One year later, James Spann visits JSU to talk March 19 tornado, storm safety


Spann broadcasted ABC 33/40 weather telecasts from JSU’s campus on Monday. (Scott Young, The Chanticleer)

Scott Young, Staff Reporter

James Spann, the ABC 33/40 meteorologist familiar to many Alabamians, visited the campus of Jacksonville State University on Monday almost a year after an EF-3 tornado devastated Jacksonville to meet with attendees and illustrate the importance of staying weather aware.

Spann broadcasted live weather forecasts in between meeting with members of the Jacksonville community as they filed into the fifth floor of the Burgess-Snow stadium.

Although many in the community were displaced by the tornadoes, the silver lining is that no lives were lost to the EF-3 tornado that impacted Jacksonville, Spann says. Buildings can be rebuilded; trees can be replanted; but lives cannot be replaced.

“It seems like people in Calhoun County were ready,” Spann said. “They planned ahead and had a way of hearing warnings. They knew where to go and got there when the warning was issued. This is the mindset we want for all Alabamians.”

Spann compliments the university on its speedy recovery and the repairs made to the many buildings that were damaged.

“I am in Jacksonville on a regular basis, and you can’t help but be impressed by the tornado recovery in just one year,” Spann said. “Yes, there is work left to be done, but most buildings on campus look great and student housing is back in order.”

Alongside Cocky the Gamecock, Spann encouraged viewers to purchase a weather radio, stressing that people should never rely on outdoor sirens alone to notify them of tornado warnings.

“Every Alabama home and business needs a NOAA Weather Radio (NEVER rely on an outdoor siren), and everyone needs Wireless Emergency Alerts enabled on their phone,” Spann said. “Everyone must know in advance where they are going during a tornado warning and have helmets for everyone in that safe place.”

People gathered with their weather radios in hand to have their radios programmed by the weather team, sign up for a drawing to win a free weather radio, and even get a cutout of Spann’s face.

On Tuesday, anniversary ceremonies commemorating one-year since the tornadoes are planned around campus with the first one at 11:30 a.m. at the Pete Mathews Coliseum and a candlelight vigil at 7:30 p.m. in front of Bibb Graves Hall. Offices will be closed and classes between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. are cancelled to allow faculty and students the opportunity to attend the ceremony.

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