National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

1. How did you become interested in meteorology?

I have always had an interest or fascination with weather. I don't ever recall being scared of storms, and truthfully, more times than not, recall being yelled at by my father to get into the house when storms approached. If there was an event that cemented the fact that this is what I wanted to do for a career, it was the June 3, 1980 Grand Island, NE tornado event. 7 tornadoes, with 3 of them being "wrong-way" or anti-cyclonic tornadoes, did it for me. I was 13 years old, and I needed to know more 

2. What led you to a career in the National Weather Service (NWS)?

When I was attending college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I heard about a student CO-OP program where you could work for the National Weather Service for 8 months, go back to school for 4 months, back to the NWS for 8 months, back to school for 4 months, graduate, and have a job waiting for you. I applied for the program and was accepted.

I had 2 choices: I could go to work in Boulder at the Environmental Resource Laboratory, or at the Techniques Development Laboratory (TDL; now Meteorological Development Laboratory) in Silver Spring, MD. I chose TDL and worked there for 8 months. For my second 8 months tour, I was able to get a transfer to the Omaha Weather Forecast Office. When I graduated, I was placed into an Intern position in Rapid City. 

3. What is it about the NWS that makes you want to work here?

Our mission of "protection of life and property". The folks I get to work with are some of the most talented and dedicated there are, and they understand that what we do matters and that we make a difference in people's lives.  

4. What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a Meteorologist in Charge (MIC)?

Of all the positions that I have had in the NWS, this is by far the toughest one. By that, I mean that it is one that will push you out of your comfort zone into areas that will catch you by surprise. It will force you to take action on matters that you may have at one time thought were incomprehensible. These moments will arrive, perhaps a year or two into the job, maybe on day 2, but they will arrive.

My advice to those who want to become an MIC would be learn how to breathe and stay calm during those "moments". When you apply for MIC positions, your decision-making and leadership skills are what will get you the job. Being able to clearly communicate your vision is a must. Lastly, those around you are what make the difference. They are the ones who enable you to breathe and stay calm. When they say "we got this", then the job becomes the most rewarding as well. 

5. How did you end up in Rapid City?

When the MIC position opened up, I talked to my family about the job and how I would like to apply for it. I mentioned that my main goal was to get to the interview so that I had some idea of what the MIC interview process was like. Rapid City is a hidden gem; I knew it would be competitive, so I wasn't planning on much after my interview. The adage, "Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it" hit me when I got the call that I was selected. This is the location where I started my post-college career, though, so it was a circle right back to where I started. We had friends here and knew the area, so it worked out well.  

6. What is the most memorable weather event you've experienced?

I can't keep this to a single event, as there were 2 so close together that I have a tough time separating them. I was a new Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) at the Aberdeen, SD Weather Forecast Office (less than a year in the position) when the May 22, 2010 EF-4 Bowdle, SD tornado occurred. This was the first EF-4 tornado that I was going to be doing the lead damage survey on. I saw damage that I had never experienced before, and it was where I met Tim Samaras and Carl Young. I needed to call more experienced WCMs to get their opinion on damage and estimated wind speeds. I am convinced that had the tornado actually hit the town, it may have done EF-5 damage.

Then, a month later, we got a call that the little town of Vivian had received large hail. Normally, we don't do damage surveys for large hail; however, we had also received a report of tornadic damage to a hunting lodge nearby, close to the town of Reliance, so I went. The EM for Lyman County heard that a gentleman by the name of Les Scott in Vivian had some "huge" hail, so we went to find Les. The stories I heard, and the damage I saw, were eye opening. I also have never before uttered the words "I've seen bigger hail" after being handed grapefruit sized hail. The rest, as they say, is hail history with a US-record weight and diameter hailstone.

7. What are your interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I love to tinker on anything with an engine, whether it be lawnmowers or vehicles. I love cars, especially old muscle cars. I enjoy time spent with family, either camping, playing games, or just hanging out with my wife and daughters. I enjoy road trips and seeing scenery that I haven't seen before.  

8. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Good Lord willing, retired or very, very close to being so.