABC and FOX affiliate in Harrisonburg Virginia. I have been at WHSV since 2010. Not only do I forecast the weather 5 days a week, but I also report on weather related stories in the local area.

I was raised in Connecticut but I have lived in many areas along the east coast. My weather career actually sprung from my previous job with Chili’s restaurants. I worked for Chili’s for 12 years where I started bartending when I was 18. I started traveling for the company a few years later as part of the New Store Opening Team. I did over 40 openings in the 6 years that I traveled. It was on those openings where I got caught in several (7) hurricanes and therefore my passion for weather was finally acknowledged. It was always there, but it didn’t really hit me until that point. I had a lot of help along the way, and I interned at WJHL in Johnson City Tennessee. It was there that I learned so much about being on-air. I also credit my years of training at Chili’s, as helping me have the courage and confidence to stand up every day in front of a camera.

I love my career choice, and fell lucky every day to have found a job I truly love. Outside of work I love to still travel, hike, and I enjoy seeing all the history that surrounds this beautiful country. My boyfriend and I love watching history shows, I enjoy cooking, running, and just being outside.

Rick SmithRick Smith

I was born and raised in Olive Branch, Mississippi, just south of Memphis, and have been into weather for as long as I can remember. There wasn’t really a single event that sparked my interest in weather, just a combination of intense fear and intense fascination with tornadoes and severe weather. I’ve wanted to be a meteorologist since forever, and I am truly blessed to be able to do what I love…and get paid to do it!

I’m one of the few and the proud to receive a degree from the very short-lived meteorology program at the University of Memphis. While finishing up college, I worked as a Student Volunteer, and then got a paid student position and eventually a full time meteorologist intern position at my hometown NWS office in Memphis. In 1997, I moved to Tulsa, OK to be a forecaster, and moved again in 1999 to work in the NWS Southern Region headquarters in Fort Worth. I was selected to be the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at NWS Norman – my dream job – in January of 2002, and I’ve been here ever since.

While tornadoes got me into weather, my main interests have always been associated with communication of weather information, human response to warnings and the societal impacts of severe weather. I’ve been active (probably too active) in social media since 2009 and am fascinated with learning about how people and organizations use weather information to make critical decisions.

I’m married to a beautiful and patient wife who puts up with all the craziness that weather in Oklahoma can bring, and we have four awesome kids.

Dr. John ScalaDr. John Scala

The decision process that eventually convinced me to pursue a career in meteorology was anything but direct. I was not one of those who witnessed a tornado or a snowstorm or a hurricane and found a life-long passion to pursue. Don’t misunderstand me, I was interested in weather but more accurately, I was interested in science. Thunderstorms intrigued me as a kid; I would watch them for as long as I could, staying up late at night counting the flashes. Yet, a career in the field never occurred to me until graduate school. Up to that point, I was convinced that a PhD in paleontology, spending hours in the field collecting fossils and teaching would be my career of choice.

I decided to change my academic focus upon completion of my master’s research which focused on the character of the beach soils that lined the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. In 1987, I joined a multi-national team funded by NASA to examine the impact of deforestation on deep convection in the Amazon Rain Forest. The Project Scientist for the study was Mike Garstang, a Tropical Meteorologist who convinced me the data we would collect over the Amazon would be meteorological “gold.” That collaboration led to a post-doc at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 1990 where I worked with Joanne Simpson in the Laboratory for Atmospheres. Joanne is the first woman to earn a PhD in Meteorology. Her husband, Bob, was the first director of the National Hurricane Center and co-founder of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. My time at NASA fed my interest in field research, particularly flying in close proximity to storms.

I embarked on a career in academia in 1995, this time teaching meteorology at the State University of New York College at Brockport. I continued to fly into bad weather including lake effect snow over Lake Michigan. I joined The Weather Channel in 1998 as their Meteorological Training Coordinator and then as their first on-air Storm Analyst. I provided live coverage of the historic Great Plains tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, the August 11, 1999 Salt Lake City F2 and the Fort Worth F3 tornado of March 28, 2000.

I accepted an academic job at Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 2002 where I held a tenure-track appointment and served as the Associate Director of Millersville’s Center for Disaster Research and Education. I left academia for good in 2005 and joined the Storm Team at WGAL-TV covering the weather for central Pennsylvania. I spend most of my time now as a private weather consultant preparing expert opinions for criminal and civil litigation including cases of personal injury, questionable death, storm-related damage and insurance fraud. I maintain a close working relationship with the National Weather Service by collaborating on research projects designed to improve operational forecasting as well as assisting in site surveys of tornado and severe storm damage.

It is a privilege to join the Frontal Lobe of WeatherBrains!