Students from Southwick School were treated to a presentation from meteorologist Kevin Skarupa last week. To thank him for his visit, Olivia Dill, Hannah McCain and Madison McLelland presented him with a banner and a tee shirt from the school. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
February 15, 2012NORTHFIELD — He introduced himself as a "weather geek," but WMUR-TV's Kevin Skarupa was more of a "weather god" to the boys and girls of Southwick School when the meteorologist stopped by last week to tell them some interesting facts about Mother Nature and all her wonders.
Skarupa began by telling them he was lucky to have the job he did, not because he gets to be on television, but for the simple fact that he loves the science of meteorology.
"I never had any intention of being on TV when I chose this field. I'd be just as happy working at the Manchester or Boston airports," he said.
Predicting the weather is a science that is still developing, and he admitted weathermen are not perfect, due to a number of strange occurrences that crop up from time to time.
The past six years, Skarupa said, have been especially active and unpredictable. He cited the flooding of 2005, the unusual October Nor'easter of just a few months ago, the record snowfall and ice storm that paralyzed the state in 2008, and the tornado that hit in July of that same year.
"This winter has not been normal, either," said Skarupa.
He told the students he is up daily at 1:30 in the morning to head to the weather center at WMUR, where he studies as many as 100 maps on a bank of six computers. From there, he puts together his forecast and goes on air to tell the viewers what they can expect throughout the day, and even in the days ahead.
"I don't have a script like the news anchors do. I just talk and tell everyone what the weather will be," he said.
Using a slide presentation, he showed the boys and girls how they can look to the sky and get a sense of what weather may be coming. Clouds, he said, tell a lot. Puffy cumulus clouds are an indicator of fair weather, while low stratus clouds mean precipitation is coming.
"You don't want to wake up and see stratus clouds on a Saturday morning if you have outdoor plans for the day because the chance is there for rain, snow or sleet," he explained.
Cirrus clouds, he told the students, are the highest clouds in the sky, and move about a day ahead of approaching storms. These clouds are what can create the red skies at sunset. A halo around the moon in the night sky is also an indicator that "big changes in the weather are coming." Christopher Columbus, Skarupa said, looked for signs such as these on his journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
Skarupa said New Hampshire has all forms of weather possible. The students were especially interested in the 2008 tornado, and he explained that it was a most unusual weather event for many reasons. While New Hampshire can experience an average of two tornadoes a year, most are over before he can even get on television to tell people about them. That particular tornado, however, was on the round for a distance of 50 miles, and was on the ground from approximately 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. It was not visible because it was a "rain-wrapped" tornado, which is also rare.
"It was an amazing storm for anywhere. You don't get many 50 mile track storms like that," Skarupa said.
Students had numerous questions for the meteorologist on topics like the blue screen he stands in front of for his forecast, who decides what is broadcast each day, how much more snow there is to come and if he had ever made a mistake while on air.
"There aren't enough fingers and toes in this room to count my mistakes," he laughed.
Skarupa was presented with a large banner thanking him for coming to Southwick School along with a tee shirt, both of which he proudly displayed the next morning during his 6:15 broadcast. Students who got up early last Friday morning were also able to see themselves on television when Skarupa showed a video clip of them, which he filmed after his presentation. In his quest to visit 100 schools this year, Southwick School was number 40.