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One Alabama weatherman's crusade to improve tornado safety

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It is, in fact, another local joke – Spann's use of everything from country stores to mailboxes to pinpoint storm paths. But there's a purpose to his method, giving the jumble of radar polygons and velocity signatures real-life relevance.

Spann says he was never one of those weathermen with blow-dried hair and a toothy grin who merely pinned felt suns on a board. As a certified meteorologist, he understands much of the science behind severe weather, and when he's not standing in front of the lens talking about it, he's out in the community educating local residents. Many people credit him with saving lives over the years.

"I call him 'Super Spann' because he does his best to protect us," says Olympia Hewitt, a Tuscaloosa County resident who watched in horror Dec. 6, 2000, as Spann stood on-screen – sleeves rolled up, wearing his ever-present suspenders – and warned residents of Bear Creek Trailer Park to seek shelter from a tornado. Eleven people died that day, but residents believe the toll would have been higher without his coverage. "He talks like he's right there," Ms. Hewitt adds, "telling you what's happening."

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It can make a long day even more grueling. Spann, a lover of numbers and a stickler for details, wakes up at precisely 4:52 a.m. and often returns home at midnight after speaking at schools, uploading weather videos, writing blog updates, providing forecasts for 25 radio stations nationwide, conducting three local broadcasts, and teaching evening storm seminars. He's energetic on air, even when exhausted.

"I don't think weather should ever be boring," he says. "I owe people that."

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