Stella’s Big Winners: Philly’s Accidental Weathermen
BY JOEY SWEENEY
While there is certainly a kitsch appeal to the various flavors of local TV news weather reportage — from the cheeto daredevil himself, Steve Keeley, to the ham-fisted, seemingly always aggrieved Hurricane Schwartz — theirs is a history of amazing letdowns. And while the entire class insists that they are, first and foremost, meteorologists who somehow just happen to be on TV, intuition and experience consistently remind us that this is a red herring, a small truth wrapped in the bigger showbiz lie of local TV news.
And while it used to be that hardcore, real-deal weather nerd source info and know-how used to be hard to dig up, like so many other things, it’s now information that is free for all, and easy to access. This has given us, in Philly at least, a new class of what we’ll call accidental weathermen — self-professed weather geeks who use social media as their forecast platforms. Refreshingly, they’re not anchored to sweeps, they don’t have to wear funny outfits or issue dopey catchphrases, or act like they’re sitting on some patented technology that makes their forecast the only one that matters.
This isn’t to say that the new guys are never wrong — every meteorologist is inevitably wrong. Rather, there’s more opportunity to be right, simply by virtue of the fact that they are free from, and in most cases not disposed to local TV weather hysterics.
Take, for example, Accu-Reggie, aka Reggie Smith. Accu-Reggie is the “official weatherman” of community newspaper The Fishtown Spirit. On Twitter, he’s been tireless throughout the storm, updating constantly, and getting out there on the streets, doing weather reports via YouTube:
Or, WXPN DJ/producer Robert Drake who, in recent years, seems to pay nearly as much attention to the various forecasting models available to him as he does to unearthing lost ‘80s club tracks for his (quite frankly, essential) “Land of the Lost” show. Throughout the storm, Drake kept up constant updates via Facebook and Facebook live.
Finally, there was the PhillyWX cohort of assembled local weather geeks who’ve been doing this for 12 years. Throughout the storm, they’ve proved as essential as ever — perhaps, through their own internal sort of debate society, even more so.
The weather, we think, is crazier now than it’s ever been, and we sadly believe that going forward, it will only be more so. We can only thank the fates that, in the face of an increasingly desperate tribe of TV weather clowns, meteorology is increasingly open-source.