From Fear to Forecast – Elijah Kirby Flipped the Tables on Severe Weather.

by | Nov 2023

STORMS DEMAND our attention. They’re no big deal to some and stir crippling anxiety in others. Between those extremes is everyone else. Despite these differences, one thing unites us: our desire for accurate weather forecasting in all seasons. 

Before the explosion of the internet, most of us depended upon the daily forecasts of local television news stations. Today, up-to-the-minute weather information is literally at our fingertips. Search “weather” in your phone’s app store and watch as thousands of choices appear. The apps offer overviews, but the details for your exact location are hit or miss. 

But Bedford and Coffee Counties have a more personalized option, and thousands turn to it daily. With over 14,000 likes and 16,000 followers, Shelbyville Weather covers both counties with livestream updates during severe weather. Daily weather and public service announcements round out the services. 

Behind it all is one young man, Elijah Kirby, who turned his fear of storms into a passion for meteorology. 

Kirby said, “I wanted to learn more about the weather and try not to be scared of the storms. So, when I was in kindergarten and first grade, I wouldn’t watch cartoons. I’d have the Weather Channel on all the time while I was playing with my cars and my trains. I just grew into this fascination with weather. But my curiosity was piqued with the Murfreesboro tornado in April 2009.” 

What was too close to home for so many compelled Kirby, at only 8 or 9, to look to the skies to understand better what impacted our daily lives. 

“The crazy thing about weather is that weather is one thing that will impact everyone on the globe,” said Kirby. ”Everyone has to deal with the weather. No matter what, it’s the most relevant thing in our world.” 

Weather advisories and updates pinpointing our area are critical, but network coverage seems more focused on the Metro-Nashville area. The day after a major storm hits our community, it may make the television news, but reporting while the storm rages may grow smaller as it moves out of the broadcaster’s location. 

However, when severe weather moves toward Coffee County, Kirby not only issues the necessary watches and warnings, he pulls on his headphones and goes live on Facebook to keep us safe until the storm passes. 

“Some people don’t have satellite or an antenna to watch the news, so they need somebody to turn to when the weather gets bad, or they’re just left in the dark,” Kirby said. 

Kirby launched Shelbyville Weather on Twitter in 2016 and on Facebook in 2019 and expanded his coverage to Coffee County when his family moved to Normandy. Adding Coffee County was a natural fit. The combination solidified when the National Weather Service invited Kirby to join their #tSpotter program. According to the National Weather Service website, the #tSpotter SKYWARN program uses highly trained volunteers to provide their community with localized weather impact and warning information via their Twitter accounts. 

Kirby enjoys meeting the people who rely on his services. After appearing as the grand marshall in the RC Cola Moon Pie Festival parade in Bell Buckle this year, he now has faces to connect to the many comments on his posts. 

He said, “Some people come up to me and say, ‘I was in my closet during that tornado warning last night, and I was watching your livestream.’ It makes me think, ‘Oh, my goodness, you trust me so much that you’re going to watch me while you’re taking shelter from a tornado.’ It’s so heartwarming to see all these people gravitating to my coverage.” 

He’s preparing for a lifetime of weather service and is majoring in meteorology in his junior year at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. As he completes his education, his vision for the future keeps an eye on the skies. Employment with the National Weather Service would be his first choice, but he’s open to whatever opportunities present themselves.

“It just depends on where God wants to lead me and what His plan is. I really hope I can get in at Nashville or Huntsville because there are so many opportunities in those two cities. And even if the National Weather Service doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of private sector meteorology jobs,” said Kirby. “I’m just a normal 20-year-old with this love and passion for weather who wants to keep people safe and informed and give back to my community.” 

So, as the winds change and the clouds gather, we can count on Kirby to guide us and ensure that we’re never left in the dark. GN 

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