Sunday, February 20, 2005
Some call for Granite State weather
By Jason Schreiber
New Hampshire is known for its scenic beauty, but
forecasting the weather here can be ugly.
Predicting Mother Nature's next move is never an easy job, especially
in a place such as New Hampshire, where the mountains, lakes and ocean
create a potpourri of weather that can change dramatically from one town
to the next.
In an area with such a varied climate, some say it only makes sense
for the state to have its own National Weather Service office.
"New Hampshire is a very diverse state in terms of our population
centers, our topography, and the different kinds of weather we see in
the state," said David Brown, state climatologist and assistant
professor of geography at the University of New Hampshire.
Brown is among those who believe the state would be better off with a
forecasting office to better focus attention here, rather than relying
on National Weather Service offices in Gray, Maine, and Taunton, Mass.
The Taunton office forecasts for Cheshire and Hillsborough counties,
while Gray covers Rockingham County and the rest of the state.
While the Gray office has handled winter weather forecasting for much
of the state since 1970, New Hampshire once had a weather office in
Concord that provided forecasts for severe weather such as
thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash flooding.
But that office closed in 2000 after the federal government spent
$4.5 billion in the 1990s to modernize its weather offices. Some offices
expanded; others closed.
The goal of the modernization plan was to provide better forecasts
and warning services, said Albert Wheeler, the meteorologist in charge
of the forecasting office in Gray.
But WMUR-TV meteorologist Chris Thomas calls the splitting of New
Hampshire between the Gray and Taunton offices a "raw deal."
"Honest to God, there should be a forecast office for just New
Hampshire," he said.
Jim van Dongen, public information officer for the state's Bureau of
Emergency Management, agrees.
"I think Gray and Taunton do the best they can, but Gray forecasts
for a large portion of Maine, so (forecasting for New Hampshire) is
always one extra thing for them to do. It would have been better to have
our own forecast office and our own radar," he said.
Some say the National Weather Service offices in general have too
much on their plate.
Matt Noyes, a meteorologist at Newton, Mass.-based New England Cable
News, praised the forecasters in Gray and Taunton for the work they do,
but said he thinks the offices are simply overtaxed.
"They're putting out so many products with the same number of staff
or, in some cases, fewer staff. They are just significantly
overburdened. The government has them trying to do way too much with way
too few people," Noyes said.
The Gray office has a 22-member staff, which includes 14
meteorologists, similar to the size of the Taunton office. Wheeler said
he thinks the number of the staff in his office, which works with a $2.5
million annual budget, is adequate for the coverage area.
"We don't see state lines in the forecast office," said John
Jensenius, Gray's warning coordination meteorologist. "We're really
located so that we can provide the best service we can based on radar
Staff writer Jason Schreiber may be contacted by calling (603)
437-7000 or by e-mailing at