How’s the weather, Mr. Grams?

Jeremy Grams, a 1999 North Branch Area High School graduate, has been compiling the Post Review’s weather report since 1996. He and his wife Heather were visiting Grams’ parents in North Branch last week. He currently works for the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.  Photo by Derrick Knutson

Jeremy Grams, a 1999 North Branch Area High School graduate, has been compiling the Post Review’s weather report since 1996. He and his wife Heather were visiting Grams’ parents in North Branch last week. He currently works for the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Photo by Derrick Knutson

Readers who have been picking up the Post Review since 1996 have likely noticed one section of the paper has stayed consistent since that time — the weather report.

Some have called the Post Review’s office and asked, “Who is this Jeremy Grams who does the report?”

Grams is a 1999 graduate of North Branch Area High School and current employee of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. He’s been fascinated by weather since he was a young child.

“One of the earliest things I can remember is a storm at our home in North Branch,” he said during an interview at his parents’ North Branch home last week. “I remember the sirens were going off and Dave Dahl was on TV. This was ’84 or ’85. I was 3 or 4 years old.”

Grams and his family went into the laundry room to wait out the storm.

“I remember the wind was blowing and the lightning was intense,” he said. “The next morning, there was a tree down along Highway 95 – we lived right along there at the time.”

From that point on, Grams was engrossed with learning as much as he could about the weather.

“I remember when I was like 5 or 6 years old, we took a trip up to Duluth and then over to Brainerd to visit Paul Bunyan, and my parents told me I could get anything I wanted in the gift shop, and I got a thermometer,” he said with a laugh. “I knew I wanted to be a weather man ever since I was a little kid.”

A tough start in meteorology 

Grams went to college at Iowa State — where he met his wife, Heather — for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology and entered the National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest his first year on campus.

“You forecast the weather in like Minneapolis for two weeks at a time, and then the city switches to somewhere else in the country — it rotates around,” he explained. “There’s like 1,000 students and faculty (in the contest).”

The first go-around with the contest didn’t go very well for Grams.

“The first city was Billings, Mont., and I was horrible,” he said. “I was like 700 out of 800 people. I thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing; I’m a bad forecaster.”’

But Grams was persistent, and he sharpened his forecasting skills over the coming years and reentered the contest.

“I finished first in the sophomore division, and my junior year I won the whole contest, beating out everybody,” he said. “Channel 5 did a story on me for that. It was really cool after that horrible experience my first year.”

Storm chasing 

During college, Grams trained at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Des Moines and also spent a summer at the Twin Cities office of the same forecasting organization.

Grams saw this EF-4 rated tornado May 24, 2011, near Chickasha, Okla. The tornado killed one person with 48 injuries and was part of a tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma that killed 11 people and injured 342.

Grams saw this EF-4 rated tornado May 24, 2011, near Chickasha, Okla. The tornado killed one person with 48 injuries and was part of a tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma that killed 11 people and injured 342. Photo supplied

From there, he landed a full-time position at the Des Moines office and then transitioned to the National Weather Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.

That job led to his current position as a forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center.

Oklahoma is one of the most active states in the nation when it comes to severe weather that produces tornados, and Grams has chased storms since he moved there in 2005.

“I storm chased a little in college, but in Oklahoma I think just about every year we’ve been there we’ve seen a tornado.”

He’s a seasoned storm-chasing veteran now, so he doesn’t get quite as excited as he used to on chases. When Grams first started tracking down big storms in his car, the feeling he would get was “like riding a roller coaster.”

Grams had some recent experiences with tornadoes that still got his adrenaline flowing, even after years of storm chasing.

He witnessed the May 31 El Reno, Okla., tornado — the widest tornado ever recorded at 2.6 miles in girth.

“A couple of storm chasers died,” he said. “It was so wide and there were so many individual tornados within the broader circulation.”

The tornado was responsible for eight fatalities and 151 injuries.

Grams witnessed this EF-2 rated tornado March 28, 2007, in the Texas Panhandle. This is a rare sun-lit tornado and was part of a tornado outbreak in the central and southern High Plains that killed five people in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Photo supplied

Grams witnessed this EF-2 rated tornado March 28, 2007, in the Texas Panhandle. This is a rare sun-lit tornado and was part of a tornado outbreak in the central and southern High Plains that killed five people in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.
Photo supplied

Grams also witnessed an EF-4 tornado that was approaching Oklahoma City in 2011. Grams said that tornado was particularly interesting to watch because he was able to see its entire life cycle.

 

Passing the baton

Prior to Grams, Wilton Johnson had drafted the Post Review’s weather report on a weekly basis since 1973.

Grams doesn’t remember exactly how Johnson heard about his fascination with weather, but he does recall going over to Johnson’s house and looking at his weather reports.

“Somehow he got a hold of me and he was like, ‘Well, you just want to do the weather report?”’ Grams said. “At the time, I had my own weather station. I would keep records every three hours or so.”

He added, “The Post Review did a story on me and Wilton and it said, ‘Wilton passes his weather baton.’”

Grams complied the report with his own data until 2002 when he moved away from North Branch.

Now he relies on information he garners from automated weather stations residents have in Chisago County.

His wife is also a meteorologist who works at University of Oklahoma, and they have a 9-month-old boy, Benjamin.

When contemplating whether or not their young son might someday be enamored with weather like his parents, Grams chuckled and said, “I don’t know yet. We’ll let him do whatever he wants to do.”

 

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