My relationship with the weather is, in a word, breezy. It's all very casual between me and weather. Nothing serious. I check in on it from time to time, see how it's doing and ask if I should bring a sweater. I have never bothered to understand barometric pressure or El Niño any more than I care to study the hardcore physics of gravity. If a piano is dangling out of a third-story window over my head, I have enough sense to get out of the way.
And so it is with weather. I don't need to understand what happens when a Category 3 storm hits open water to know it's time to fill the bathtub and stock up on canned corn. But I seem to represent a dwindling population of people who don't care about such details. In fact, there are at least 14,000 people who care, and care vehemently, about Arctic highs and coastal lows. And they all seem to be hanging out on the Facebook page of Wxrisk.com, the Chester-based, private weather-forecasting service owned by Dave Tolleris.
You may remember it was Tolleris who last December called for a historic Christmas snowstorm in the area that gave us a lovely white Christmas evening but missed historic by many inches. In his usual colorful language, Tolleris acknowledged he had "screwed the pooch": "Someone is at the door," he wrote. "It's Pamela Anderson [in her prime] and she is here to show me what a BUST is."
It's exactly that swagger that has created a sort of cult of personality around Tolleris, or DT, as the faithful call him. They comment in droves on head-scratching updates such as:
"***ALERT*** MODEL DISCUSSION / weather Geek post: The 12z Tues 10/25 run of GFS is out. With regard to the 2nd BIGGER Low this weekend GFS once again "LOSES" the southern Low completely. This is a COMMON mistake with the GFS model which is WHY east coast winter storm forecast soften suck past 3 days out — because waaaaay too many mets rely on the GFS even though it the Model flaws (cold bias) which causes the Model to ‘Lose' the southern Low time after time after time … "
Utter gibberish to me, but Tolleris' fans will argue obsessively over the GFS vs. the Euro or the uselessness of the 18z NAM. Weather is the ultimate spectator sport, and the Wxrisk crowd members are the rabid fans whose brains contain the rulebooks, the playbooks and every arcane stat. The weatherati are split into two distinct groups: geniuses and morons, and apparently there are 14,000 Einsteins on Tolleris' Facebook page, all of them happiest when they are lording their superiority over other meteorologists. Tolleris calls the folks at the Weather Channel and AccuWeather "clowns," "idiots" or "morons." And the favorite punching bag of all is the "sharp as a bowling ball" weather team of WWBT/NBC12 — Jim "Drunken" and Andrew "Frankenstein."
Really. The eighth grade called and wants its sense of humor back.
Of course, just saying this guarantees my moron status, but I'm OK with that. The funny thing is, plenty of Tolleris' fans are morons like me, who beg for clear information in plain English. Take this guy, who posted:
I've read through all of your recent posts trying to get a handle on the REAL forecast for Richmond Saturday day and evening and haven't found it or I'm not smart enough to understand all you guys' weather talk!
To his credit, Tolleris does do a lot. He must never sleep, with the amount of information he is pumping out on a daily basis. He answers specific questions — What will Orlando be like next week? Headed to the Tech game this weekend. Any rain? — to help people plan accordingly. And this is in addition to his actual paying job, forecasting the weather for clients in the grain and energy industries. So everything he does on Facebook and on his public website is on his own time and his own dime — until recently, when he caved in to demands from his followers to put a donate button on his Facebook page.
They urged him to let them pay him.
Talk about personality.