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Fighting the Good Fight Against Weather Misinformation in Northwest Florida

Pastor Josh McDowell wrote a book my parents read to me as a kid called The Topsy Turvy Kingdom. In it, a king leaves his son in charge of his lands while he goes off to war. 

Well, the rumors start about the king’s early demise. Then, the townspeople decide up is down and down is up. They remove right and wrong from their lives. 

Society soon faces collapse while the son tries to hold the kingdom together and do what is right. 

Just as the villagers are about to rid themselves of the prince via catapult, the king returns and restores order.

 

A former youth pastor in his hometown of Brewton, Alabama, Meteorologist Spinks Megginson is more than likely familiar with the story. After all, he’s kind of living it.  

Daily – Megginson fights the good fight – to get people accurate information about the weather to keep them safe. He’s up against a rogue’s gallery of TikTok Influencers, chicanerous Facebook pages and a host of other content generators busy creating content to scare people about the weather – especially when tropical storms and hurricanes are involved.  

Megginson forecasts daily for the Northwest Florida and Southeast Alabama region. Thousands of people get accurate information from his Facebook Page and the Red Zone Weather App. 

Megginson started Red Zone Weather while still a youth pastor to keep his meteorology skills sharp. It quickly became a part-time – and then a full-time – job. He says roughly 10% of the job is standing before a screen delivering a forecast. The rest of it comprises giving weather safety presentations to schools around the area and combing through data to make the most accurate predictions possible. 

“I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to do weather in my hometown,” Megginson said, “I think that with the demise of traditional broadcast media and the rise of new media, I think it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to be in my hometown, with my family and my friends, and be able to do my craft in a way that is serving the people who I love most in the world.”

Spinks Megginson is a meteorologist in Brewton, Alabama who is committed to getting important weather information out to all of Northwest Florida and Southeast Alabama.

Watching Tropical Storms

Megginson knows eyeballs continue to stare south as Hurricane Idalia begins to creep north toward the Gulf Coast of Florida. 

His broadcasts, every morning, lead with the latest information on the storm. 

As of August 28, Idalia sits between Mexico and Cuba in a sink full of warm Caribbean water. By Wednesday, it should make landfall on the Big Bend of Florida. The National Weather Service predicts the storm will evolve into a significant storm before landfall and could put many at risk through winds, rip currents, floods, and power outages. 

RELATED: Don’t get married in Niceville in September or October.

Florida’s government has activated a statewide Emergency Operations Center and declared a state of emergency for more than 40 counties – not including Okaloosa County. 

So, Megginson talks about the storm while reassuring people that it isn’t going to come our way – that’s what the data says right now. He alludes to the fact that algorithms for social media will not make his content more viral because he’s not scaring people. But for him, it’s what he’s supposed to do. 

“I think the critical point is just to be able to get good, reliable information,” Megginson said, “We see from social science research that not only in hurricane situations but specifically in tornado situations as well, the folks who have a plan, know what they are going to do in advance, have empirically better outcomes than those who don’t.”

What This Storm Means for Okaloosa County - Currently

The storm, as of the writing of this article on Monday, August 28, means a small craft advisory for the Gulf of Mexico. It also, more than likely, means plenty of red and double red flags in our near future – shutting down beaches and posing a risk to those who ignore the warnings.

And while many people on the peninsula could see physical damage from this storm – Megginson worries the storm is a chance for people with few scruples to make a name for themselves or a couple of bucks. “People need to be aware of where they are getting their weather information,” Megginson said, “It does not have to be from me. But for the love of goodness, please do not get your weather information from TikTok or from some goob who has no idea what they are talking about,” Megginson said, “We live in a society where hype and hyperbole are valued to the point where people make decisions off of it and it’s just gross. I just want to encourage folks to be careful and to research who you’re getting your information from because there’s nothing worse than someone who generates money off instilling fear and panic in people.”

For now, the threat to health continues to be the oppressive temperatures that have broiled the southeast over the last month – as well as intense popup showers which have had the Niceville Fire Department and other fire departments scrambling to put out fires started by lightning strikes across the area.

It does not mean, however, that we will get impacts from the storm directly. Megginson believes we will miss all of the issues which come from the storm in our area.

Megginson knows eyeballs continue to stare south as Hurricane Idalia begins to creep north toward the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Final Thoughts on Social Media, Hurricanes, and Bad Information.

Ultimately, Megginson says locals need to have three things to ensure their safety during the most active portion of hurricane season (typically between August 1 and October 31). 

  1. Know where you can get accurate information about coming storms.
  2. Know what your plan is for a hurricane strike near you.
  3. Have a hurricane kit prepared for your family. 

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