Few things affect the everyday life of Alabamians more than the weather, and footage provided by the Alfa Insurance Camera Network gives TV viewers an important element in planning their day.
The Alfa Camera Network currently spans three states, with 96 cameras providing coverage for all of Alabama, most of Mississippi and parts of Georgia. Two additional cameras under construction in Georgia will cover the Albany and Macon areas.
Rich Thomas, chief meteorologist for WSFA-TV in Montgomery, says nothing can replace the images provided by the Alfa Insurance Camera Network.
“Radar and satellite imagery are great resources, but there’s no comparison to actually seeing the weather as it happens,” Thomas said. “The cameras allow us to see the sun shining on a good day, but also see hail, heavy rain, intense lightning and strong winds on bad weather days. That’s what makes it all come alive.”
Derek Kinkade, chief meteorologist at WTVM-TV in Columbus, Ga., forecasts for east Alabama and west Georgia and said the weather information collected at the camera sites is another valuable forecasting tool.
“It’s important for meteorologists to know the surface conditions in different areas,” Kinkade said. “The camera weather stations provide local temperatures and wind speeds in areas where there might not be a surface observation station. Those readings help create a full picture for our viewers.”
The Alfa Insurance Camera Network is used daily in 11 different television markets. The camera coverage becomes even more important during severe weather outbreaks, of which Alabama has seen its fair share in the past year.
“We’ve learned that having a visual is important for a person’s decision-making process, no matter where that individual may live,” Kinkade said. “If we can show the storms, we can give viewers an idea of what to expect and push them to seek shelter.”
After last year’s April 27 tornado outbreak, WAKA Chief Meteorologist Ashley McDonald said she is convinced the footage from the Alfa cameras saved lives.
“It certainly makes it more real to our viewers and to us here in the newsroom,” McDonald said. “When you can actually see a tornado coming to your area, you know you need to go to a safe place.”
Marlene Hall, media director of Alfa Insurance, says Alfa sponsors the camera network because it is an important service for the communities and people of Alabama.
“The camera network partnership with television stations is just another way Alfa Insurance is involved in the communities we serve,” Hall said. “There are few things that impact more lives every day than weather. The cameras make what is happening more real. With the severity of the storm before them, viewers are more likely to take shelter and save their lives.”