On naming winter storms, and other places to go

Below is a post that appeared on my professional Facebook page on October 4, 2012.  The Weather Channel has named the recent nor’easter, Athena, so their experiment is underway.

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Many people have asked me about ABC13 WeatherNation, and why it is needed when there is already a weather channel.

We have partnered with a meteorologist and entrepreneur, Paul Douglas, in this venture. His new company, WeatherNation, is providing national weather content, 24 hours a day.  And at several scheduled times every hour, we here at ABC13 provide the local weather for our part of Virginia.

To be sure, I have meteorology colleagues at The Weather Channel (TWC).  And I think very highly of them. But on a personal level, I feel that management at TWC has drifted too far from their channel’s core mission.  Too often, when checking in to get weather information, TWC is discussing something that has nothing to do with weather, or showing a prepared documentary.  As a result, the viewer needs to wait, sometimes more than a half hour, before getting the desired in-depth weather information from a meteorologist they trust.

This week, TWC made the unilateral decision to give names to winter storms.  In theory, it is not a bad idea, but many in the weather enterprise feel this was more of a marketing campaign, executed primarily to draw eyes to their programming.  My colleague in Raleigh, Nate Johnson, has an excellent write-up on this little tempest, and I support just about everything he says (he just beat me to blogosphere).

Not every person presenting weather on TWC is a meteorologist.  Now, that does not matter to everyone, which is fine.  But just yesterday (Oct 3), one of their veterans, Jeff Morrow, announced on Facebook that he was no longer with TWC.  He had 27 years of experience with TWC.  Think of the all the weather experience walking out that door. I do not know the circumstances of his departure, but consider this report from Mike James, who runs a popular television business newsletter:

TWC insiders claim more high-profile cuts are coming as Comcast looks to reduce expenses and maximize profits by shifting to more “non-forecast programming.”

Comcast is the parent company of NBC and TWC… which is why Al Roker suddenly started showing up all the time on TWC.  One thing I have learned in this line of work: Ownership matters. At the risk of sounding like a suck-up, I am blessed with good ownership.

In short, we felt there was a viewership that had been abandoned, and there was a market to be served. WeatherNation fills that void.

All of the people you see at WeatherNation are meteorologists. I like to think of it as the way TWC used to be: Real-time weather. All the time. Personally, I would like to see Jeff Morrow land there, but after 27 years in one town with a family, I have to imagine it would be tough to pick up and move from Atlanta (TWC) to Minneapolis (WeatherNation).

Regrettably, ABC13WeatherNation will not be carried by DirecTV.  We are working with Dish Network to have them carry the channel, and we hope to have an announcement soon. You can find us over the air at Digital Channel 13.3. We are also on most cable systems: Cox 109, Comcast 206 (214 in Galax), Chatmoss 504, and Shentel 167 (northern Campbell County).

You can find the entire list of providers at my employer’s website.


About seansublette

Meteorologist at Climate Central. Broadcast meteorologist in Virginia from 1995 to 2015. Born and raised in Richmond, VA. Penn State alumnus. Loves baseball and the rock band Rush. Views are independent of my employer. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
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