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2014 Severe Weather Symposium

Welcome to the 2014 Douglas County, Kansas Severe Weather Symposium page. This is an annual event held each Spring.

This page is for archival purposes only.

The Symposium is for Storm Spotters, but is open to the public. This day is designed to train and expand your knowledge in advanced storm development as well as spotter safety and responsibility. The presentations will include incredible storm videos; experts in the field from the National Weather Service and the private sector, and will include a Panel Discussion with local television meteorologists, guest speakers, and NWS meteorologists.

Speaker's Bureau:

Vendor Committee:

Advertising Committee:

Hospitality Committee:

  • Co-Chair - Paula Hladky
  • Co-Chair - Willard Epling
  • Kaelin Hall
  • Francisco Soto

Registration Committee:

  • Chair - Virginia Filardo
  • Patrick Kelly
  • Jessica Lebel
  • Brad Luchen

Facility Coordination:

  • Chair - Gary Crowe
  • George Penn

Personnel Support:

  • Chair - Mary Beth Hill
  • Scott Rutherford
  • Tyler Trigg
  • Justin Fronce

This amazing group is made of Douglas County Emergency Management Staff and Volunteers and KU Atmospheric Science Students!

7:30 - 8:15 a.m.: Registration and Check In
8:15 - 8:30 a.m.: Welcome and Announcements
8:30 - 9:20 a.m.: Mike Moritz, NWS Hastings: Developing a Game Plan: Understanding the Basics of Severe Weather Forecasting
9:20 - 9:30 a.m.: Break
9:30 - 10:20 a.m.: Kris Sanders, NWS Topeka: Developing a Game Plan: Understanding the Basics of Severe Weather Forecasting
10:20 - 10:30 a.m.: Break
10:30 - 11:20 a.m.: Les Boatright, KCP&L: The Impact of Solar Flares, Electromagnetic Pulses and Interference on Bulk Electric Systems
11:20 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Lunch
12:30 - 1:10 p.m.: Tom Wachs, KCTV5: Lessons Learned From the Moore, Oklahoma Tornado (A Firsthand Account)
1:10 - 1:15 p.m.: Break
1:15 - 2:05 p.m.: Al Pietrycha, NWS Kansas City: The Hidden, and Not So Hidden, Dangers Awaiting Mobile Storm Spotters
2:05 - 2:15 p.m.: Break
2:15 - 3:05 p.m.: Jim LaDue, Warning Decision Training Branch: Lessons Learned from the May 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes
3:05 - 3:15 p.m.: Break
3:15 - 3:55 p.m.: Panel Discussion
3:55 p.m.: Closing Remarks

Mike Moritz - NWS Hastings: "Developing a Game Plan: Understanding the Basics of Severe Weather Forecasting"
An Aurora, Nebraska native, Mike has always wanted to "tell people about the weather". Being a meteorologist was the only profession Mike ever considered. Mike begin his studies at the University of Oklahoma, where he worked at the National Severe Storms Laboratory for one year. He transferred back to the Nebraska and graduated with a B.S. in Meteorology/Climatology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While in college in Lincoln, Mike was the Weekend Weather-caster for the local CBS affiliate for 18 months. Mike also attended one year of graduate school at The University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Mike has been with the National Weather Service for nearly 21 years, and just over 4 years in his current capacity as Warning Coordination Meteorologist. He is responsible for customer and partner relations at all levels, including local, state and federal government agencies. He works closely with schools in severe weather education. Mike has been fortunate to attend and participate in many regional and national leadership workshops and educational seminars during his career. Mike is currently President of the University of Nebraska Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Alumni Board as well participating in several school and church related endeavors. Mike is married and the father of three boys, ages 15, 13 and 11.

Kris Sanders – NWS Topeka: "Event Review of the 28 May 2013 Northeast Kansas Tornadoes"
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.

Les Boatright - CEM, CBCP, MEP: "The Impact of Solar Flares, Electromagnetic Pulses and Interference on Bulk Electric Systems"
Les Boatright is currently the Sr. Enterprise Continuity Manager for KCP&L. He began his career with the company in 1983, spending nine years in the bargaining unit before moving into a management role as a Materials Analyst in Generation. After a six-month stint in a leadership development program, Les was assigned to lead the Materials group, repair shop and testing lab for the Delivery side of the business. After four years an opening occurred in the storm preparedness area and he was asked to take over the emergency response duties. Seven years later, KCP&L wanted someone to oversee the company's entire emergency planning effort. In 2012, Les established the Enterprise Continuity area. He is responsible for overseeing the company's emergency planning efforts, including exercise design and conduct, business continuity planning and pandemic planning. In addition, he works with the emergency management community at the local, county, state and federal level.

