8 Years Old! Here’s Where It All Began!

It’s hard to believe that today makes 8 years that our little company started with a minuet thought one morning that I had. With the help of my long time friend Jason, a hobby was started that we were figuring to have fun with while helping a few people out.  Jason majored in Atmospheric Sciences at UNC Asheville and I continued to grow my education in fire weather forecasting.  I was with The NC Forest Service and was serving as a BRIDGE Project Leader.  Now it was November 19, 2009 and Facebook was just up and coming. Before it was just a place for college students to meet and chat. Jason was pretty familiar with how it worked and I set up a profile sometime in 2008. There was no such thing as business pages so we set up a page called Morganton Weather. About a half of a week in we discovered that another company was using the name Morganton Weather for their business. We changed the name to Burke Weather. Fast forward a four weeks out and a huge winter storm struck our area. It dumped 12+ inches across Burke County. The significance of this is that we were able to start forecasting this two weeks in advance. The friend requests started piling up. 50 a day we’re coming in! We were a little surprised. As of that day in 2009 there wasn’t another forecasting page on Facebook and certainly not anything close to doing what we did. People were trying to figure out who was behind this page and who was running it. People were on us to release our names. We withheld and made a contest out of it. Now correct me if I am wrong original followers, but I don’t believe there was an award with the correct guess. Just a pat on the back. In the coming days while we had people guessing as to who we were, we contacted Chris Garner at TPS Photography to come take some pictures at the house with the leftover snow on the ground. Sometime toward the first of January we published who we were. Julie Chang was with The News Herald and she contacted us to come do a story on the hobby. We of course let her.

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Next thing we knew we were at 1500 friends. The Spring was very busy and stormy. We had to have someone on all afternoon going i to the summer because storms would hit. It was a bit overwhelming so we brought on Tim Sawyer in May of 2010 to help. Tim helped us with posting on storms that traversed our County. We took our hobby seriously and were dedicated with keeping people safe. In July of 2010 we met another guy that would be influential in our success. His name was Steve Wasko. We knew he could help a lot so we grew our team by one more. There were 4 of us then. I had to move in with my grandfather who was living alone and help take care of him. We made the basement our headquarters for the next few years.We partnered with a company called Nixle that allowed us to sign folks up for text messages when threatening weather approached. It was just in time too. September 27, 2010 a EF-1 Tornado ripped through Brendletown in Southwest Burke County. Story’s of people getting our text alerts were surreal. One lady claimed she received our alert and was closing the windows to her house just as it started. It was humbling. Our numbers were growing and were up to Facebooks Max of 5000 friends. We then had to move to something new Facebook was doing. We had to make a Facebook Page. In fact our first post on the new page was the September 27, 2010 Tornado. We formed a partnership with Brad Panovich and WCNC Charlotte. We made it through the rest of the Fall without much fanfare. December though would bring us our first White Christmas that we had seen in over 50 years. 8-10 inches fell.  Well.... there was a celebration just before. Tim got married in December of 2010 and was away on his honeymoon when the snow fell on Christmas.

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The spring was another story. April 9th 2011 we held a Meet and Greet at Glen Alpine Video and Tanning. This day quickly turned from being a meet and greet to being a day of crazy hail storms. Burke County was ravaged by large hail that damaged vehicles, roofs, busted glass out of homes, and injured livestock. It wasn’t just one storm, it was from multiple storms. Tim chased the storms and even noticed a funnel cloud over The South Mountains that triggered a Tornado Warning. Interestingly enough we met Scotty Powell, Doug Revis, and Heath Browning that morning at the meet and greet. In the days following that we all met with Scotty and Heath and brought them onto the team. These weather events were becoming more frequent and we needed help. It was great and the team grew again. We now had a staff of 6 forecasters. April 16th, 2011 was a day that many in North Carolina will not forget. It was the states largest tornado outbreak. That day Meteorologists from across the state tracked 31 tornadoes that ripped through neighborhoods. We deployed teams to go down East and assist with damage clean up with Samaritans Purse. We would spend Easter there in Raleigh helping folks regain some sense of normalcy. Our Spring didn’t end there. On April 27th and 28th 2011 tornadoes again ravaged the Southeast and prompted Tornado Warnings from Brevard to Granite Falls during the very early morning hours. Families were awoken by continuous thunder and lightning and the loud roar. Luckily for citizens of Burke this was just a funnel cloud that damaged tree tops. In Caldwell County though it ripped the steeple off a church and damaged homes. At this time we had not expanded into Caldwell and McDowell but this started the discussion of the need. During all of that Steve and I were working on registering Burke Weather as a Non Profit Corporation. During the summer of 2011 we made multiple trips to Raleigh and had discussions on the phone with the IRS. The IRS did officially make us a 501 (C) 3 Organization! It was exciting!  We did expand into McDowell County. We held our first fundraiser and it was a BBQ. Our first BBQ was held out at Chesterfield Fire and Rescue. It brought in $1000.00! It was a great event and fun to meet so many of you.  Unfortunately a already destructive year of weather would get worse for NC. On August 27, 2011 Hurricane Irene slammed North Carolina’s Coast. It would bring devastating g flooding with it. We again loaded up and responded to New Bern NC with Samaritans Purse. The year continued with us completing several other outreach events. They included raising some money for muscular distrafy, making visits to schools to present weather, and then giving our Winter Outlook with Rex Allen Theaters. December 8th, 2011 would bring yet another tornado to The Dudley Shoals area of Caldwell County. This was and EF-0 but did some damage to people’s outbuildings and trees. We were then asked to expand our coverage into Caldwell County, so we did. 

