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Local prognosticator right on target with Sandy prediction

  • CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS "Tamaqua Area Weatherman" Ryan Fannock looks up from studying a meteorological model on his computer.
    CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS "Tamaqua Area Weatherman" Ryan Fannock looks up from studying a meteorological model on his computer.
Published November 07. 2012 05:02PM

The Tamaqua Area Weatherman nails it again.

Eight days before Hurricane Sandy struck the Jersey shore, the Tamaqua Area Weatherman, aka Ryan Fannock, was studying constantly changing weather maps.

He posted an image of the emerging storm on his FaceBook page, along with the observation that there was a potential tropical storm/hurricane forming and that it may affect the East Coast.

"As the days went along, four or five days before landfall, I posted my first-call map, and I never had to make any changes to it. It stayed the same."

So, late on Oct. 29, as some forecasters were reassuring the public that the worst was over, Fannock was warning of 30-40 mph sustained winds with up to 70 mph wind gusts.

The Tamaqua Area Weatherman was dead-on: The next morning, power had gone out for thousands, trees were down and roofs damaged.

Fortunately, Fannock's followers were ready.

"I was very pleased with the way I tracked that, because I feel I really helped a lot of people prepare for Sandy," he says.

He expects to have an official winter forecast out on Nov. 16.

As Fannock's expertise grows, so does his following.

His Facebook page, Tamaqua Area Weatherman, was created on Dec. 18, 2011, and now has more than 2,000 followers.

Fannock arrives at forecasts by studying "models" produced by professional meteorological organizations, and not, he emphasizes, watching televised or online weather reports.

On his FaceBook page, he posts images of weather maps as they evolve, taking his followers with him as he journeys toward forecasts.

"If I post maps, I'm just showing you what I look at it's not my forecast," he says. "I'm just taking you along for the ride while I'm trying to come up with a forecast."

And so it goes with another potential storm heading our way tonight into tomorrow:

At 9:15 a.m. Monday, Fannock says he's "leaning toward a mix: It starts out as rain, changes to snow, sleet, rain. I'm really not sure yet. It's not set in stone. Some models show snow, some models show rain, some models show the storm going out to sea."

He's focused on the European model "because it was really good with Sandy."

According to that model, as of late Sunday night, the storm could bring "really cold air and three to six inches of snow."

At 2:34 p.m. Monday, he posted "Wow, 12z (1 p.m.) Euro snow map just came in. 6 to 9 inches for us....looks like Euro and GFS are starting to come together!! I highly suggest getting your shovels ready :)"

By Tuesday morning, Fannock was close to arriving at a forecast.

"The nor'easter will be staying far enough off the coast to spare us of any heavy snows. We will have some rain showers that transition to snow showers. A coating to one inch is all I'm predicting," he says.

By this morning, he was ready.

The storm, he said, will bring "anywhere from 1 to 4 inches. This will be elevation dependent. It will also get pretty windy during the event. Winds could gust to 30-35 mph. This Nor'easter will be close enough to give our area snow. A mix will start during the day, quickly changing to snow. Most accumulations will hold off until after dark."

Fannock tracks weather for Schuylkill, Carbon and parts of Luzerne county using several weather models. The European model, he says, is a "very accurate, long-range model. There are two runs of the European model, one at 1 a.m. (called the zero z) and the other at 1 p.m. (called the 12 z)."

There's also an American model, called the GFS.

"That's less reliable. That's also used for long range," he says.

Then there's the Canadian model; the NOGAPS, that is used by the Navy. For short range forecasts, under 48 hours, he likes the NAM model.

"There are so many different models, but I find the Euro to be the most reliable," he says.

That's the model he used to forecast Hurricane Sandy's path and strength.

Fannock, 21, graduated in 2009 from Tamaqua Area High School. Even as a child, his passion for weather was evident.

"It all started with snow. i absolutely love snow. When I was 7 or 8 years old, and I would be running from window to window, chasing the snow," he says.

At 8 or 9, he started forming "snow pools" with his family betting on how much snow would fall.

Later, he signed up to be a Storm Tracker with WNEP. He also chats with WBRE meteorologist David Skutnik to get answers to any questions.

By high school, Fannock was studying weather models.

He is self-taught in meteorology, "with the help of social media."

"If we didn't have social media, I'd be clueless about weather," he says.

Fannock subscribes to several weather websites, and communicates constantly with weather experts professional meteorologists and weather enthusiasts via FaceBook.

"I consider myself a weather enthusiast, because I don't have a degree, but I really do enjoy weather," he says. "I read and read and read, researched definitions, looked at maps constantly. And now I have a pretty good knowledge of the maps."

He also consults AccuWeather Professional, WeatherBell, Storm-Vista, and other professional sites.

"It's a full-time hobby," he says. "I work 12:30-9 p.m. every day, and I get up at 9 a.m., check the weather until 11 a.m., then I'm home from work by 10 p.m. and I'm looking at the weather until 1 a.m."

He's considered getting a degree in meteorology. But for now, he's happy with weather as an avocation rather than a vocation.

"I like what I do for a living (he's a collections specialist at Sallie Mae), but I prefer to do it as a hobby," he says.

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