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Teen a weather wonder

1/22/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Brooks Barber's parents first got an inkling their son was into all things weather when he chose to be a meteorologist for his career program -- in kindergarten.

"His interest really started when he was young," said Dave Barber, his father.

Brooks Barber, 16, now is a sophomore at Hays High School, and his interest in meteorology hasn't waned. In fact, just the opposite.

"I have just always been interested in it," he said.

"Weather is always changing, affects everybody's everyday lives."

Three years ago, Barber started his own business, providing weather information on the Internet. Cirruswx.net gives weather information, as well as providing short- and long-range forecasts, in addition to breaking news when severe weather hits. Since April 2012, they have had a team of 11 people across the state who report during severe weather.

Barber, who founded Cirrus Weather in 2010, was joined by Peyton Sanders in 2012. At the time, Sanders had 80 followers on Facebook and Barber had 1,000. They now have 8,100 followers on Facebook.

Sanders, Wichita, is a sophomore at Maize South High School. They team up to provide information. Barber, who designed the website and graphics, also provides long-range forecasts, as well as being in charge of social media. Among Sanders' duties is providing a five-day forecast and live video coverage.

"Peyton focuses more on the short-term weather, within the next week," Barber said. "I focus more on long-range, up to the next month."

They keep in touch through social media.

"We talk to each other on a daily basis via messaging on Facebook," Barber said. "Once or twice a month, we'll have a Skype meeting. We try to meet up in person a few times a year."

Barber spends approximately two hours a day updating the website.

"He would just come home and work on it, just self-taught," said his mother, Annette Barber. "All the technology, all the computer stuff, just self-taught."

Barber has three computer screens at his disposal and an iPad to monitor social media in his basement bedroom.

"I don't like to spend all my time down here, though," Barber said.

Barber plans to major in either meteorology or business in college. If it's meteorology, he hopes to attend the University of Kansas or University of Oklahoma. If it's business, he likely will attend Fort Hays State University.

"We'd like to keep this going for as long as we can, through college, probably," Barber said of the meteorology website.

Barber has kept track of the site's page views from the beginning. So far, they have had approximately 24.5 million hits since October 2010.

"He's had people from all over the world check in -- people just travel, people that live elsewhere," Annette Barber said. "He has a map that pegs where all the people hit, from other continents.

"It's just amazing -- in awe."

Dave Barber still remembers what he did with his son when he was in kindergarten.

"When he was that age, I would come home from work, and we'd spend the first hour watching 'Storm Stories' (on the Weather Channel)," Dave Barber said. "Just spent a lot of time doing it. It grew from there."

Dave Barber said his son just wants to help people.

"Being able to alert them to severe weather is what drives him," he said.

Annette Barber said even school officials will check with her son about the weather.

"Even the principal at school -- 'What's Brooks saying,' " she said.

Annette Barber hardly can wait to see what the future holds for her son.

"I'm just in awe of what's ahead for him," she said. "It's opened a lot of doors."