J.B. is a 32-year veteran of the National Weather Service.
(It was known as the U.S. Weather Bureau when he signed on
in the spring of 1957.) Ironically, at the moment he arrived
at the office at Birmingham Airport for the very first day
on duty, a tornado was on the ground in Walker County
causing several fatalities.
J.B. spent his entire
NWS career in the Birmingham office and witnessed numerous
major Alabama weather events. He always was especially
interested in severe weather and spent many long hours on
duty during adverse weather, including tornadoes,
hurricanes, snow events and ice storms. He worked for 17 hours in a row without a break during the famous
tornado Super Outbreak of April 3, 4, 1974. He was also on
duty as part of a team when a powerful F5 tornado ripped across the western section of
Birmingham in April, 1977.
It was known as the Smithfield tornado. During all his
years in severe weather work, he was awarded not only a U.S.
Department of Commerce Bronze Medal but also the Silver
When growing up in West Alabama's Hale County (Havana
Junction!) he always wanted to be a weatherman, newspaper
reporter, radio broadcaster or photographer. His career in
meteorology has included all of that. He was one of the
persons that handled the NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts from
the Weather Service. He was responsible for thousands of
weather stories, warnings and special feature items over the
As a kid, he built a small radio "studio" in the corner
of his bedroom and practiced doing newscasts, and of course
weather, with a wooden "microphone." His main source of news
was a day-old Birmingham Age-Herald, The Tuscaloosa News,
The Greensboro Watchman and jotting down items he heard on
WJRD Radio, Tuscaloosa. He also printed a two page weekly
newspaper, "Hometown News" by hand and mailed a copy to
relatives in Worcester, Massachusetts and charged them five
cents. It cost three cents to mail it!.
Of course weather was often the main headline.
He ordered a $4 plastic rain guage from a catalog. His
parents bought him a 29-cent thermometer and a 5-cent
notebook. He started keeping weather records and was hooked.
At Akron High School, one of his teachers, W.W. Duncan, was very interested in weather. He encouraged
J.B. to follow that and gave him an assignment to brief the
science class once a week on all of the new developments in
During his NWS career, J.B. was very active in
photography and the duty of photographing storm damage sort
of defaulted to him. In fact, for several years it was his
responsibility to do storm surveys and determine the "F" rating of a tornado, path length, width, fatalities and
injuries for the official NWS publication, Storm Data. The
Super Outbreak in 1974 was an enormous task.
J.B. retired from the NWS in 1989. A few years later, he
came out of retirement to team up with James Spann in
publishing a daily WeatherFax. He and James had met years
earlier at the NWS Office at 11 West Oxmoor Road and became
instant friends--especially since both were extremely
interested in severe weather. James was Chief Meteorologist
at Channel 13 at the time.
Today, J.B. is a part of The Weather Company and a team
that does forecasting and writing for the James Spann
Forecast Fax, the E-Forecast, the ABC 33/40 web site, and
the rapidly growing weather blog.
During times of severe weather, you can also hear J.B. on
Cox Radio stations in Birmingham, WBHK, WBHJ and WAGG. This
includes continuous "wall-to-wall" coverage when there is a tornado warning.
J.B and his wife, Judy, have been married almost 46
years. She grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, Ironically, she and
J.B. met out at the Birmingham Airport when she and her "boy
friend" visited the weather office. They have two grown
children and six grandchildren. Son, Steve Elliott is a
Birmingham and Center Point fireman. Daughter, Debbie Broome
and her husband, Robert live in North Jefferson County.