A conversation with Bowser on National Weather Service

Date: 2021-09-21 22:30:00

Felecia Bowser, who grew up in East County, N.J., is warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) Jackson office, located in Flowood. She works as a liaison for the weather service, educating the public about the weather, supplying information about preparing for severe weather and providing briefings for state officials when there is impactful weather.

She received a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science from Penn State University and a master’s degree in atmospheric science at Texas Tech University. She started off in the Student Career Employment Program at the NWS in Lubbock, Texas and in 17 years has worked her way up to her current position.

Weather captured her attention early on.

“Since I was kid, I’ve always been interested in the weather,” she said. “It started when my parents gave me a weather book when I was seven years old.”

What does the National Weather Service do?

“We forecast the weather for seven days. We’re more present-based versus long-term based.”

What is responsible for extreme weather in various parts of the country? 

“As far as extremes, there are lots of things that contribute to that. This is the time of year where there are fires out West, and this is the time of year where we experience hurricanes. You have to look at many years of data to determine if there is change. The Climate Prediction Center, which falls under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, studies hundreds of years of data.”

Are weather disasters on the rise?

“A lot of people think we are having more tornadoes than usual. It may feel that way but not necessarily. We may be hearing about more because the population is denser and because of advances in technology such as smart phones where people can record videos.”

What is this hurricane season predicted to be like?

“The National Hurricane Center predicted an above average hurricane season. On average we have from seven to 10 named storms. The National Hurricane Center is predicting 15-21 named storms, and we are already at the lower end with 14 named storms. Several of them have been out in the Atlantic Ocean and not impactful, but we have had Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Nicholas.”

How should someone in the Jackson area treat the news of a pending tropical storm or hurricane compared to someone who lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?

“You can’t think your experience with a tropical storm or hurricane is going to be the same every time. Some storms will have more impact, some less. I tell people along the coast that they should have a plan for where they plan to go inland, especially if it looks like a strong to significant hurricane will hit.

“Those of us inland can have power outages because of a storm and should be prepared, too. I tell people to ensure that they have all their medicines, take money out of the ATM so they have cash in case the power goes out and the ATMs don’t work, gas up all of your vehicles, buy nonperishable food and get plenty of water. If you have a generator, make sure you know how to use it properly. If you expect your home to flood, have important documents with you so they aren’t destroyed.”

Do you think the Jackson area will experience another cold winter like it did this year?

“On average in the Jackson metro area, we don’t have winter storms, ice storms like in Chicago. If the air mass is cold enough and a low-pressure system comes close enough, it will produce extreme temperatures. Everything lined up just right last winter. We probably won’t see that for another five or six or seven years, not for a while. It’s just not our typical winter weather.”

 

How is the weather forecast?

“Forecasting the weather involves looking at computer model data and interpreting it for things we’ve seen before. Weather pattern recognition helps ensure an accurate forecast.

“The National Weather Service produces forecasts twice a day. One is before 4 p.m. and one is at 4 a.m. There’s somebody at the office 24/7. We never close. The weather never stops.”

How can someone with a cell phone document the weather?

“They can record what they see and put it on our social media sites. What helps with something such as a photo of a hail stone is to put the hail stone next to something like a ball, so we have an idea of the size. Tornado videos are helpful, too. The photos and videos confirm our forecasts.”

Where is a good place to get up-to-date weather information?

“You can go to www.weather.gov/jan/ and get the latest updated information. We’re on Facebook at NWSJacksonMS and on Twitter at NWS Jackson MS.”

Do you prefer a day with active or less active weather?

“I prefer a day when there’s no weather event. I don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

What’s your best weather memory?

“In graduate school, I chased tornadoes in New Mexico with my colleagues. I remember it was getting dark, we were getting a little lost and, finally, we were able to spot the tornado and get away from it. It took all day. I don’t have time now to chase tornadoes. I thought it was awesome, but you definitely have to be careful.”

What advice do you have for a student considering the field of meteorology?

“They would need to like math and sciences. Those are the two big areas that you would study.”

What’s rewarding about your career?

“I like being a public servant and being able to give back to the community where I live and save lives. I don’t know of anything better than that.”




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