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In January 2012 another huge test came for our team. On January 11th, 2012 a EF-2 tornado ripped through Rutherford, Cleveland, and Eastern Burke County. At the time we were not yet covering Rutherford or Cleveland. This tornado really did a lot of damage. The stories that folks would tell us about getting our text alerts just before the tornado hit and that it was the only warning they received made us work even harder at what we do. It was apparent what we were doing mattered and likely saved more lives that night. Our team became stronger and continuned to grow our education in atmospheric sciences every way we could. February 19th held a minor snow event with 1-3 inches of snow across the area. In March we returned to schools and did presentations on Weather that would help students with the End Of Grade Tests. It was quiet and those would continue into May. In April we entered a team into The Project Challege Golf Tournament and sponsored a hole. It was another way we could get out into the community. Gladly, the largest weather event of the Spring was a weak sub-tropical storm that went up the coast and didn’t have much effect on our weather. We also had businesses start wanting to sponsor us. When we started this weather project it took a lot to get it up and going and I was paying for subscriptions out of my pocket.  So I gladly allowed businesses to make donations to us to cover bills the company had.  We continued I to the summer where we got to go out and talk to Cub Scouts at their daycamp about weather. We love outreach opportunities so much. On July 11, 2012 we covered a flash flood event that damaged roads in Collettsville. We also were getting better at drawing weather maps in PowerPoint.  Lol!! Tropical Storm Isaac would bring heavy rain and winds to the area in late August.  A funny story came out of covering Tropical Storm Isaac. We were working late into the night and there was a break in between rain bands. Jason and I decided to go grab some food because we were wasting away famishly. On the way to eat at The Coffee House on Jamestown Rd we were talking about something. We had reached the stage of sleep deprivation where everything was funny. Our mascot Ernie The Platypus was born out of that conversation.  Our Annual BBQ was held at Connelly Springs Town Hall. September 1, 2012 we partnered with WSVM and moved our offices into Studio A. In late September 2012 we became partners with NC Emergency Management. This partnership would mean we were able to service the stream and flood gauges around the three county area. These are all automated so a lot goes into them so that they can transmit their readings.  Hurricane Sandy brought an early snowfall to the mountains on October 1st while it destroyed the east coast. 

 

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2013 and 2014 passed by pretty quickly and our company continued to grow and expand. In We added our first Intern in 2013, Amber McGinnis. Amber was majoring in Atmospheric Sciences at UNC Charlotte and today works with AccuWeather in Witchita Kansas. Amber did a lot for our program while she was with us and had a strong work ethic. In the Summer of 2013 Catawba County received over 12 inches of rain in 6-12hrs causing their biggest flash flood of modern history. Joey Mosteller and Richie Fox covered that flood with their page Catawba County Weather. We decided in the fall to bring their page in under our company umbrella. We expanded into Catawba County.  In 2014 after Amber received her job at Accuweather she turned the counties she covered over to us. Those were Cleveland, Lincoln, and Gaston. We continued to work hard under the name Burke Weather and with our website www.burkeweather.org. It was apparent though that we had outgrown the websites space and so we started researching the idea of expanding it. Finally after meeting with several companies we partnered with One Source Media to bring you our current website and app, www.foothillsweathernetwork.com.  We also began operating under the name Foothills Weather Network. We went through the motions again and opened Fiothills Weather Network Incorporated as a for profit company.  We realigned Burke Weather Incorporated to serve as our Emergency Management Support Branch and also continue our education in schools and to the public.  So we now operate two businesses. One non-profit and one for profit company. In the summer of 2015 we also brought on Daniel Crawley. Daniel came to us with a wealth of knowledge about weather and is now part of the administrative team along with Scotty and myself. In late 2015 we were approached by McDowell County Emergency Management and they had office space available for us.  We had outgrown our office at WSVM so in 2015 we made the move to McDowell County.  In 2016 our company expanded into Rutherford and Alexander Counties. We chose to withdraw from Gaston County due to staffing issues and span of control of what we cover. We added on a NC State Atmospheric Sciences Graduate, Sinead Lockhart as part of our team in January 2017.  We also brought on Chris Brown from Alexander Weather. Today we cover 8 counties in the foothills and are now in our brand new office in The McDowell County Emergency Operations Center. All of our work is done out of there but we are there so that Emergency Management has a direct line of communication with us. As we look back over the last 8 years we also look forward. We look forward and are excited as to how our business will grow. We want to grow with you and as the weather warms up this coming Spring, we would love to come out and see you folks at meet and greets. I never would have thought a hobby would have turned into such a great community business. Thank you also goes out to Cody Ledbetter, Andy (Kit) Cloninger, and Kyle Noel. They are all interns that did great work for our company from UNC Charlotte and UNC Asheville.  We still have one intern with us Chase Graham who is a Senior at UNC Asheville in Atmospheric Sciences. We also want to thank our Photographer, Stuart McDaniel for all the photography and storm chase skills he brings to the company. Seth Bartlett is also a storm spotter with our company now! Between Stuart and Seth we can give and extra heads up with what they see in the skies.  Thank you everyone who has and continues to support us. 

 

Chris White

Chief Meteorologist