Dr. Joel Myers has had a passion for weather since his childhood.
"I remember when I was three or four years old I was fascinated by snow," he explained. "I loved when it snowed and got excited during snow storms. I remember when I was seven years old, particularly, there was a snow storm in Philadelphia that blocked the streets and my aunt was trapped at our house and stayed up virtually all night just watching the snow come down, and just being fascinated with the impact of the snow on civilization. It was about that year or the year after that my grandmother bought me a diary, and I started writing the daily weather conditions, just during the winter, rain and 56 or whatever, to keep track of particularly when snow occurred."
Just a few short years later when he was 11 years old, Myers began to create small business opportunities for himself- making potholders with his younger brother, having a paper route- and decided that one day he'd like to create a business that involved his love of weather.
"That's when I first got the idea of what would eventually become AccuWeather," he said.
His dream began to take hold in 1962 when he acquired his first client. At the time, Myers was a graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University. All three of his meteorological degrees come from PSU. Since he was growing the company while advancing his education, as well as teaching some of the university's meteorology classes himself, he established his headquarters in State College, Pa., near the school.
A young Joel Myers works with an instrument shelter he built with his father to record and forecast weather from their home
Dr. John Cahir worked as a professor at PSU for 37 of his 55 year meteorology career. He taught alongside Myers and was there watching as AccuWeather began to come together as a company.
"The task of moving to the private sector in those days, other than niche forecasting, some people had small businesses where they were doing a particular service for some niche, but other than that there was nobody doing forecasting on a broad scale," he said. "Joel actually started a niche with the ski forecasting but he quickly managed to expand that into a much more general forecasting system which could be applied to many different types of clients, and it was based on doing a lot better job forecasting and paying better attention to the needs of the clients."
Myers was not afraid of rejection, and he was not easily dissuaded. Starting the privatized weather company he had in mind was not a familiar concept to most, and many were hesitant to be part of it. He recalls receiving thousands of no's when trying to find clients to get his business started.
Now, AccuWeather headquarters is home to the most meteorologists at one location anywhere in the world. It provides the weather pages to hundreds of newspapers across the planet, including some of the top-ranked papers in the United States. The AccuWeather.com website provides content and forecast to thousands of global locations. Television and radio personalities/meteorologists send out broadcasts to radio shows and television networks all over the country.
A lot has changed about weather forecasting over the years. The role of computers, radar, and satellites have changed the way meteorologists forecast weather. Myers changed the way consumers receive weather.
"When Joel started AccuWeather he was a pioneer and I think part of what was motivating him, was that he knew the forecast could be better and he wanted to make it so," said Fred Gadomski, senior lecturer in the Department of Meteorology at PSU.
He has been with the university since beginning his graduate school work in 1978, working and learning alongside Myers in PSU's weather facility (now called the Joel N. Myers Weather Center).
"The question [about forecasting] over the last 50 years has been dealing with the many changes in technology that have occurred. As we go into the future, what is going to be the type of person [to have] the type of skill set of the pioneers of today... the pioneers will have a fire in their belly, knowing we can do better, and will somehow use the technological changes that are happening around them, in new and interesting ways, and those will be the people who 50 years from now will be talking about as having made a difference."
In the video above, Dr. Joel Myers talks about starting his business from nothing, with the help of his two younger brothers who have been working with him since their childhood. His employees (some of them, his former students) explain what is was like to be part of the early years of AccuWeather and to see the company grow from a radio booth in an old closet into the global resource it is today.
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