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Stephen Cropper: WTAE, staff meteorologist

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Age: 40.

Birthplace: Lexington, Ky.

Years at WTAE: 7 1/2.

Previous broadcasting experience: WOWL-TV, Huntsville/ Florence, Ala., anchor/reporter; WSET-TV, Lynchburg, Va., reporter to primary weather anchor.

Stephen Cropper

Weather training: Bachelor's in journalism from Georgia State University; 3-year meteorology certificate, Mississippi State University; AMS seal; and 7 1/2-year tutelage under Joe DeNardo (equivalent to a graduate degree).

Weather idol or model: Growing up in Atlanta, I watched the birth and growth of CNN and enjoyed watching Flip Spiceland (great TV name). I enjoyed his comfortable on-air delivery.

Were you a weather geek as a child? No. My passion for television and for weather evolved from a love of storytelling. As an intern at the CBS station in Atlanta, I spent most of my time with the weather department. My start in the business, however, came as a news anchor.

How do you feel when you receive credit or blame for the weather? I enjoy both. Weather is always a topic of conversation. In fact, research shows that more than 85 percent of TV viewers watch for the forecast. I knew that going in and any comment, actually, verifies that people are watching.

Best weather call? I am fortunate to work in an industry where a major part of my job deals with providing valuable information to the public. While in Virginia, I had that opportunity. A strong line of thunderstorms, with a history of straight-line wind damage, tore through the area, and I was able to give viewers valuable lead time so that they could take shelter.

Biggest miss? Calling for partly cloudy skies on a January day when 3 inches of snow actually fell. I received several requests from viewers to stop by to help them "shovel the 3 inches of partly cloudy" off their driveways!

Forecasting -- art or science? Both. From a scientific standpoint, it involves the analysis and projection of complicated sets of data. From an artistic standpoint, it involves the interpretation of that data. That's why consultation with other meteorologists is invaluable. And while meteorology may not be considered as "serious" as being a physician, meteorology and medicine are analogous. Just as a doctor looks at symptoms (fever, pain, etc.) and attempts to diagnose what is causing them, so too a meteorologist looks at symptoms (clouds, wind, temps, etc.) and attempts to forecast what is causing them.

If it's a science, how accurate should viewers expect you to be? The general trend is that the longer [advance] time [for] the forecast, the more the accuracy drops. For example, today's forecast should be 95-99 percent accurate, while the extended forecast may drop to 75 percent, depending on the season.

Vacation ruined by weather, blame? March 1993 -- storm of the century. I had traveled from Virginia to Atlanta to celebrate my engagement. Snow began to fall and, as you might imagine, Atlanta is better equipped to deal with "sweat" than snow. We were snowed in for several days. However, we were able to spend more quality time with my family, and I am happy to say that what started as a "frigid" forecast for marriage quickly turned into a "sunny, pleasant" life with my wife. (I had to add that. No doubt my wife will read this!)

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