Spinks Megginson was barely out of the toddler stage when he first became fascinated with the weather. He eventually took that fascination with him to the University of Alabama, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2014 with a communications degree that included a multi-faceted focus on geography, electronic news and, of course, weather.
Now the Brewton native is using his education to widen the scope of his romance with atmospheric interactions.
Megginson, who co-founded RedZone Weather in 2015 and is currently its executive director, told Atmore Lions Club members last week that his education serves primarily as a complement to his early passion, which was born when Hurricane Opal made landfall in Pensacola in October 1995.
“I got bit by the weather bug at an early age,” the 25-year-old meteorologist said. “I was interested in weather long before communications. When I was four years old, Hurricane Opal hit the Gulf Coast, and that was really a defining moment for me. Since then, I’ve been a hawk on monitoring weather.”
Lion Anne Hetzel, who invited Megginson to speak at the meeting, said she has learned to trust the forecasts presented on RedZone, a hyper-local weather service that broadcasts mainly through social media outlets Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. RedZone also has an app that is available through the IOS and Android app stores.
“If he says it’s going to rain on a certain street in Atmore, you can bet it’s going to rain on that street,” Hetzel said. “When he was tracking the tornadoes (that hit Century, Fla. last year), he was down to the roads and everything, exactly where the track was.”
Asked if the his company’s name was a tribute to the propensity of the Crimson Tide football team to score once it reached the 20-yard-line, Megginson said it initially was.
“The short answer is ‘no,’ but there’s an asterisk to that,” he laughed. “When we started the company, we chose that name to potentially have some avenues into sports, but that didn’t pan out. It still works out well, though, because the ‘red zone’ is actually what people are in when they’re within a tornado polygon.”
RedZone Weather provides coverage of severe and normal weather for a 12-county area of southwest Alabama and northwest Florida that ranges from Mobile, northward to Greenville, westward to Washington County, then southward to Okaloosa County (Fla.).
Megginson said he uses a drone to track severe weather and flooding, and to show the aftermath of devastating weather events. He pointed out that the “flying camera” is also used to capture some breathtaking sunsets and sunrises across the area.
The professional weather-watcher said he has been more than pleased at how his business venture has been received by the public since its first broadcast, on March 13, 2015. He would like to see it grow, although he wants to maintain the company’s local focus.
“I never could have imagined how big RedZone Weather has grown in just two years,” he said. “People are driving the company; I’m just the messenger. I want to inundate southwest Alabama and northwest Florida, then scale out to other areas across the state and across the region. It’s exciting, really an honor, to be the source of weather for southwest Alabama and northwest Florida.”
Megginson showed screen shots indicating that RedZone received more than 400,000 views during January’s threat of severe weather in the area. Since its first broadcast, it has accumulated more than 22 million “hits” on Facebook.
“We do daily weather coverage as well, even on blue-sky, nice weather days, and we average about 25,000 hits (per day) during periods of good weather,” he said. “But there’s something about the scientific aspects of bad weather that is really appealing. We’ve had 22 million-plus sets of eyes on us. Some of those sets of eyes might be the same people, but it shows that the new media in the world of weather is really catching on.”
One of the things that has limited the company’s growth is his primary job as youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Brewton, a job that he knows he must give up in order to see his dream reach its pinnacle.
“I am trying to build a company that is beneficial for the entire (region),” he explained. “I have been so entrenched with youth ministry that I haven’t been able to build RedZone to a point where it is a financially sustainable thing for me. Over the next six months, that will be my endeavor. I’ll be exiting the youth ministry, mainly because it’s time to move on.
“People are turning to us rather than television for their weather, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. The numbers just keep going up.”