Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Local weather warriors welcome the challenge
By Shelley Grieshop
Local weather forecaster Dennis Howick checks the depth of this week's snowfall.. . .
CELINA - Too much snow. Not enough rain. Bitter cold. Scorching hot.
Ohio's weather forecasters endure the critics every season. But even after predicting another "snowzilla" earlier this week, no tomatoes were slung at the warriors of weather who spoke to the newspaper.
"People say something no matter what," local forecaster Dennis Howick said. "But it's always in fun."
Howick, who's been forecasting for The Daily Standard solo since taking over for his father in early 2000, admitted he catches a little grief now and then.
"But I think people realize I can't control the weather," he said.
The full-time farmer also maintains records for the National Weather Service. He said keeping updated on weather conditions helps him and others whose livelihood depends on knowing when to plant crops and harvest fields.
"That's the positive side of this job for me," he added.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that weather observation techniques and technology in the last few decades have greatly improved. On average, a five-day forecast today is as reliable as a two-day forecast 20 years ago, NOAA claims on its website.
But despite the scientific progress, many challenges remain regarding long-term weather predictability. Clouds, temperature, precipitation, winds and storms are dependent on interactions between global systems and local conditions such as geography, latitude, moisture levels and solar energy absorption, NOAA notes.
Erin DeArmond, a Celina native, is pursuing a degree in meteorology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Predicting weather is her hobby and passion; it's a subject that fascinates her, she said.
"I believe the weather, in general, draws me to be a meteorologist. Its ever changing patterns intrigue me to want to passionately study," said the college senior. "Within the past year, since gaining experience at an internship in Lima, I realized how enjoyable it is to predict future patterns."
DeArmond volunteers as a forecaster at the BSU campus-operated radio and TV stations. She recently started her own Facebook page - Mercer County Wx
- to forecast weather for her loved ones back home.
"To predict and forecast what the weather is going to do next and be able to report that to family, friends and the community really excites me," she said. "To have people ask you, and even rely on your 'expertise,' feels good."
She hopes her Facebook page gives her resume a boost; it certainly fuels her passion for meteorology, she said.
DeArmond admits not all her forecasts will hit 100 percent accuracy.
"The weather happens whether you predict it or not ... there's only so much you can do with changing weather," she said.
Her own favorite weather conditions occur in the spring when "it's just starting to warm up and you get that first thunderstorm of the season," she said.
Don Hughes has been in the weather business for 45 years - 20 with the U.S. Air Force and the last 25 with the NWS.
"It started as a hobby for me in high school," he said, adding he learned a lot by reading. "Most people do it because they're fascinated with it."
Hughes said "missed" forecasts are a learning experience but he realizes the public doesn't always see it that way.
"Like anything else, people remember the bad forecast. They never remember the ones we hit exactly," he said.
The hardest part of his job is "getting to work at 4 a.m.," he said with a laugh. All kidding aside, the severe weather days are the most challenging.
"We don't want to over-warn the public but we have to get the information out," he said. "It's a fine line we walk. Too many warnings and people don't pay attention anymore."
His personal reward is helping people plan their lives so they can be safe and successful.
"I get the most enjoyment out of doing a service for the public," he said. "It brings a lot of personal satisfaction."