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Jeff Verszyla: KDKA, chief weather forecaster

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Age: 34.

Birthplace: Sewickley.

Years at KDKA: Almost 7.

Previous broadcasting experience: KRGV-TV, McAllen, Brownsville, Harlingen area of South Texas, morning/noon weather forecaster; WVTY-FM and WRRK-FM, on-air personality and morning show producer.

Jeff Verszyla

Weather training: Allegheny College graduate with degree in broadcast communications and English. I'm enrolled in the broadcast meteorology program at Mississippi State University and expect to receive my degree this summer. Once I have completed that program, I will be permitted to apply for the AMS seal. I am awaiting confirmation of the NWA seal. I also have experience covering hurricanes.

Weather idol or model: My interest in weather really didn't start to take hold until my college years and has since consumed me. I can say with great honesty that when I was growing up in Sewickley and watched TV news/weather, it was always KDKA and my former colleague, Bob Kudzma.

Were you a weather geek as a child? I was fascinated by thunderstorms as a kid. My mom used to tell me that whenever there was thunder and lightning, God was bowling. The rumble of thunder was supposed to be the ball rolling down the lane, and the lightning was whenever He got a strike. That mom-ism always stuck with me.

How do you feel when you receive credit or blame for the weather? By nature, I am a perfectionist in all aspects of my life, so whenever the weather doesn't pan out the way I said it would, I feel responsible. I have no problem accepting the blame for a bad forecast, but if it rains and I said it was going to rain, then please don't blame me. ... I'm just the messenger.

Best weather call? One day that will always stick out in my mind is June 2, 1998 -- the day a tornado tore through Mount Washington. ... Around lunch time, I went out with a photographer to interview some people on the street about weather watches and warnings. I wanted to see if people knew the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. In the process of interviewing several people, I asked if a tornado warning were ever issued for their neighborhood, would they heed the warning? Every person replied no because they believed tornadoes were rare in this area, and we were well protected by the hills and valleys. Needless to say, five hours later that all changed.

Biggest miss? Most of my forecast faux pas involve winter storms. They are, without a doubt, the most difficult storms to forecast for a variety of reasons. If a storm shifts its track, even a little, that could mean the difference between 2 inches of snow and 10 inches of snow, or maybe even no snow at all.

Forecasting -- art or science? Both a science and an artistic talent. The science behind forecasting is equations. From these equations, a forecaster can explain the physical processes that occur in the atmosphere. The art behind forecasting is using the mind to put the atmospheric processes together. Artistic talents would be things such as recognizing a weather pattern, putting a forecast into words that are understandable ... and being able to learn from past successes and failures.

If it's a science, how accurate should viewers expect you to be? I strive to be perfect, but realistically, that is not possible. So, all things considered, if I can get it right 75 percent of the time, I'll be satisfied.

Vacation ruined by weather, blame? I was vacationing at Disney World a few years back when a hurricane passed close by. It rained buckets for two days and washed out my plans to visit Mickey and the crew at Animal Kingdom.

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