By Mary Beth Roach
Local television meteorologists know Central New York winters.
The staffs of “Storm Team” at NewsChannel 9 and CNYCentral’s “Weather Authority,” represent well more than 125 years of weather forecasting experience, with most of those meteorologists having spent years at broadcast outlets in Upstate New York and the Southern Tier.
Storm Team’s Chief Meteorologist Jim Teske, John DiPasquale, Kate Thornton, and Carson Metcalf, along with CNYCentral’s Josh Kozlowski were interviewed on their thoughts on covering weather in this area.
Forecasting for the Central New York area can present its challenges, considering the large amount of information and weather models they look at daily; the diverse geography of the stations’ viewing area; and the temperature changes that can occur — sometimes all in one day or over the course of just a few days.
Take, for example this past November, when it snowed the morning of Nov. 1, but several days later, the highs were in the 50s and people were wearing shorts.
“You’re not going to get yourself meteorologically into a rut for very long because things are going to change,” Teske said.
The weather here is impacted by many variables on a daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal basis, according to Kozlowski. He sees our area as the “epicenter of different microclimates” with moisture from the Great Lakes, mild moisture to the east from the Atlantic Ocean, warm and moist from the Gulf of Mexico, and cold air from Canada.
“It’s just a matter of how those are working together, and it depends on the tracks of storms,” he said.
That variability can be seen in areas that are just short distances apart from each other. Consider that on some winter day, lake effect might dump feet of snow on Oswego, the Tug Hill and other points north, while Syracuse might get just a few flakes.
Adding to the challenge are the changes to area patterns. The cold weather does not last long and snowfall hasn’t been as significant in the past few years. According to extremeweatherwatch.com, Syracuse’s snowfall was a little more than 82 inches in 2022; and less than 75 inches in both 2021 and 2020, and localsyr.com (NewsChannel9’s website) has reported that through the end of this October, “Syracuse was on pace to be the third warmest year in recorded history. Only 2012 and 2021 were warmer through the first 10 months than this year.”
“Our warmer winters have really made it even more challenging because now we’re not having the expectations,” Thornton said.
Making it through a few CNY winters is a point of pride for area residents.
“It is a badge of honor,” Metcalf said. He tells his friends downstate that they don’t know what winter is “until you’ve lived upstate. We know how to deal with it.”
When people in other locales ask Central New Yorkers how the winter weather is, Teske said that “we feel proud to say we’ve got a foot of snow.”
He recalled a winter about 20 years ago when this area came within one-tenth or two-tenths of breaking the record for snowfall.
“You got a sense from people that they were a little disappointed. We felt collectively, as a region, let down, cheated,” he said.
Regardless of the challenges the weather can bring, this area’s meteorologists can handle them.
The ones who took part in this story have grown up in Upstate New York.
Teske grew up in the Syracuse area and worked in Burlington, Vermont and Maine before coming to NewsChannel 9 in 1995. Thornton was raised in Saugerties, graduated from SUNY Albany and worked in Binghamton. She joined the local station in January of 2014. DiPasquale was born in Syracuse and grew up in Seneca Falls and has been at NewsChannel 9 for 6 1/2 years. Metcalf was born in Oswego and raised in Fulton, and came to the station this past spring.
Moreover, Teske, DiPasquale, Metcalf and Kozlowski all attended SUNY Oswego. Teske would go on to graduate from Penn State. With SUNY Oswego situated on the shores of Lake Ontario, the producer of all that lake effect, it was like having a weather lab in the backyard, DiPasquale said.
Teske not only reports the winter weather; he also likes to get out in it, putting on a pair of cross-country skis and heading out to spots in the area.
“It’s beautiful being out on a nice sunny, crisp, 30-degree day in the middle of winter when you’ve got fresh snow,” he said.
DiPasquale calls himself “a snow nut.” Ever since he was a young boy growing up in Seneca Falls, he said he was fascinated with the snow and seeing how it decorated the trees.
Metcalf said that growing up in Oswego County instilled in him the fascination of how lake effect snow forms and he has enjoyed translating that interest into to his chosen career.
Thornton not only finds winter to be beautiful, but she enjoys spending time outside with her husband and their three daughters.
Kozlowski grew up in Westvale, a suburb of Syracuse and was significantly impacted by the Labor Day Storm of and the Blizzard of 1993. Although he was only in his teens at the time, he said he called thinking that he had witnessed two extreme kinds of weather events and was asking how and why these happen. He wondered, too, if he were to go on to study this field, could he be able to report on these weather events, give people warnings, and possibly save lives.