The Ice Storm of 2009 left an impression on just about everyone living in western Kentucky who was old enough to remember it. People might remember the loud cracks of falling tree branches, going days without power, school cancellations or how ice clung to everything -- powerlines to the tiniest blade of grass. It was a once-in-a-lifetime storm.
Graves County High School senior Jacob Woods singles out that event as when he realized meteorology is something he wanted to do. He remembers watching the weather on TV as a young child and likes the personality aspect of broadcast news where they "wake people up" in the morning, but when he was 7, that ice storm helped spark a passion for weather.
"I've just always found weather really fascinating and ... the ice storm hit and it was so bad," he recalled. "Of course, everybody around here, including us, got just about the worst of it, out of the entire United States that had the storm.
"We had people in our house for two or three weeks. No power or anything like that. It was kind of cool to see how destructive, but yet beautiful Mother Nature can be, and from there it really just propelled from that to severe weather. To this day, winter weather -- ice, snow -- is still my favorite."
The 17-year-old plans to attend Mississippi State University in fall 2020, where he intends to study professional meteorology and minor in television broadcast. Woods said he chose the college in Starkville, Mississippi, because it's a top school for meteorology. Down the road, he wants to further his education with master's and doctoral degrees.
Woods also got involved as a National Weather Service Precipitation Database Recorder and became a NWS Certified Storm Spotter. He runs a Twitter account that focuses on weather forecasts. He visited Moore, Oklahoma, for a week to help rebuild after an EF-5 tornado in 2013 and produced a video about an EF-3 tornado that hit Mayfield in 2016.
He thinks weather interests people because it's out of our hands. There's also the safety side of things.
"Obviously, we can't control it unless we're talking about you know, like the global warming aspect," Woods added. "But as far as your small town local weather, you can't control what the temperature is going to be tomorrow and what kind of precipitation you're going to see. I think that's the really cool aspect and it affects everybody. No matter what way you slice it. It affects you."
Woods, son of Max and Julie Woods of Graves County, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday and Tuesday, The Sun publishes profile stories on area high school seniors chosen from a pool of nominees for Teen of the Week recognition. Near the end of the school year, a selection committee picks one of these students for Teen of the Year, which carries a $5,000 scholarship. Another student will receive the Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Woods ranks high in his class at Graves County High School with a 4.0 cumulative unweighted grade-point average. He earned a composite ACT score of 27 and attended the Governor's Scholar Program this past summer, for which he studied mass media and journalism at Bellarmine University. He's involved in DECA and youth leadership, while he also played football for the Graves County Eagles.
Woods looks forward to college at Mississippi State, which he feels is a great opportunity to take that first step out on his own.
"I can't wait to leave, but I'm also going to be very sad to leave the friend group that I've made here, to leave all my family," he said. "They're all here in western Kentucky, so it will be difficult, but I think it's a big, grown-up move to just go away and go ahead and like start your big dream and excel from there."