CIRCLEVILLE — The weather can be unpredictable sometimes but for one Circleville High School graduate and meteorologist the last several days have all been a part of the job.
Nate McGinnis is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. This week he had plans to move back to Ohio from Jacksonville, Florida to begin his new post in Wilmington. However, due to Hurricane Dorian, McGinnis decided to stay behind and lend a hand with forecasting until the threat has passed. Weather has interrupted his life before but not like this.
“This is definitely the most extreme case,” McGinnis said. “A landfalling Category 4 hurricane along Florida’s east coast would be a historic natural disaster. Population has grown dramatically since the last landfalling storm.”
The storm, which has weakened since being labeled a Category 5 over the weekend to a Category 3, and spent several hours hovering over the Bahamas, and is now traveling closer to the United States. Current projections predict it will stay just off the coast of Florida and Georgia, but the eye of the storm won’t make landfall. McGinnis said he expects to return to Ohio sometime this week.
McGinnis studied at Evangel University before transferring to Ohio University to finish his meteorology degree. He also earned his master’s degree in geography with a focus in meteorology.
“As a meteorologist for the National Weather Service I forecast on a daily basis,” he said. “These forecasts include general forecasts for the public, but it doesn’t stop there. I also create fire weather forecasts and marine forecasts. These help the forestry service maintain the health of area wildlife reserves by doing controlled burns. The marine forecasts help anyone traveling within 60 miles of our shoreline. The height of the waves and winds are very important for anyone on the water.”
In addition to those duties, McGinnis is also charged with warning the public of major storms, a part of the job that won’t change with his new post in Wilmington. Once things settle down later this week McGinnis will join his wife Toni, who already made the move to their new home.
“The gears do shift a little upon my return to Ohio,” he said. “I won’t be worried about marine forecasts or major landfalling hurricanes. Instead I’ll be more focused on severe weather, flash flooding and winter weather hazards. It should be a great change in scenery.”
McGinnis said he’s been interested in weather from a young age.
“I’ve enjoyed the mysteries of weather as early as my memories begin,” he added. “My path was set in stone when I won a 4-H competition at the Ohio State Fair in 7th grade. I won first prize out of all the participants from around the state in the self determined projects category. This group was for unique interest that were not large enough for their own group. I guess my weather project on clouds and fronts blew them away.”
These days McGinnis takes his job seriously and decided to move back to Ohio to continue his career development, taking what he’s learned in Florida to safely forecast weather and help protect people in the event of hazardous weather.
“It’s an incredible responsibility,” he said. “We are tasked with doing our best to communicate the threats to individuals who may be harmed if they do not act. Not only do we communicate with individuals but also our core partners like the emergency management, coast guard and key decision makers. The pressure is high but it’s what we’re tasked to do.”