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Eyes to the Sky
Byline info is not available
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 11:00 AM
Chris Phillips has wanted to be a weather forecaster since he was a young child drawing weather patterns on a whiteboard. Today, Phillips works with a team of burgeoning meteorologists. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Phillips’ team produces content online, with a website at www.weatherpulseonline.com; a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WeatherPulse; and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/wxpulse. WeatherPulse also has a smart phone application that can be found on the website.
In addition to new media, Phillips is also training for the more traditional television broadcasts. Phillips is seen here practicing his skills in front of a green screen at the WDRB 41 news station in Louisville. (Photo provided by WDRB 41)
Childhood career plans do not always spawn into actual pursuits.
But that is the case for Chris Phillips, a local aspiring weather forecaster, who remembers mimicking on-air meteorologists and drawing made-up weather patterns on a whiteboard when he was very young.
"I was scared of storms when I was little, and then something happened to where I thought it was interesting and something I wanted to learn more about," he said.
He did just that.
Phillips, now 21, co-runs the website www.weatherpulseonline.com and is a continuous source for weather information for thousands of area residents. He graduated from Madison Consolidated High School in 2010, and is working full time at MainSource Bank while studying meteorology full time at Indiana University Southeast.
Through the website, he gives weather updates through Twitter, Facebook, PINterest and mobile applications. His website also has the capability to broadcast live during severe weather.
"Even if it's 2 o'clock in the morning, I'm up tracking the storm," Phillips said.
His days are filled with school, work, homework and his home-based weather station, but his operation started out small. In high school, he began checking for weather updates and calling each person, mostly family members, to deliver the forecast.
"I was calling 15 people a day telling them what the weather was going to do because I had nothing better to do," he said. "Then, I got it off the weather (broadcasts). But I taught myself a lot later on about computer models and how to read them on my own."
With his phone calls and steady updates, Phillips soon became a source for all things weather-related for his family and friends at school. So much, in fact, that he decided to start a website to reach a wider audience.
The website included a blog, which gained attention from Louisville meteorologists when Phillips correctly predicted that a winter storm system would produce 10 to 12 inches of snow. Other forecasts showed a modest 2 to 4 inches from the same system.
After Phillips' spot-on prediction, former WAVE 3 meteorologist John Belski mentioned the website on his blog. The shout-out spiked an interest in the community.
"I was so tickled to death when John put something on his blog about us," he said. "Then, before you knew it, I had so many (website) views."
Since then, things have changed drastically, and he and his team are using more sophisticated equipment and attracting more and more followers every day. Phillips often reaches out to local meteorologists for guidance.
He credits Belski of WAVE 3 and Marc Weinberg, chief meteorologists at WBRD in Louisville, for encouraging him to learn more about computer models and radar data.
Phillips' website uses special 3-D radar, which allows him and the team of five to receive severe weather updates about 10 minutes before they are sent out.
The WeatherPulse team members are spread out in Jefferson County, Scottsburg, New Albany and Louisville. Phillips works from his home in Deputy using four different laptops to make updates and track weather systems.
The team uses advertising money and donations to fund the website, which they update at any time through the use of mobile devices and social media. Phillips said websites like Facebook and Twitter are at the forefront for weather updates and alerts, as are mobile alerts and applications.
"Social media is where it's going to be at," Phillips said of the future of the business. "And we're a really mobile group, and we can do all of this off our cell phones if we have to."
A testament to that was during the deadly tornadoes March 2. During the storms, the WeatherPulse team broadcast live with updates and storm footage. After the event, Phillips said viewers reported that they had watched the team's entire broadcast on their cell phones while seeking cover in their basements.
The storm, which tested their skills and efficiency, also tested their nerves for the business. Phillips visited Henryville the day after the tornado to help with the cleanup and recovery.
"That was intense for me," Phillips said. "It was hard predicting that, and then actually having that happen, and then going down there to see it.
"You predict tornadoes to happen, but you don't predict a whole town to get demolished," he said.
Phillips, who is on his way to a career as a weather forecaster, said he wants to stay in the area and become a broadcast meteorologist. Also, he said the Midwest sees some of the most fast-changing weather systems in America, which is a selling point for top-tier meteorologists.
"This is the most challenging area, and the most competitive market in the U.S.," he said. "This is where it's at because the weather is constantly changing all the time."
Weather Pulse Online
Weather Pulse Facebook
Weather Pulse Twitter
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