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2016 Severe Weather Symposium

Welcome to the 2016 Douglas County, Kansas Severe Weather Symposium page. This is an annual event held each Spring.

Welcome to the 2016 Douglas County, Kansas Severe Weather Symposium page. This page will contain basic information and links to past events.

Basic Information

Saturday, March 5th in the Ballroom at KU Memorial Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS

Doors will open for Registration at 7:30AM.

The 16th Annual Severe Weather Symposium is a day of training designed to provide instruction in advanced storm development, spotter safety, and the importance of spotter reports. The presentations will include incredible storm videos, experts in the field from the public and private sectors, and will conclude with a Panel discussion with the presenters, National Weather Service meteorologists, and local television meteorologists.

Mark your calendar and make plans to join meteorologists, emergency managers, amateur radio operators, storm spotters and weather enthusiasts on March 5th from 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. in the Ballroom of the KU Memorial Union (1301 Jayhawk Blvd.) in Lawrence, Kansas.

Information on the schedule, speaker bios, and panel discussion participants.


  7:30 a.m.: Registration Begins (Refreshments will be available)

  8:15 a.m.: Welcome and Announcements

  8:30 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.: Bryan Baerg and Kris Sanders, Event Review of the 6 May 2015 Tornado Outbreak in North-Central Kansas and South-Central Nebraska

  9:30 a.m. – 10:25 a.m.: Dr. Ariel Cohen, A Day in the Life of a Storm Prediction Center Forecaster

 10:35 a.m. – 11:25 a.m.: Nick Bender, Best Practices For Tornado Emergency Situations - Experiences from May 19, 20 & 31, 2013

 11:25 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.:  Lunch

 12:20 p.m. – 1:10 p.m.: Dr. Chad Gravelle, Observing the Initiation and Development of Convection in the GOES-R Era

  1:20 p.m. - 2:10 p.m.: Brandon Ivey, Fall Tornadoes - The 2nd Season

  2:20 p.m. - 3:10 p.m.: 1st Lt. Glenn Harrison, Military Forecasting: At Home and at War

  3:15 p.m.: Panel Discussion (Includes our speakers and local Integrated Warning Team Members)


Bryan Baerg and Kris Sanders, NWS TopekaKris SandersBryan Baerg

Event Review of the 6 May 2015 Tornado Outbreak in North-Central Kansas and South-Central Nebraska

Bryan Baerg is a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, KS. He grew up in the central Kansas town of McPherson. His love for weather grew throughout his childhood as he became fascinated with the extreme severe weather in the central plains. Bryan’s love for weather turned into a career path as he attended and graduated from The University of Kansas in December of 2015, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Atmospheric Science. His National Weather Service employment began in the spring of 2015 when was hired as a Pathways Student Intern (formerly known as the SCEP program) with the forecast office in Topeka, Kansas. Upon graduation, Bryan was converted to his current position as a Meteorologist Intern.

Kris Sanders grew up in St. Louis, MO, where he became interested in weather at a young age. His interest then turned into a desire to learn more about meteorology. Kris attended Saint Louis University and earned a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology in 2010. That summer he began his graduate research, which was a composite analysis of the synoptic and mesoscale patterns associated with major ice storms in the central U.S. While working on his graduate degree he became a part-time employee at the NWS St. Louis, MO, where he was able to gain valuable experience working with operational forecasters. Kris completed his Masters of Science in Meteorology in 2012, and then transferred to the NWS Topeka, KS where he now serves as a full-time meteorologist.

Kris came to the Central Plains to learn more about and experience the extreme weather that is common in this region. One way he improves his understanding of severe weather forecasting and storm behavior is by chasing storms and photographing their structure. He also continues to conduct operational relevant research and has successfully authored a peer-review publication of the major ice storm research from graduate school. Aside from that research Kris has participated in Hail Spatial and Temporal Observation Network Effort (HailSTONE), a field project designed to create high spatial and temporal hail-fall resolutions by collecting real-time in situ hail measurements.

