The Weathermen: Get to know the guys behind your forecast, Dave Hayes and Brian Lapis

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis records a forecast at the studio in Chicopee. Denise Koczocik, a production assistant, operates the camera. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis records a forecast at the studio in Chicopee. Denise Koczocik, a production assistant, operates the camera. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis records a forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis records a forecast at the studio in Chicopee. Denise Koczocik, a production assistant, operates the camera. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at Channel 22 in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis offers some weather information during a staff meeting at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis walks across the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • 22News Storm Team meteorologist Brian Lapis gathers information for his forecast at the studio in Chicopee. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dave Hayes, left, the “Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talk about all things weather related during an interview with the Gazette at Sylvester’s in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, left, the “Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talk about all things weather related during an interview with the Gazette in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes first got interested in weather as a kid, watching TV forecasts. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talks about all things weather related during an interview with the Gazette at Sylvester’s in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, the “Weather Nut,” talks about all things weather related during an interview with the Gazette at Sylvester’s in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, left, the “Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talk about all things weather related in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, left, the “Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talk about all things weather related in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, left, aka “The Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis of WWLP-TV 22 in Chicopee, talk about all things weather related in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, the “Weather Nut,” talks about all things weather related during an interview with the Gazette in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, left, the “Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talk about all things weather related in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dave Hayes, left, the “Weather Nut,” and meteorologist Brian Lapis, with WWLP-TV 22 in Springfield, talk about all things weather related in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/25/2018 2:28:43 PM

Since the start of the new year, we’ve seen some pretty strange weather in these parts. There was that frigid New Year’s Eve, then the big snowstorm Jan. 4, followed by bone-chilling cold — 21 below zero in Chicopee! — over the following weekend. Less than a week later, the temperature soared into the 50s, and heavy rain led to flooding, ice jams, burst pipes and who knows what else.

Meanwhile, the mysterious term “Bomb Cyclone,” about an unprecedented East Coast winter storm, suddenly appeared all over the national media, while horrendous mud slides killed more than 20 people in parts of California already devastated by wildfires. Ice and snow turned roads in the Deep South into skating rinks. About the same time, it hits 58 degrees in Denver, Colorado.

As Bill Murray might put it: “I think we’re getting into a weird area here.”

Weather is often on people’s minds, perhaps no time more than in winter, when snow and freezing temperatures can play havoc with travel and day-to-day routines. That kind of focus makes perfect sense to Dave Hayes, a Deerfield weather enthusiast who has taught himself a lot about meteorology over the years and now runs a hugely popular local website (westernmassweather.com) and Facebook page (he has more than 28,000 followers) devoted to weather in the Valley and western Massachusetts.

“Weather impacts every person,” says Hayes, who’s better known as Dave Hayes The Weather Nut. “Everyone has to deal with it, manage it, and that makes it interesting to me. It’s like food, water and shelter — we all have these basic needs and concerns.”

Brian Lapis, a longtime meteorologist for WWLP-TV/Channel 22 in Chicopee and a regular call-in voice on WHMP-AM and 93.9 The River, wouldn’t argue with that. He says research has consistently shown that the weather forecast is one of the biggest reasons people tune into local news: “Every day, we’re making decisions about what’s happening outside, and that’s why weather is so important.”

And for these two guys — they’ve become buddies since meeting four years ago on a fundraising march for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts led by Monte Belmonte, the River program host (and Valley Advocate wine columnist) — weather is pretty much a passion. From tracking snowstorms to looking at colliding weather fronts to analyzing weather-related computer models from different sources, they get a charge out of using their training and knowledge to process the data and bring a forecast to the public.

The weather isn’t Hayes’ only love. A veteran bass player who has gigged with various Valley bands and singers over the years, he says, “My two passions are weather and music, and people are like, ‘That’s weird, what’s up with that?’ But I see the through line: They both have to do with energy, whether it’s sound energy or waves in the atmosphere.”

It might strike some as a geeky interest. Hayes recalls watching The Weather Channel back in the 1990s: “My friends would laugh at me because I was watching what the weather was doing in Oklahoma, and they’d say ‘Why the hell do you care what’s going on there?’ and I’d say “I don’t know, I just like it.’ ”   

For Lapis, a South Hadley resident who got his start in broadcasting in radio but then got interested in meteorology, being a TV weatherman “is a great combination of my passion for broadcasting and performance and for investigating how this whole weather thing works,” he says. “I call it the perfect marriage of science and showbiz.”

We recently sat down with Lapis and Hayes at Sylvester’s in Northampton, just as a snowstorm was firming up, to talk about climate change, the difficulty of predicting snowfall amounts, getting a forecast wrong, and “embracing winter”  (whatever that means) and their growing celebrity.

In fact, after he’d gone to refill his coffee cup, Lapis came back to his seat and said, “Someone just asked me about the storm ... Friends will call for personal forecasts. One of my daughters is going to Smith Vocational for the first time this year, and now that some of the other kids are learning who their dad is, she’s being asked to get information. I think they’ve started calling her ‘weather girl.’ ”

Hampshire Life: Tell us a little bit about how you got into the weather business, since you guys came to this from different directions.

Dave Hayes: “As a kid growing up outside of Boston, I followed different meteorologists on TV; I liked the ones who went into more detail, who would tell you why the weather was a certain way, and I’d try to learn from them. In the early 1990s, I started watching the Weather Channel, and when weather [sites] started appearing on the Web, I followed that.

