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Philly’s Channel 3 brings the weather home

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WRITTEN BY NEAL  ZOREN 
Television Columnist

For all of the high-powered and expensive monitor, probes, cameras, and other devices television stations have planted throughout the region to provide information pertinent to weather forecasts, Channel 3 is looking to augment its reporting capability by adding another weapon in its arsenal — you.
“Eyewitness News” already has more than 100 “Weather Watchers” who can call in and report weather conditions and phenomena where they live. The station is in the process of recruiting more. If you’re interested, you can go to www.CBSPhilly.com/watchers to apply.
Channel 3 chief meteorologist Kathy Orr refers to the “Weather Watchers” as eyes and ears that benefit the ability she and her colleagues — Kate Bilo, Carole Erickson, Katie Fehlinger, and Justin Drabick — have to jump on weather news as it happens. She also said calls from viewers help in timing and tracking weather trends.
“If we know that thunder storms have reached Douglasville or West Chester, we can calculate better when they’ll affect the rest of the region,” Kathy said.
“Immediate eyes and ears also help us to know about usual circumstances such as tornadoes, flash flooding, or downed trees. Our forecasting equipment is good and helps us get an accurate view of the general weather picture, but it enhances our reports, and our service to the viewer, if we can alert people to something specific that is happening in their area. You want to show and talk about flooding as it’s happening, not after the fact.”
Kathy says she and her colleagues find it equally handy when people tip them about what is occurring where they live.
“Weather is local,” Orr said. “We cover a large region that goes from Allentown and
weather conditions. It’s important for us to know whether there’s something someone in one of those areas need to know.
“We, for instance, might not be able to see a fog developing or know about some other situation that affects our viewer in a personal way. We depend a lot on automation and the quality of our equipment, but a Weather Watcher can be quicker than any device in telling us about a specific event.”
Orr says Weather Watchers at times have the capability of alerting the Channel 3 weather team to a situation faster than radar or the U.S. Weather Service.
Orr said she and her colleagues work to build relationships with weather watchers.
“Kate, Katie, Justin, Carole, and I call people to thank them for their participation,” Orr said. “We also call when we notice something in the area about which we may want more information. This is not just a matter of recruiting people and letting it rest at that.
“No one has to be a trained meteorologist to be a Weather Watcher, but it might surprise you know how many weather enthusiasts we have in the region. There are lots of people who have complete weather stations in their yards.
“Someone from the weather teams interviews the people who apply to be Weather Watchers. We don’t concentrate on education as much as the equipment and resources people have to report accurately.
“We will list the instruments they might need.
“Science teachers seem to gravitate to this program. We also encourage science classes to be involved. You know me well enough by now to know how much I promote and support science education.
“Weather Watchers is a good way to learn about meteorology and weather spotting. Firefighters are also drawn to this program. We have entire stations involved in the weather watching process.”
It’s November, the month Orr usually gives her winter forecast, the one that tells what we might expect long-range.

The Channel 3 weather team welcomes input from viewers. Photo courtesy of Channel 3

The Channel 3 weather team welcomes input from viewers. Photo courtesy of Channel 3

So far no date has been set for this forecast, but Kathy expects it to air this or next week and definitely before Thanksgiving.
She says she is checking several oscillations — the North Atlantic, the Pacific, the Arctic, and others — and looking at El Niño, which she says will not have a big effect this year.
Zeoli likes to talk on WPHT
Rich Zeoli, who cut his teeth on WPHT (1210 AM) talk programs that were interrupted by sports events, now presides over the station’s 3 to 6 p.m. weekday time slot, one that is only occasionally pre-empted during baseball season by Phillies day games.
Zeoli, like most of the talkers on ‘PHT, has a decidedly conservative bent. His background is as a communications consultant who trains people in public speaking and how to conduct themselves in broadcast interview situations. He also does some public relations.
The 3 to 6 p.m. show included the first hour or afternoon drive and gives Zeoli the chance to establish himself as a host with an individual style and point of view. In his work on “PHT prior to this afternoon assignment, Zeoli had not differentiated himself from the pack.in spite of having regular programs, He seemed primarily to continue with the stories and messages other hosts had established as the theme of the day.
In general, Zeoli impresses as intelligent and tolerant of caller disagreement, so it could be interesting to see how his persona will expand as he manages a show in a critical time slot.
Zeoli follows political consultant Dick Morris, who refreshingly presented a wide range of subjects and had access to guests of all stripes. His insider’s insight on how politics works will be missed.
Morris left 1210 in October citing a desire on consult with Republican candidates on their 2016 campaigns. Morris was, in the mid-90s, a key adviser to President Bill Clinton and an architect of his 1996 re-election campaign.
Gary R’Nel, who worked with Morris during his 3 to 6 tenure, has been moved to the 6 to 9 p.m. time slot on 1210.

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