WVIT meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan teaches West Bristol students about hurricanes and how to survive them

Published on Thursday, 18 October 2018 20:43


BRISTOL – Ryan Hanrahan said he couldn’t help with surviving shark bites, as one student at West Bristol K-8 School asked about, but he could talk about surviving a hurricane.

Chief meteorologist at WVIT TV Hanrahan spoke to the West Bristol fourth graders Thursday as part of the school’s Full STEAM Ahead Makerspace Adventure program.

Judy Michaud, the school library media clerk, said the program this year is focusing on survival and coping skills. Hanrahan was invited to talk about weather events.

He began by saying he has been doing his job at WVIT for 13 years now.

“It’s a great job, I’ve wanted to do it since I was a little kid. Since I was a lot younger than you I was obsessed with the weather. I would sit outside and look at the clouds and I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a meteorologist,” he said.

Having grown up in Guilford, he said he always loved New England weather, including the snowstorms and hurricanes.

“Now I get to talk about it every day,” he said. “If you can get paid to do something that you love, it’s awesome.”

Hanrahan described how a month ago he went to North Carolina to observe Hurricane Florence, flying with the U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunters squadron. These are giant planes that fly right into hurricanes in the middle of the Atlantic and drop packets of instruments that measure the hurricane and send the data back to the plane, he explained.

He put some photos up on the library smart board, showing the planes and then what it was like to be in the eye of a hurricane. “It’s totally clear,” he said. “All around you is this wall of clouds, like a giant circle inside the hurricane. It’s totally calm, the sun is out, and it’s beautiful.”

But then you fly into the giant thunderstorm clouds surrounding it, he continued. “It goes from being totally calm to winds of 120, 130 miles per hour and rain, and it can happen in about five minutes.”

He discussed with the students what to do if a hurricane blows in: move inland if you live near the beach, stock up on food and water, take shelter in the basement if there is high wind, and above all stay calm.

Afterward, it’s likely there will be no electricity for some time, he said, asking the kids, “What would you do for a week without power?”

The kids were dismayed there would be no TV or internet or video games, but they came up with some ideas: playing board games, eating, drawing, sleeping, playing with cats and dogs, sewing - but by hand only, not with a machine.

They talked about what to watch out for if you go outside right after a hurricane: falling trees and power lines, and flood water – not just because you could get washed away but also because it’s usually full of filth and debris.

Hanrahan took questions from the kids, such as, “Do you like being famous and on TV?”

He said he really just likes teaching people about weather. He recalled last May when a tornado came through in southern Connecticut and afterward he heard from a lot of viewers who were thankful for his coverage of it.

“I went to some of the people’s houses afterward just to say hi and talk to them in person,” he said. “There was this one woman in Bethany, she probably had 200 trees on her property, every single tree was split in half. She said they were watching us on TV. When we saw the tornado was leaving Beacon Falls and heading into Bethany we literally said her street name. She went into the basement with her kids, and the tornado came through about a minute or two later.”

“Hearing stuff like that makes it all worthwhile,” he added.

Hanrahan took a group photo with the students and was presented with a West Bristol Wolves T-shirt.

Michaud said the next event in the Makerspace Adventure program will be a field trip to Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton in November for a two hour survival skills program.

“They will things like learn how to build a fire, find shelter, dress appropriately for the elements,” she said.

She said the school is also trying to raise $1,110 online through Donors Choose to buy six Breakout EDU kits, which allow teachers to set up learning games that simulate escape rooms to teach students to work as a team to solve problems. For more information about the project, or to donate, visit https://www.donorschoose.org/project/survival-think-outside-the-box/3364753/.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News on Thursday, 18 October 2018 20:43. Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2018 20:46.