Sempier to lead new VORTEX-Southeast Community Outreach Program

From a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium news release.

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is pleased to announce that Tracie Sempier, Ph.D., has taken on a new role as the Community Resilience Lead for the VORTEX-SE Program.

The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE) brings together both physical and social scientists, researchers and meteorologists to look at specific conditions that produce tornadoes in the Southeast United States, and how they impact society. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

In her new role, Sempier will coordinate a new outreach program and create a model for a regional extension program that will synthesize findings from VORTEX-SE researchers and develop ways to inform application of the research at the local level. Working closely with the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS), the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and other partners, she will engage with other Sea Grant and Land Grant programs and utilize existing networks to build connections with target audiences. She will also identify new partners to expand relationships to the neighborhood level.

“Developing a full-scale extension program from the bottom up is an exciting opportunity and one that I am grateful for,” Sempier said. “The team at NSSL has been amazing to work with and their knowledge in this field is impressive. I am looking forward to making a real impact in the lives of those most affected by tornadoes by leveraging my previous expertise in coastal storms and implementation of resilience programming to expand VORTEX-SE’s work to better serve vulnerable communities.”

Housed at the NSSL in Norman, Oklahoma, the program was developed as an effort to understand the environmental factors that make tornadic activity in the Southeast so devastating.

In the Southeast, there is a disproportionately large number of killer tornadoes compared to the rest of the country. Researchers have attributed this to several factors including tornadoes that hit at night across rugged terrain and tornadic activity that persists throughout the year rather than within a defined season. Lack of adequate shelter, a high number of people in vulnerable areas and lack of visibility of tornadoes are also likely factors.

Since 2016, VORTEX-SE research has examined societal vulnerability to tornado risks, communication of these risks and the roles of the NWS and its partners in building local resilience to tornadoes. VORTEX-SE has been iterative in its approach so that new findings and knowledge are built into research going forward.

”We are excited about this new partnership with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant to bring VORTEX-SE research findings to the communities of the Southeast to help save lives and reduce impacts from tornadoes,” said Alan Gerard, Chief of the Warning Research and Development Division at NSSL and federal program lead for VORTEX-SE.

Sempier will serve from her Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium office at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.