Dr. Chad Gravelle, NOAA/NWS Operations Proving GroundDr. Chad Gravelle

Observing the Initiation and Development of Convection in the GOES-R Era

For the last four years, Chad has been the Science Coordinator and GOES-R Satellite Liaison for the National Weather Service Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, MO where he leads the transition of GOES-R products into NWS Forecast Office operations. He has a B.S. degree in meteorology from the State University of New York at Brockport and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in meteorology from Saint Louis University. Chad’s Ph.D. research developed a methodology to objectively identify conceptual model false alarms to distinguish statistically significant features in Northeast U.S. heavy snow events. While at Saint Louis University, he was the lead developer of the CIPS Analog Guidance which is utilized by NWS Forecast Offices as a hazard-based forecaster support resource. Chad is a member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association where is a member of the Weather, Analysis and Forecasting (WAF) Committee and facilitates the WAF Master Class during the NWA annual meeting.

Brandon Ivey, Storm Chasing Tour, LLC.

Fall Tornadoes - The 2nd SeasonBrandon Ivey

Brandon Ivey is all too familiar with severe weather and tornadoes. Born and raised in Kansas, severe storms were just part of every spring. Brandon became interested in storms at a young age. He began chasing storms during his teenage years, while still in high school. He tracked down his first tornado on May 25th, 1997 at the age of 16. He got within a few miles of the small, short lived tornado south of Burton, Kansas. In 2007, Brandon completed his degree in Meteorology through Mississippi State University. He became a part of the Discovery series “StormChasers” in 2009 and worked with the program through the 2011 storm season. He also worked with IMAX filmmaker Sean Casey from 2009 through 2013 as a meteorologist and navigator for the tornado intercept vehicle, or TIV2. During his time with TIV2, he was able to successfully place the vehicle in the path of several tornadoes, most notably a violent rain-wrapped tornado on May 27th, 2013. Brandon was able to strategically place the vehicle in and around storms to collect IMAX footage for the movie “Tornado Alley”, which was released in IMAX theaters across the world in 2011. This will be Brandon’s 20th season out tracking down supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes. Brandon started his own storm chasing tour company in 2015. Visit his web site at for tour information and live streaming video when he is out chasing storms.

Nick Bender, KMBC

Best Practices For Tornado Emergency Situations - Experiences from May 19, 20 & 31, 2013

Most meteorologists can recall a certain experience that was the catalyst for their passion of weather. Nick Bender has no such story. Simply put, he was born loving it!

Bender received his Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University, and he began his career as a Broadcast Meteorologist in 2006. While a native of Pennsylvania, Nick is no stranger to the Plains having worked in some of the most challenging weather markets in the country. He has previously held positions at KWTV News 9 in Oklahoma City, OK, KOTV News on 6 in Tulsa, OK and KVII Pronews 7 in Amarillo, TX.

During his career, he has experienced the full force of Mother Nature's wrath: mile-wide tornadoes, historic blizzards, inundating floods, paralyzing dust storms and destructive wildfires.

In 2010, he was part of the largest and most ambitious scientific field experiment in history, VORTEX2, to help further the understanding of tornado formation and increase tornado warn time.

Nick tracked and relayed life-saving information from SkyNews9 during the May 24, 2011 Tornado Outbreak, as he watched a mile-wide, EF5 tornado tear a path of destruction perilously close to the towns of El Reno and Piedmont Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's severe weather season of 2013 saw unprecedented tornado outbreaks. During this violent 12-Day stretch, an EF5 tornado (winds estimated 200-210 mph) devastated the town of Moore, OK, and a record-setting 2.6 mile-wide EF5 tornado (measured winds of at least 295 mph) scoured the land mere miles west of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Nick and his team were awarded a Heartland Regional Emmy for their coverage of the Moore, OK EF5 Tornado.