Les has a BS and an MBA from The University of Central Missouri. He is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) in the states of Missouri, Kansas and the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) through DRII and a Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) thru FEMA. He serves on the EEI Business Continuity Leadership Steering Committee and the Utility Planning Group. He is the President of the Partnership for Emergency Planning and treasurer of the Missouri Emergency Preparedness Association.

Tom Wachs – KCTV5: "Lessons Learned From the Moore, Oklahoma Tornado (A Firsthand Account)"
Tom Wachs is the weekend evening Meteorologist at KCTV5, the CBS affiliate in Kansas City. In addition to his on-air duties, Tom is also a storm chaser for the station.

Tom has worked in television for over 10 years, 6 of those in Kansas City. Prior to moving to Kansas City, Tom worked in northeast Tennessee as the weekend Meteorologist at WJHL-TV and before that was the Chief Meteorologist at KNOP-TV in North Platte, Nebraska. Tom attended both the University of Oklahoma and the University of Wisconsin.

Al Pietrycha – NWS Kansas City: "The Hidden, and Not So Hidden, Dangers Awaiting Mobile Storm Spotters"
Albert Pietrycha has been a meteorologist with the National Weather Service for over 12 years and is currently the Science and Operations Officer at the Kansas City, Missouri office. Al was awarded a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for his contributions integrating the Spotter Network into National Weather Service operations in order to track mobile spotters during critical weather events in 2009, and a National Weather Service Regional Excellence Award for providing onsite decision support services in 2011.

Al's area of interest lies within observational meteorology with emphasis on mesoscale and storm scale studies (e.g., tornadoes, supercell thunderstorms, hurricanes, convective initiation, snow bands, etc,). While earning his B.S. and M.S. in Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, respectively, Al was a principle, co-principle investigator, or field coordinator for several field projects; sub-VORTEX, MOCISE, STEPS, HAL, IHOP, and National Geographic Society 2000. In 2009 and 2010 Al also participated in VORTEX-2. Al currently serves as a board member for the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology and has also participated as an anonymous reviewer for the American Meteorology Society's Weather and Forecasting and the Journal of Climate.

In his spare time Al enjoys amateur radio, astronomy, photography, handcrafted beers, and racing homing pigeons.

Jim LaDue - NOAA's Warning Decision Training Branch: "Lessons Learned from the May 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes"
Jim LaDue is someone who likes to be a bridge between meteorological research and operations. That's why he is an educator at NOAA's Warning Decision Training Branch in Norman where he takes research results and applies them to operations through warning decision making courses for any type of hazardous weather and how to effectively communicate risks. Being on the bridge also means that he also has many connections to researchers and forecasters within and outside of NOAA. On the research side, Jim has been involved in several field projects including the Intermountain Precipitation Experiment in 2000, the International H2O Project 2002 and VORTEX2. On the forecast side, Jim has close ties to NWS operations and participates in severe weather warning operations, both during and after major events. After event damage surveying is one of Jim's specialties where he has extensive experience conducting, and teaching about them.

In order to enhance the accuracy of post-event storm surveys, Jim has created an EF-Scale stakeholder's group to help connect NWS storm surveyors to those in the research community. He is currently leading this group to create a national standard for tornado intensity assessment that will allow a path for improving the EF-scale. His fascination with the weather and sky spans beyond his regular job to his hobbies like photography, storm chasing and even outdoor recreation. Jim shares his life with his wife, Daphne (also a meteorologist with a PhD in Adult Education) and his son, Dylan.


  • Andy Bailey, NWS Kansas City
  • Ken Harding, NWS Topeka
  • Joe Lauria, Fox4
  • Matt Miller, Kansas First News
  • Chad Omitt, NWS Topeka
  • Chris Suchan, KCTV5


The fee for the Symposium is $15.00 and includes the following:

  • Beverages and baked goods
  • $7.00 lunch ticket *Additional details on lunch options will be added when available.

The fee can be sent to:

  • Douglas County Emergency Management
  • c/o Jillian Rodrigue
  • 111 E. 11th Street, Unit 200
  • Lawrence, Kansas 66044

Registration Form

Registration is closed.


  • KU Bookstores
  • KLWN 1320 AM
  • KU Public Safety Office
  • Wyandotte County Emergency Management


  • Coming Soon

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: