Families flooded the Cape Fear Museum on Saturday, June 21 for the fifth annual Stormfest, an all-day event focused on teaching severe weather awareness and preparedness.
The event catered to all ages, with hands-on crafts for the children as well as educational presentations by local meteorologists.
Eric Davis from WECT News Channel 6 spoke about the lessons learned from damaging hurricanes like Hazel, Hugo and Floyd, while Jerry Jackson of WWAY News Channel 3 addressed the 2011 tornado outbreak and the historic snowstorm of 1989.
Volunteers were on hand to program weather radios, while booths nearby provided information about the emergency response efforts of the American Red Cross and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
It was clear, however, Stormfest was an event aimed at inspiring and educating children and newcomers to the Wilmington region. Throughout the museum, arts and crafts were interspersed with fun, weather-related activities.
“I like the hands-on stuff, when they do that stuff they really learn,” said Sally Mayes, whose children, Larkin and Samuel, experimented with pouring blue water into shaving cream to represent clouds filling with rain.
The second floor of the museum focused on educating the public about wind.
“Wind is something that people don’t really understand — what it is and where it comes from — so these activities help,” museum educator Pepper Hill said.
In one room, guests blew air onto an anemometer and learned about the different categories of hurricanes. Another room was filled with interactive stations that explained the process of tracking weather from space, as well as a 5-foot cyclone simulator provided by the National Weather Service.
One of the highlights for children, parents and volunteers was the meteorologists’ green screen. WECT’s Ashlea Kosikowski operated the camera so that the kids could deliver their own forecasts while watching themselves on television.
“It’s important, being able to see other types of professions … it’s not just getting on camera, there’s a lot of work that goes into it, and understanding the weather as well,” Amatullah Lee said, while watching her son Johnathan read the seven-day forecast.
“It’s going to rain this weekend, so you better not go outside,” Johnathan ad-libbed, prompting applause and laughter from Kosikowski and meteorologist Iisha Scott.
Stormfest’s learning environment brought families together with their local news stations, a relationship that WECT/WSFX creative services director David Toma said is very important.
“We want to make sure we are out in the community, doing that outreach to help make sure that people know how to stay safe,” Toma said. “They’re our viewers, our customers. Research shows that when severe weather hits, they turn to local broadcasting.”
In addition to educating children, Toma said the event inspires many children to come back year after year. For 9-year-old Mason Kellum, Stormfest fueled a passion that began years ago.
“I’ve actually been interested in [weather]since I was maybe 2 or 3 [years old],” Kellum said. “I’ve been watching all the weather stations since I was 3, and I like tracking the weather and telling people the weather.”
Kellum’s mother Jennifer added that when she went out of town recently, her son sent her the weather forecast every day to make sure she was properly dressed.
Meteorologist Jerry Jackson said his favorite part of the day was watching kids like Kellum learn and have fun. As he stood near the green screen, helping children deliver the weather forecast, he acknowledged there might be a few future meteorologists at the event.
“I better watch my job!” Jackson laughed.