The Predictor

David Andra is meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Norman. Raised in Kansas, the variety of weather in the plains sparked Andra’s interest in meteorology. He attended the University of Oklahoma and has worked for the NWS since 1987.

The most important function of the National Weather Service is the protection of life and the safety of citizens. It can be protection and safety from winter storms, ice storms, blizzards or tornadoes. (As meteorologist in charge), I’ll likely be out there working, keeping my eye on the pulse of the storm, but I also coordinate with federal agencies as well as those across the state. I also handle the administrative part to make sure we follow the rules and that people get paid.

I think I’ve been best suited in the science and technology route (of meteorology) and have appreciated the opportunity. I’m glad the meteorologists in Oklahoma have a lot of notoriety, because they are an important way that people get information. There have been lots of big tornadoes, but not nearly as many fatalities as there could have been because of the notoriety of the media and (on-air) meteorologists.

I guess I’d not use the word “exciting” necessarily, but fast-paced decisions like tornado warnings definitely get the adrenaline going. Storms form quickly, and tornadoes can come on in minutes, so much like a fireman with a large building fire or a doctor with a heart attack patient, there’s a lot of adrenaline associated with tornado events in Oklahoma.

Technologies have changed over the past couple of decades. Across the nation, Doppler radar has been one of the most important technologies to come along. The explosion in computer technology has helped to combine workstations in the office, plus super computers can run models of atmospheric conditions. Several systems have been upgraded, and we have more advanced sets of software. Doppler radar network is almost 20 years old, and it’s been retrofitted with new kinds of data to tell us about precipitation. One of the most important things (in advancements) is the continued growth of computer technology, which allows us to produce more accurate forecasts.

We are beginning to gear up for springtime operations with back-up tests and getting ready to go. There’s a role for citizens of Oklahoma to play in thinking about what you’re going to do if there’s a tornado watch, what will you do? Where will you go and what will you do? It’s better to think about what you will do before you do it.