Bill Smith, K1ARK, Receives National Recognition for Storm Spotting Activities
It is difficult to imagine the number of hours that Dr Bill Smith, K1ARK, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, logs in his job as the University of Arkansas’ Director of New Media for the Razorback Athletics Department. Smith spends countless hours blogging, filming, commentating and handling the social media responsibilities for 19 teams and the department, but he still finds time to assist Washington County residents when dangerous weather conditions arise. Smith has volunteered for the Washington County Department of Emergency Management for more than a decade, assisting with county weather emergency communications. In addition, Smith is the volunteer Public Information Officer for the DEM with Advanced P10 certification from FEMA.
For these efforts, Smith -- an ARRL member -- has been named the Bob Kenworthy Community Service Award winner by the College of Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The Bob Kenworthy Community Service Award is presented annually to a member for civic involvement and accomplishments outside of the sports information office. CoSIDA is a 2700-plus member national organization comprised of the sports public relations, communications and information professionals throughout all levels of collegiate athletics in the United States and Canada. Smith will be honored at the CoSIDA at the organization’s annual convention in June.
“Bill has helped as the district emergency coordinator on Amateur Radio services countless times as a volunteer,” said John Luther, Director of 911, Fire Services and Search and Rescue. “Any time there is a severe weather warning, Bill has activated the storm spotter severe weather net, coordinating a network of Amateur Radio operators to verify weather in their areas. Through this operation, the National Weather Service in Tulsa can match up computer models and data with what is actually taking place in real time. In addition, Bill has assisted our offices in creating press releases during severe weather events and he has provided 24 hour operation during our Amateur Radio field day. He does wonderful work and is very professional. Bill has invested countless hours behind the scenes. He is very unselfish and his efforts are appreciated.”
Smith has become an integral part of SKYWARN, a long-standing program that fosters close working relationships between local communities and the National Weather Service. The program seeks to provide the public with the best information during periods of hazardous weather. On the local level, he created and managed the W5YM University WeatherNet as Washington County’s contribution to the regional SKYWARN system.
A certified OK-FIRST radar operator, Smith assists the county by training volunteers and coordinating those efforts during threatening weather in the Northwest Arkansas area. He has managed the Tulsa National Weather Services’ annual SKYWARN training; for eight years, he has served as the liaison for the county to the Tulsa Weather Forecast Office. In addition, Smith wrote the policies and procedures for local severe weather operations, and developed a training book for storm spotters.
“As one of the members of our office said to the group at this year’s training event in Fayetteville, ‘If we hear a report of severe weather that has come through Bill’s group, we are starting to type out a warning.’ That is a testament to the hard work and dedication Bill puts forth,” said NWS Tulsa Meteorologist-in-Charge Steven Piltz, KA9MLL.
Piltz documented two of Smith’s contributions. Both examples came as Smith’s life as a Razorback crossed paths with his involvement of storm tracking. The first occurred during the 2009 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, when the media received a public report of a tornado. Smith -- who was already working the event as the Razorbacks’ Director of New Media -- began a rapid coordination between officials in Fayetteville and meteorologists in Tulsa to help assess that the report from the neighboring country was a hoax. Because of Smith’s local spotters, many unnecessary protective actions were averted for both Washington County and the track meet.
Piltz also recounted that a powerful storm moved through Northwest Arkansas in 2006. Smith coordinated with meteorologists in area and with University of Arkansas officials in suspending a Razorback soccer match against Kentucky, due to a threat of lightning. The information Smith provided was proven correct when a person was struck and killed by lightning on a lake nearby the Razorback Soccer Stadium at approximately the same time his warning to clear the fields was made.
Smith has more than 25 years in the field of media relations and new media. The former Associate Athletic Director of Women’s Communications at Arkansas, Smith has earned 14 Best in the Nation and an additional 37 national and 42 district publications awards from CoSIDA. Recognition of his skill and success has continued in his role as Director of New Media. He has earned and shared numerous Communicator Awards for video and new media video production. -- Thanks to the University of Arkansas and the College of Sports Information Directors of America for the information