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severe weather

Local meteorologist heads to Australia to help with bush fires

Published: Friday, February 07, 2020 @ 1:45 PM

A meteorologist with the National Weather Service will be leaving Monday for Australia to help with the bush fires that has charred a large part of the country.

Meteorologist John Franks works at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, but soon he will be working for six weeks in Australia.

Franks is part of a group of incident meteorologists in the NWS. He has gone through all the training and education to be a meteorologist but also had to do extra fire training so that he could assist our government and agencies around the world when they need help.

“We go out there and embed with the firefighters. So, I go out and I bring a tent, a laptop, and a phone that allows me internet connection, and if they can supply me electricity, that’s even better. But I can run it off of the vehicle that I’m in and provide them with a forecast,” said IMET John Franks.

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Franks has done 14 deployments already with as an incident meteorologist. He’s been out west to California four times, Montana three times, New York, Oregon, Idaho, all twice, and to a fire between Florida and Georgia. 

RELATED STORYWhat a wildfire the size of Australian fire would look like here

On his fire deployments in the United States, he directly works with the fire fighters and first responders on the ground. He briefs the Incident Command Post and works closely with the firefighter’s Fire Behavioral Analyst.

“My weather forecasts are used in his products,” said Franks. 

In Australia, he will be going to work directly in their weather service office. This is a big help to the stretched crews that are working their deadly bush fire season. 

“Me going out there is going to allow two, maybe three, of their IMets -- because I'll be out there for six weeks, will allow two or three of them to go out and engage and deploy with their firefighters, on their fires, with their crews,” said Franks.  

Franks will be producing spot forecasts for the crews in Australia.

“The weather can change, and you want to have somebody there that is able to react to what is happening figure out what is going on and how things are going to change because of that,” Franks said. 

RELATED STORYAustralia turns from defense to offense in wildfire battle

Australia is in the southern hemisphere, which means some challenges for how Franks forecasts. He will need to do some conversions because his forecasts will be in Celcious. Australia also is in the middle of summer instead of winter. Another interesting feature is that in Australia, cold air comes from the south, which is opposite of the United States. 

Meteorologist John Franks works at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio but soon he will be working for six weeks in Australia. John is part of a group of meteorologists in the NWS known as Incident Meteorologists. He has gone through all the training and education to be a meteorologist ...

Franks said that deploying for six weeks puts some extra stress on his family and co-workers.

“There’s only a handful of us who have to be here 24/7 and for lack of a better word these are going to be picking up my slack,” he said.

He will be able to Skype his wife and two daughters and a son, though he said his son took a little time to convince. “But I tell him, I’m needed. Somebody is asking for help and Daddy is the one to go and help.”

Franks will be gone from Monday through March 23.