Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador spotlight: PREP KC brings education and career insight to students

Located in the notorious “Tornado Alley,” Kansas City, Missouri is a hotspot for tornadoes every year. With increasing trends in tornado frequency, it’s becoming especially important for the National Weather Service (NWS) to connect with communities that are vulnerable to these extreme weather events and help them respond.

 Screenshot of Sarah Atkins giving a video presentation on weather science. The slide says, "What is Weather? Short term changes in the atmosphere. Takes Minutes to days to change. Occurs at a specific time and place. Expressed in [terms of] wind, temperature, cloudiness, precipitation."
Sarah Atkins, a National Weather Service Meteorologist, presents on weather science to students who are part of a non-profit organization called PREP Kansas City. (NOAA)

To do this, the NWS Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) program focuses on providing forecast information that can be easily used and accessed by the public to make fast and smart life saving decisions during extreme weather events in places like Kansas City. 

In recent years, WRN has emphasized connecting with communities that do not have access to weather education through the WRN Ambassadors initiative. Any organization committed to engaging their communities to be ready, responsive, and resilient to weather emergencies can become a WRN Ambassador. This initiative allows NOAA to strengthen partnerships at the national, regional and local levels and help increase community resilience.  

PREP Kansas City (PREP-KC), a non-profit organization that reaches mostly students from low-income communities and students of color to prepare them for college and careers, is one such organization that became a WRN Ambassador in 2021. Through a virtual platform, NWS meteorologists from the Weather Forecast Office in Kansas City talked about weather safety topics like how to prepare for tornadoes and other extreme weather events with students at PREP-KC. Some of the presentations talked about the science behind weather and how extreme weather can be predicted. Students also learned about different careers at the NWS, like hydrology and meteorology.

Since 2019, NWS meteorologists have reached more than 90 classrooms and more than 2,300 students through virtual presentations, which were recorded and uploaded online offsite link. “This helps us become a weather ready nation and hopefully inspires some future meteorologists!” said Sarah Atkins, a NWS meteorologist who has been leading the work with PREP-KC. PREP-KC is one of 11,805 WRN Ambassadors across the country that partner with the NWS to build a weather-ready nation.