SHIRLEY — Safety gathered in the small gym at the Lura A. White School, fourth-graders saw fierce storms and the havoc they caused. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. A crippling ice storm that shut down Montreal for weeks.
Those were some of the images in the “Wild Weather” presentation David Epstein, a “real meteorologist,” who has appeared on Channel 5, brought to the school recently.
“I always wanted to be a weather man,” Epstein told his audience. “Even at your age.”
The hour fairly flew as students listened raptly and watched, sometimes in awe, with several breaks for input and ample time for questions before the session wrapped.
They saw satellite photos showing storms as swirling masses moving across the country on the jet stream, and learned the meaning and origin of the term. Jet pilots flying high above the earth were the first to notice the fast-moving air currents, Epstein said.
The students saw some of the ubiquitous weather maps that show up on TV, too.
Pointing to blue and green lines running through like rivers, Epstein said blue lines indicate a cold front, while green lines show a warm front. A big letter H means high pressure, while a big letter L means low pressure. Those are weather-makers, he said, mild, wild and almost always predictable.
Storms form because the earth is continually striving to strike a balance between high and low pressure, hot and cold temperatures, he said.
The user-friendly, age-appropriate show-and-tell format made the fascinating subject even more so. Epstein used simple charts and graphs, sprinkled scientific commentary with comic cartoons and quirky comments and kept the presentation both informative and low-key. That is, until the “wild weather” showed up in dramatic film footage.
The kids’ favorites included images that would mesmerize viewers of any age: giant funnel clouds snaking across landscapes, roaring through neighborhoods and ripping roofs from buildings, flinging debris high and wide.
A close second was a speeded-up, time-lapse clip of a big Boston snowstorm. It showed a plow clearing and re-clearing a section of pavement as the storm continued to dump all over it, filling in the arc that had just been swept clean.
The ice storm footage was more subtle, and sobering. There were traffic accidents and people slipping and sliding all over Montreal, Canada’s largest city.
The city was without power for weeks. The ice encased power lines and was so heavy it pulled them down, poles and all, Epstein said. “People were burning their furniture just to keep warm.”