It’s the talk of the town – the snow and ice that have coated Bedford County over the past few days.
But Elijah Kirby’s ‘Shelbyville Weather’ page on Facebook may be running a close second.
Shelbyville Weather – which has expanded to cover Coffee County as well – gives readers almost a play-by-play of incoming and ongoing weather, whether it’s severe thunderstorms, frozen precipitation or even clear warm days.
The site is nearing its third anniversary this spring, and Kirby says the most exciting moment was last year’s snowstorm.
“My most exciting moment with Shelbyville Weather, so far, definitely has to be the snowstorm we had in February of 2021. Not to be confused with our devastating ice storm, our snow storm brought a widespread 4-6 inches to the area, and I got to see so many photos of people building snowmen and playing in the snow. Apart from that, our forecast also verified perfectly. We all know how complicated winter systems can be in Middle Tennessee, so when we nail a good winter storm forecast on the head, it is always a good thing!”
The site’s defining moments may be live severe weather coverage. Kirby goes live when heavier storms strike and stays on until they move past – or the electricity is knocked out.
“During severe weather, I go on our page and do live severe weather coverage. It is a lot easier than putting out radar updates, and people can watch while the storm is passing over their home,” Kirby said. “Our livestreams are a wonderful service to our communities, until an unexpected power outage takes us offline. I’ve had many livestreams cut short during severe weather coverage because our power gets cut off due to high winds. Thankfully, I am working on a solution and hopefully when we get our next strong storm system, I will be able to stay online without interruption.”
Kirby, 19, lives in Normandy and is majoring in meteorology and atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He hopes to eventually become a National Weather Service forecaster.
“I founded Shelbyville Weather on Facebook in May of 2018,” Kirby said. “ I started it thinking it would be a fairly small page for family and friends to receive weather information regarding severe weather and winter weather events. We really started gaining traction in February of 2019, when most of Bedford County experienced heavy rainfall and flash flooding. I believe we reached 1,000 followers from that one event.”
The site expanded after that storm.
“Shortly after that, our family moved from Shelbyville to Normandy, and I decided in January of 2020 to add Coffee County to our coverage area,” Kirby said. “Since Normandy is right on the county line, I believed this would be a great opportunity to reach new people and bring a valuable service to some under-served communities. After then, Shelbyville Weather was going by leaps and bounds.”
As of this week Shelbyville Weather has 12,500 followers and approximately 1,000 more on Twitter
Shelbyville Weather partnered with the “tspotter” program at the National Weather Service’s Nashville office following the winter storms of 2021.
“This past spring, after the winter storms of February 2021, the NWS in Nashville reached out to us wanting to do a special partnership through their tspotter program. This program brings together many hyper-local social media weather accounts from across Middle TN into a network, under the watch and communication of the National Weather Service. I want to give a special thank you to Sam Shamburger, the Lead Forecaster at NWS Nashville, for allowing this opportunity.”
Local storm coverage keeps Kirby pinned to his computer, but he does have an interest in storm chasing.
“I enjoy storm chasing whenever I can. Due to the fact that I live stream during severe weather events, it is hard for me to go storm chasing. But, whenever I get the chance I always like to tag along,” Kirby said.
“This may come as a surprise to some, but I have yet to see my first tornado. It has been my dream to go out to Oklahoma and Texas to document low-precipitation supercells with photogenic tornadoes that aren’t damaging property. But, that opportunity has yet to come about. I hope to soon, though.”
Surprisingly for a storm chaser who livecasts through severe weather, Kirby’s interest in meteorology developed from a childhood fear of storms.
“When I was younger, I absolutely hated anything and everything to do with storms and severe weather. Once I started getting older, I started understanding a bit more about the processes that create thunderstorms, it transformed into a fascination,” Kirby said. “I’ve been following the weather closely ever since I was around 7 or 8 years old, if not before.”
Kirby finds weather forecasting challenging yet fulfilling.
“There are a lot of challenging aspects when it comes to forecasting. One of the most challenging aspects of forecasting though would have to be that little bit of uncertainty that will follow any storm you forecast. Will the storms actually form? Will there be too much warm air and we get rain instead of snow? Every single forecast has uncertainty to it. But, the key is to remain confident and address the uncertainty,” Kirby said.
“I am thankful to have the NWS, weather models, and local meteorologists in Nashville that help bring my forecasts together. The night before a storm, I’ll stay up and watch every station’s weathercast to see what they have to say. It is always important to get opinions from other people when making a forecast.
Kirby uses RadarScope, a professional weather radar software, to help track storms; data from NWS airport weather stations in Shelbyville and Tullahoma, which he says are “very important during winter weather setups,” a system which automatically posts watches and warnings from the NWS as soon as they are issued, and the Pivotal Weather website for computer model data.
Many of Kirby’s posts include RadarScope images.
Although Kirby comes across in livecasts during storms as calm, collected and professional, television weathercasting isn’t in his plans.
“When I tell people I’m going to school to be a meteorologist, they automatically think I want to work in the TV industry. While some folks are made for TV, I am not one of them,” Kirby said. “I hope one day I find myself in a National Weather Service office issuing forecasts and warnings. But, there are many opportunities outside of the NWS and TV, including private companies and Emergency Management, that I am also interested in.
“I chose UAH specifically because it is close to home, and because UAH has a wonderful meteorology program. UAH is a very research-driven school, with lots of opportunities to go out into the field and learn more about severe weather and winter weather than you ever would looking through a textbook. Another plus is that the National Weather Service is co-located in the same building as our meteorology department, so there are many opportunities to intern and help out with the weather service as well.”
Kirby recently introduced $4.99 per month subscriptions to the site. The subscriptions are not replacing free data currently provided.
“In return, you receive access to a special “subscriber” badge on my page, as well as access to an exclusive Shelbyville Weather group,” Kirby said on the site. “In this group, I plan on posting exclusive content such as model data and Q&A sessions.
“DO NOT WORRY! I will not be changing anything on my page. This is only an option if you chose to support me monetarily. I put a lot of hard work into this page, and I hope I satisfy you with great forecasts and information.”
Kirby is a 2021 graduate of Shelbyville Central High School. He is the son of Zach Kirby, Minister of Music at First Baptist Church-Depot Street, and Jennifer Kirby, an interventionist at East Side Elementary, and has a 5-year-old sister, Alexandria. He works summers at a kayak rental business in Normandy. Other interests include online games and videoing trains.
The Shelbyville Weather site has received many accolades recently, and Kirby appreciates each one.
“Shelbyville Weather has been a blessing to me,” Kirby said. “ I enjoy using my talent and love of weather to help keep others safe and informed. During the Tullahoma tornado back in December of 2021, I did a live stream covering the event. It was so gratifying and awesome to hear stories about people saying they knew to take cover from the storm when I was calling their street name. It shows how impactful even the smallest details can be.”