The Shore's own weatherman speaks

"I would tell people weather here in South Jersey is kind of boring. But since 2009, we had 3 blizzards in 54 weeks, then we had Irene, Sandy, the derecho. In 6 months, we had one of our best forecasts ever, Sandy, and one of our worst forecasts: the derecho." - Dan Skeldon, meteorologist
"I would tell people weather here in South Jersey is kind of boring. But since 2009, we had 3 blizzards in 54 weeks, then we had Irene, Sandy, the derecho. In 6 months, we had one of our best forecasts ever, Sandy, and one of our worst forecasts: the derecho." - Dan Skeldon, meteorologist (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 10, 2014

LINWOOD - Here in deep South Jersey, they do not need any fancy-pants TV weather forecasters, with their Doppler radar, team coverage, and complicated love lives. They've got big, lanky, cerebral, nice guy Dan Skeldon, the Jimmy Stewart of meteorologists, working for NBC40, based just outside Atlantic City, soon to lose its NBC affiliation (thanks, Comcast), still vowing to keep broadcasting, out of the converted Frito-Lay warehouse on Route 9.

For locals, Skeldon, 38, a Cornell University graduate, was the face of Hurricane Irene, the derecho of June 2012, and the big one, Hurricane Sandy. A native New Englander (just listen to him say Long-paaht), he has learned to forecast flies on the beach. He's planning an outdoor wedding Sept. 27, and no doubt his many social media followers will be tuning in to see whether his long-term forecast for that date sends him inside (he's not ruling it out). Absegami High School administrators - publicly rebuked by Skeldon for going ahead with outdoor graduations two years in a row despite his forecast of thunderstorms, yielding widely shared images of grads fleeing funnel-like clouds - will no doubt be chuckling if it does.

So you're not from the area.

I moved from New England after the station I was at closed in Vermont. I had no idea where Linwood, New Jersey, was. The only part of New Jersey I had been to was the turnpike corridor. So I did not have high expectations.

And now?

I got a place in Ocean City, fell in love with the job, the area, the people immediately. I lived in Ocean City six months before I realized how busy it was in the summer. .

Did you know its weather was unique?

It's a 50-by-50 (mile) area where we focus. Bridgeton to Atlantic City, Hammonton to Cape May. It's very, very flat. It's such a small area, but in the winter it can be zero to 20 inches of snow; in the spring, you can be fogged in and 45 in Ventnor; and it can be 80 and sunny in Hammonton. There's so many little microclimates. We can differentiate Ventnor and Ocean City.

Isn't it basically just "cooler at the Shore," at least in summer?

Normally the sea breezes kick in and the beaches are cooler, but there's a setup that occurs two or three times a summer, where the Atlantic County beaches north get a sea breeze, and the Cape May County beaches do not. I had no idea and busted the forecast the first two years that happened. Why the heck why that was happening? Why is Stone Harbor 90 but Atlantic City 68? You live here for a while, you learn.

Did you know the significance of the land breeze that makes everyone cranky?

Yes. I lived on the New England. The flies here are unique. You have to forecast which wind and the flies. That I did not know. In Vermont they were there no matter what the wind.

It was a little while before you had huge real weather down here.

I would tell people weather here in South Jersey is kind of boring. But since 2009, we had three blizzards in 54 weeks, then we had Irene, Sandy, the derecho. In six months, we had one of our best forecasts ever, Sandy, and one of our worst forecasts, the derecho. The derecho's severity was not forecast. Sandy was forecast eight days out.

Many people think the derecho, as an event, was scarier than Sandy.

No one predicted 100-plus mile an hour winds that night. I have never been more scared. I went in the parking lot, sat in my car, trees are falling. Power went out. I came back in here. Even though it's a Frito-Lay warehouse, it's better protection than a car.

What about Sandy? Did this truly make you feel that this was your home?

Sandy just reinforced my love for the area, helping South Jersey rebuild, being there for South Jersey. I think that is the defining weather moment.

People were really clinging to you on social media.

I felt honored that they were. I was their lifeline for weather information. We did the Sandy drive. We wanted to fill a box truck - we filled 14 box trucks. I was driving this huge truck to schools in Atlantic City. The meteorology was done by that point. It was being part of the community.

There's so much interaction. Right after Sandy, you scolded the Margate bridge for charging tolls. Is it ever a burden?

If you ask my fiancée, maybe. I give my personal cellphone out, my mistake. I get phone calls and texts 3, 4 in the morning after they hear thunder. Or they say, "I'm going up to LBI, I'm having a cookout from 4 to 7."

You're not trying to jump to a bigger market - say, Philadelphia?

The appeal to start over again is not there. I love Philadelphia meteorologists. I do not like the Philadelphia news philosophy, where if there's a dusting of snow you get 10 minutes of team coverage. I really don't like the hype. Here, they say should we even lead with weather, Philly's leading with it. I say, no, you shouldn't.

You don't wish you had Doppler radar?

I have four minutes to forecast for three counties. That's our ace in the hole. We have antiquated technology, but we do have the time. My best man is a Boston weatherman. I would love to have his salary, his unbelievable toys, the Adam Joseph map, with the drawing. I would love their technology.

What about Channel 40? Will it survive?

They're working on possibilities. We're not going to be NBC40. A meteorologist always deals with uncertainty. I have explored options. Emergency management comes up.

Do you identify with the TV weather community?

I'm more about the science and keeping people safe. I don't believe in global warming. I don't believe humans have altered the atmosphere that dramatically. You have to have personalities. You do have your John Bolarises, who are mostly personality.

He was basically run out of town for one bad forecast.

March 5, 2001. The same storm that killed his career - you were supposed to get 40 inches, and didn't get any - in Vermont we weren't supposed to get any, but got 40 inches. I went out on a limb and forecasted 20 inches. I was half right. But everyone else was saying zero. It made my career up there.

(Interview condensed and edited.)


>Inquirer.com

Video: Watch a video interview and interviews from prior weeks at www.inquirer.com/shore


 


arosenberg@phillynews.com

609-823-0453

@amysrosenberg

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