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Radar shows an in-depth look at local TV weathercasts

Sunday, February 09, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Phil Connors blew the blizzard prediction but won the woman in "Groundhog Day." Of course, Bill Murray's weatherman for a fictitious Pittsburgh station had to live the same day over and over in Punxsutawney until he got it right.

Stacy Innerst, Post-Gazette illustration

Related articles:

TV meteorology melds on-air experience with seals of approval

Profiles of local TV weather forecasters:

Joe DeNardo
Stephen Cropper
Don Schwenneker
Jerry Martz
Mike Brookins
Steve Teeling
Julie Bologna
Jeff Verszyla
Rebecca Hower
Jon Burnett
Matt Morano
Kevin Benson

Real Pittsburgh forecasters probably have had their own cases of deja vu this season as viewers and anchors peppered them with questions: Is it ever going to warm up? Stop snowing at rush hour? Be sunny again? Well, is it?

A white Christmas was just the start, and the experts who normally pop up about 17 minutes into the newscasts have been playing lead-off hitters this wicked winter. Surveys of viewers have shown that weather is often the No. 1 reason they watch the news, and Pittsburghers are no exception.

Television forecasts have come a long way since "weather dolls" equipped with a disguised ironing board and map with one geographic landmark (Pittsburgh) told us whether it was expected to rain. They gave way to forecasters who sometimes doubled as comic relief. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Willard Scott, onetime "Today" weather reporter, was the original Ronald McDonald, or Channel 11 employed Pat Shingleton, who used a prop known as the "Fickle Finger of Fate."

The national wakeup weathermen, such as Scott successor Al Roker, are outright celebrities, but weather is serious business on a local level. Average viewers have become more conversant in jet streams, wind-chill factors, El Nino, global warming and how that low pressure system languishing over the Midwest might affect their weekend plans.

Although most Pittsburghers know WTAE chief meteorologist Joe DeNardo -- given his longevity, onetime "Joe Said It Would" campaign, Project Bundle-Up work and candor about his lung cancer surgery -- they may not be as familiar with the other dozen people who deliver their forecasts. We thought it would be fun to present mini-dossiers on them, minus the famous question about what is in their refrigerator or freezer. Snowballs? We don't think so.

DeNardo may be the veteran of the lot, but he was also the most concise in his answers; some of the other responses were trimmed for space.

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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