I started posting weather info on my personal [Facebook] page, but then I took a break for awhile from social media. I found out that when the tornado hit in Springfield [in summer 2011], apparently all my friends on Facebook were saying ‘What does Dave say about it? What’s going on?’ So I started ‘Dave Hayes The Weather Nut’ in 2012, then added a website, and it’s all just kept growing.”

Brian Lapis: “My story’s a little less romantic (laughs) since I never had a real ‘weather moment.’ I had studied broadcasting and management at Syracuse University, and I was a Top 40 disc jockey, on track to be a program director in radio. The problem was I got bored with radio. But in ’92 or ’93, I was working in Philadelphia, and people were obsessing over this bad winter, really paying attention, and that was really interesting to me — what was going on here?

“Then I heard about this certificate program at Mississippi State University in meteorology for broadcasters. In those days, it was a correspondence course; today it’s online, but I thought ‘I’ll give it a shot’ because I like weather. And I really liked the course. I don’t make any bones about the fact that I don’t have a degree in meteorology, but I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I like what I do.”

Hampshire Life: What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to making an accurate forecast? Are there particular types of storms or weather that are hard to get a read on?

Brian: “It might seem like a stupid analogy, but a snowstorm? Think about it like a car crash in slow motion —  it’s all about figuring out the timing and how much [snow] and how severe it will be. Summer storms are much more random; you have a much larger margin of error in saying, ‘There’s gonna be scattered thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon.’ ”

Dave: “Snowstorms are like a big, lumbering ship coming along. You can track them ahead of time, but the problem is figuring how much snow will fall, and people want those details, like, ‘When is it going to start? How much is there gonna be in Amherst? How much in Belchertown?’ That kind of thing.”

Hampshire Life: It’s generally understood that forecasting has become more accurate over time, with better computer models and sources of data; you both say three-day forecasts now tend to be pretty accurate. But sometimes things don’t pan out as expected — it rains on the predicted sunny day, the big snowstorm doesn’t materialize — and you can hear it from viewers or followers.

Brian: “This is my standard explanation for that (points to a small coffee table next to him): We can measure this table, we can put a saw through it and analyze its contents, you can figure out what kind of wood it is, do a full analysis of it. We cannot do that with the atmosphere. You can’t measure every square inch of it — it’s too big, and it’s moving.”

Dave: “You can do things with pattern recognition and intuition, but otherwise you would have to sample every cubic inch of the atmosphere every minute to accurately predict snow every time. But you still worry about getting it wrong. One time we were all predicting a big snowstorm, and I had a dream that night  of  walking  out  my  door the next morning and it was balmy, like 50 degrees, and there was no snow on the ground. Total anxiety.” (The snow did fall as expected.)

Brian: “Sometimes we bust, and I’ll tell my boss ‘You know what? We busted on this today, and we’re gonna bust again sometime in the future. It’s just part of what we do.’ ” (He does relate one story about a Channel 22 viewer who complained, by email, that the station was over-hyping a snowstorm, then sent in a two-word email after heavy snow did arrive: “My bad.”)

Hampshire Life: Talking about over-hyping, had you guys ever heard the term “Bomb Cyclone” before this year?

Dave: “I knew ‘cyclogenenis,’ which basically means the birth of a storm, and meteorologists have coined ‘bombogenesis’ to describe a storm that develops very rapidly. I’ve also heard of a meteorological bomb, but until I saw the headline [about a bomb cyclone] in the Washington Post, I’d never seen it … it felt like an overly marketed term, what you do to drive viewership and attract eyeballs.”

Brian: “Weather is very promotable because it is important, but in all the time I’ve been doing this, I have never been asked me to inflate a forecast. That said, it does happen. AccuWeather is a place that sometimes seems to ‘amplify’ a storm.”

Hampshire Life: Then again, there is a near scientific consensus that climate change is happening, and one of the effects of that appears to be more erratic weather and more violent storms (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just reported that the past four years have been the hottest ever recorded on the planet). What’s your take on this?

Brian: “The hard science is that CO2 is going up, and there are results from that. We’re seeing a rise in temperatures in the Valley, winters are shrinking, and strange things are happening. Dewpoints are rising. That October 2011 snowstorm that knocked out power all over the region? That was scary. Then we had a tornado in Goshen and Conway last winter. Just a lot of weird stuff.

Hampshire Life: You might get guff from people if a forecast is wrong, but there also seems to be some cachet from your public visibility on weather. Do people often want to ask you questions about the next forecast?

Brian: “All the time, and everywhere, like bathrooms.”

Dave: “People want to know about the weather in other places, too, so they’ll ask me  ‘I’m traveling to Pennsylvania, what’s going on there?’ ”

Hampshire Life: You guys also have some pretty definitive feelings about winter.

Brian: “I think people need to learn to embrace it a little more. For some reason, we’ve really vilified the cold, but the cold is part of living here, and it’s part of our economy.”

Dave: “People have become more obsessed with comfort, it seems, and I think that plays into it. As I get older, I feel that first really cold day more — ‘Is it really 30 degrees? Because it feels a whole lot colder’ — but after that first shock, I love the four seasons, especially fall and winter.” 

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

  

 




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy