Chattanoogan: David Glenn Has Weathered The Storms

Saturday, June 9, 2012 - by Jen Jeffrey

David Glenn: “It was bad – you are just in shock at first but I was reassured that my family was fine and that I needed to get back on the air.”

Born and raised in Chickamauga (technically, Fort Oglethorpe where he attended Gordon Lee High School), David Glenn had a career in mind at age eight. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do – meteorology, without a doubt,” David insists.

“In 1971 we had a super outbreak of tornadoes and basically it scared me.  You were given very little information then of where storms were brewing simply because there was no TV radar or knowledge of information,” David admits.

When he was in Mrs. Parrish’s third grade class David took a basic weather test. He had a perfect score and his mother Sarah saved it. “One year recently, she gave it to me framed for a Christmas present,” David recalls.

David’s father, Archer Glenn, owned a few Ace Hardware stores in the Chickamauga area while his uncle owned several in Chattanooga. “It was known in my family that when you are of age – you worked at Ace,” David says. He has an older sister Angela who lives in Kennesaw, Ga., with her husband Christian and daughter Meredith.

David attended college at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Dr. Ted Klimasewski was one of the people who made an impact with him at JSU. “He steered me toward graduate school with the right career path. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” David avows. JSU is also where he met his wife of 20 years, Rebecca.

As fate would have it, David and Rebecca were both at a Billy Joel concert in Chattanooga before they had actually met.

“My wife had told me that she had gone to a Billy Joel concert when he was in Chattanooga in 1984. I said, ‘I went to that concert – in fact I still have my ticket stub.’ She said that she had her stub too… so we both got out our stubs and found that she was sitting directly behind me. That would have been almost four years before we officially met and yet, there we were sitting almost back to back,” David declares.

David attended grad school at Mississippi State. He had been working for WRCB in Chattanooga and then moved to Mobile where he served as WPMI’s meteorologist until 2006.

While at WPMI, David received two press awards. In 2003 he received the Mobile Press Club Award for best weather anchor in Mobile and in 2004 received the AP award for best weather anchor in Alabama.

“The Associated Press award was a total surprise, that is a large market in Alabama and it is usually won by the Birmingham meteorologist,” David says.

With their two sons, Jack, 16, and Carter, 15, David and Rebecca enjoy traveling as a family.

“Last summer while in New England, it was my first time to be in a sailboat or kayaking. We just like to get out and I love taking pictures – especially if they are of landscapes that are weather-related … I’m there!” David vows.

David is also a huge sports fan and believes if he wasn’t covering weather, he would be covering sports.

“The boys and I went to an NHL hockey game several years ago and ever since we have been hooked! Our favorite team is the Predators. I am also a lifelong fan of the Braves and I am a lifelong ‘suffering’ fan of the Falcons. I also like the Titans and I think it is great having two teams in the area.”. 

David is currently with WTVC in Chattanooga. He has a heart for what he does because he wants people to stay safe. That has become very important to him as two weather events that he covered stand out in his mind.

“The tornadoes of April 27 were the most emotional coverage I have been involved in. The weather was rapidly changing all the time and we had to get that message across calmly, but at the same time our goal was to keep families safe. It was really unnerving… what everybody was feeling I was feeling,” David recalls.

“We had a tree hit the house, it was really scary. A line of storms was approaching my house on Missionary Ridge at about 6 o’clock. That evening I texted my wife and children to get in the basement. We already had a plan in place where they would go for safety. They knew where to go. I told Rebecca to stay there until I told her that she could leave.

“At about 6:30, Tom Henderson, the news director, came over while we were doing coverage and pulled me to the side for a second while Jason Disharoon took over. Tom said that I needed to call my house because my neighbor had called and said a tree hit. I knew the tree in question - I knew that it was a huge oak tree in my neighbor’s yard which naturally leaned our way,” David remembers.

“At first I panicked, then I thought – ‘wait, I told them to go to the basement. If they are in the basement, they are fine.’ I called and listened to each ring. “I was thinking, ‘pick up, pick up, pick up.’  Rebecca answered really chipper and asked if she could get out of the basement,” David said and continues, “I was puzzled and said, ‘I guess… is everything ok there?’ She said, ‘Yeah, as far as I know.’ I said, ‘Well, Mr. Fannin called and said that a tree had hit our house’.” David had Rebecca go upstairs to check.

The tree sideswiped the chimney and there were holes in the roof and water had come through. There would be a lot of work needing to be done, but their family was okay.

When David knew his family was safe he stayed at the station. “I was able to tell people ‘Look, have a safety plan. Get to your basement - this is what you need to do’ – because I had just seen how a basement helped my family to stay safer than they would have been otherwise. It was bad – you are in shock at first but I was reassured that they were fine and I needed to get back on the air.”.

The other impacting weather event was Hurricane Katrina while he was living in Mobile.

“We took a direct hit from that,” David says. "That was a little different for me because my wife and children had evacuated and I knew they were okay. I was more comfortable with this storm because I knew they were fine. I worried about my house but my family was safe and that was the most important thing. The tragic stories that happened around us- it was just an emotional day that I will never forget.”

David’s oldest son Jack was born when Hurricane Opal came through in 1995 causing a lot of damage. “A meteorologist’s son born on a big weather day,” David laughs and adds, “Weather events seem to follow me no matter what is happening in my life.”

“One thing that has really changed is how we keep people informed. So many people lose power and with losing power you can’t stay tuned to know when it is safe. They needed different sources of information. People now can use their mobile devices and pick up our live feed. We made every effort possible to get the message out. And people need to know how to program their weather radios,” David insists.

“That’s why we have been on this huge weather radio kick - to educate people to have a weather safety plan but also to know how to work a weather radio. It is good to have a double-alert radio that receives the National Weather Service forecasts, but at the same time you receive a loud alert tone if there is a warning issued. If there is a warning issued - especially in the middle of the night, an alert goes off – it’s going to wake you up. The radios are also battery powered. If you take them with you to your basement or to your place of shelter you and have that source of information.

“There are a lot of people who leave their place of shelter not knowing when the ‘all clear’ was. They can save your life. These are valuable minutes of warning time to get to your place of safety before a storm strikes. With our campaigns we have had since last May, we have sold and programmed over 16,000 radios. We don’t profit anything from that – it goes to local charities or tornado relief. People are better prepared for storms.”

Why has Chattanooga seen such brutal storms recently?

“We were going through a pattern.  A La Nina is a recurring pattern just like El Nino but just the opposite, where there is a cooling in the Pacific waters. It happens about every four years. Some years we just go through an average La Nina and sometimes we go through super La Nina - and that is exactly what we just had; super La Nina from 2010 and early 2012,” David said.

“When we go through a strong La Nina pattern the severe weather risk in the Southeastern U.S. tends to be much higher in the spring. We went into the spring of 2011 knowing we have a strong La Nina and to look out! It is not surprising that we had the 2011 storm – with a super La Nina these things are possible. We go through La Nina every four years or so but there are exceptions that we go through super La Nina, which are even more cooling in the Pacific waters. Those will happen every couple of decades. The super La Nina is over – we have gotten through it,” David maintains.

“We are now entering what we call a mutual pattern and probably by the winter we will go into what is called the El Nino pattern - a warming of the Pacific waters which will mean wetter weather for us.  We are probably looking at a wet winter ahead” he says.

David foretells, “The warmer winter we went through last year was the tail end of a La Nina and more than likely, it will be kind of chilly this winter and we will see ‘Mr. Cold’ coming back!” 

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