In his free time, Nick and his wife enjoy being very active in their local church community. They’re also avid runners and foodies - the two go hand! Nick also loves to hear people’s stories, and would like for you to share them with him. Whether it’s face-to-face, email or social media, don’t be afraid to reach out to him!

First Lieutenant Glenn Harrison, United States Air Force

Military Forecasting: At Home and at War1st Lt Glenn Harrison

1st Lt Glenn W. Harrison is the OIC of Brigade Combat Team Weather Operations, Detachment 2, 3d Weather Squadron, Fort Riley, Kansas.  In this capacity 1st Lt Harrison helps lead a detachment of battlefield weather airmen fusing weather with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division operations, garrison’s plans and training efforts, and airfield operations. He ensures Airmen maintain a high state of readiness to forward to deploy with frontline Army units as well as leads deployed weather teams in support of Army operations.  Finally, 1st Lt Harrison steers weather over watch of Fort Riley’s Area of Operations, equipment and personnel while serving as a weather advisor to an aviation brigade, two brigade combat teams and the 1st Infantry Division’s 2-star Commanding general and staff.       
1st Lt Harrison enlisted in the Air Force as a Weather Forecaster Apprentice in Aug. 2002 after which he attended the Weather Forecaster Apprentice School graduating in March 2003.  He attended Wayland Baptist University via distance learning and received his commission through Officer Training School in Feb. 2013.  Prior to his current position, the Lieutenant served as an Observer Coach Mentor at the National Training Center, 12th Combat Training Squadron, Fort Irwin, Calif.

1st Lt Harrison deployed 3 times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

Dr. Ariel Cohen, Storm Prediction Center

Dr. Ariel CohenA Day in the Life of a Storm Prediction Center Forecaster

Dr. Ariel Cohen is a Mesoscale Assistant/Fire Weather Forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.  He has worked as a forecaster at the SPC for the past five years, and recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology.  His dissertation is entitled “Southeast U.S. Cold Season Severe Thunderstorm Environments and Their Depictions Using Multiple Planetary Boundary Layer Parameterization Schemes.”  Previously, he received his M.S. in Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma in 2008 and his B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in 2006.  Before becoming a forecaster at the SPC, he worked as a General Forecaster at the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Great Falls, Montana and Jackson, Mississippi, and he was also a Surface Analyst at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.  In addition to forecasting, he is involved in a variety of research projects, including southeast United States cold season severe weather environments and related modeling, along with deep convection occurring during the United States monsoon pattern.  He has also published research on Gulf of California gale-wind events, mesoscale convective system severity, violent tornado environments, synoptic-scale patterns associated with tropical-cyclone tornadoes, and south-Florida flash flooding.  He is teaching the second iteration of a graduate-level course at the University of Oklahoma that he developed, where Storm Prediction Center and other National Weather Service staff members are presenting on their areas of expertise to OU students.

Panel Discussion Participants

Bryan Busby, KMBC

Joe Lauria, Fox 4

Matt Miller, KSNT

Chris Suchan, KCTV5

When and Where


  • $15 fee per person
  • Accepted forms of payment are cash, check, or money order. Checks and money orders should be made payable to "Douglas County Emergency Management" or "DCEM". All payments should be brought to the registration table.

Douglas County Emergency Management would like to give a special thanks to:


KU Public Safety
KU Public Safety Logo

Wyandotte County Emergency Management

Wyandotte County Emergency Management Logo

TFM Communications

TFM Communications Logo


Blue Valley Public Safety

Civil Air Patrol

Detachment 2, 3d Weather Squadron (Ft. Riley)

Happy Shirt Printing

KSU Mesonet

National Weather Service Topeka

Storm Chase Tour, LLC.

Become a Sponsor or Vendor

For more information on becoming a Sponsor or a Vendor, please contact Jillian Rodrigue.

You can contact us at:

  • Douglas County Kansas Emergency Management Department
  • 111 E. 11th Street, 2nd level (Unit 200), Lawrence, Kansas 66044
  • Phone: (785) 832-5259
  • Fax: 785-832-5101
  • Email: