Future meteorologist visits Doug Heady on May 22 - KOAM TV 7

Future meteorologist from San Diego visits Doug Heady and arrives just hours before May 22 tornado



Since the May 22 tornado we have had so much to tell you about what's going on out there, we haven't had much time to tell you what's been going on in here - at the TV station. But we know one particular behind-the-scenes story that was so amazing we have to share it.

It is the story of an unlikely convergence of a moment in history and a glimpse into the future. It involves a seasoned meteorologist and a young weather forecaster in training from half a continent away.

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His story was remarkable even before he left San Diego, California: A 13 year old seventh grade boy who had been a weather fanatic for as long as his parents could remember.

Chad Crilley had become known at a San Diego TV station, where he got to practice his forecasting skills.

But Chad found San Diego's weather to be a bit too tame.

So months before tornado season Chad contacted a number of TV meteorologists working in Tornado Alley trying to arrange a visit.

One meteorologist responded - KOAM Chief Meteorologist Doug Heady.

"The main reason is when I was a kid there was a meteorologist in Kansas City - who's still there, Brian Busby - who helped me out," Doug explains.  "He always let me come down to the station when I was a kid.  So in return, I felt like I should do the same".

Around the first of May Doug chose a date that seemed to hold the potential for severe weather.  Chad and his mother would arrive in Joplin that afternoon - Sunday May 22.

"It was a very bumpy landing," Chad says.  "I could definitely tell the atmosphere was unstable and ripe for thunderstorms".

As Chad and his mom arrived at the Joplin airport they didn't know that Doug had already been on air with periodic weather bulletins.

They checked into their hotel room then went to Applebee's for dinner.

At about the same time Doug's warnings became urgent.

"About 5:30 on Sunday the 22nd we realized there was one on the ground so at that time we went wall-to-wall coverage," Doug says.

"And at that time we went out and we saw this wall of rain - I thought it was a band of rain coming toward us - I found out later it was a wedge tornado - large, I thought 'oh my goodness' - some person told us we need to go back in the kitchen," Chad says.  "And all of a sudden it just hit.  And from that point on we came out and everything was gone - but Applebee's and our hotel."

Chad began documenting what he saw using his laptop to send images back to his friends in San Diego.

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Over the next two days, Chad and his mother were at our TV station.  Chad was frequently just off camera as our news and weather teams reported on the aftermath of the deadliest tornado in modern US history.

More severe weather rumbled through each day.

On the Tuesday night after the Sunday tornado Chad's mother took a few photos of Chad with us in the studio.  One also shows a radar image of what was happening outside at that moment - their last night here before returning to sunny San Diego.

"We actually had another tornado warning which went right over the exact same area but  thankfully it just had a funnel cloud with it, and then Chad and his mom left right when that storm passed - they shot down to the hotel they were staying at before the next round of storms moved in that night," says Doug.

With that, the meteorologist of the future left as he arrived - in a whirlwind.

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Chad's story would be almost beyond belief even if it were to end here.

But we suspect there's more to come, maybe in 15 or 20 or 30 years when Meteorologist Chad Crilley is on the job somewhere in Tornado Alley, when he has to tell a community a tornado is coming, and he remembers a lesson he learned in Joplin, Missouri back in the spring of 2011.

"Probably the biggest thing I learned was to take weather more seriously.  In my opinion, weather was more of a fun joke because I lived in San Diego.  I used to love the thunderstorms we'd get every two years, but you know, once this came through I kind of learned that people can get hurt from these big storms, and seeing it in person is very scary".

Chad and his mom are both now involved in fundraiser's in San Diego to help the people of Joplin.

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