How AccuWeather became a trusted brand for superior accuracy
Since its founding by Dr. Joel Myers in 1962, AccuWeather has revolutionized the field of weather forecasting and its extraordinary forecast accuracy has been responsible for saving tens of thousands of lives in the United States and more around the world.
Follow your passion. An oft-heard piece of career advice many adults aspire to.
However, one boy in Philadelphia had a clear calling at an early age. It revolved around thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards.
Emboldened with a deep fascination with the ever-fluid dynamics that make Mother Nature tick, that hungry young entrepreneur, Joel N. Myers, would eventually embark on a mission to develop and hone the best weather forecasting tools possible, aimed at saving lives and protecting property.
“I was always entrepreneurial as a kid trying to make a few bucks here and there, but I [also] had a burning desire to be a weather forecaster," Myers recalled. "When I was 11, my father showed me an article about a woman who was selling a weather forecast to fuel oil dealers. I said, 'That's what I would love to do.'”
But it was more than just an interest in weather that drove Myers. He also wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives.
“I was passionate about the weather at a very early age, and I also knew I would be able to combine my love of forecasting with a business that would save lives and help people know more about what the weather had in store for them on a daily basis," said Myers, who founded AccuWeather in 1962 while a graduate student at Penn State.
Having secured his first client, a gas company, Myers took the meteorological business to new heights, gaining more attention and, with that, more industries sought out his expertise in weather forecasting.
Along the way, Myers, who would also earn a Ph.D. in meteorology, stuck to his core principles of knowing your business, keeping focused and never quitting. He says that staying true to those tenets of business helped him grow the company from one that provided forecasts mainly for business clients to an international standard-bearer of a weather media company that reaches billions of people every single day.
"Weather matters" for everyone, Myers is always quick to note. "AccuWeather remains unmatched by constantly developing and enhancing technology for superior and tailored weather information and clearer communications."
Over the years, Myers has tenaciously remained committed to "superior forecasting accuracy," including building the most complete global weather database and collection of computer forecast models. Throughout 60 years of meteorological scientific leadership, AccuWeather has led in global weather innovation, introducing unique products to protect life and property, and improve people's daily lives.
Today, Myers and the AccuWeather team remain at the forefront of constant reinvention, evolving as technology continues to advance rapidly. And as the company's habit for superior weather accuracy has grown, so too has the public's trust in the AccuWeather name.
The words Superior Accuracy are much more than merely a trademarked phrase. Myers has woven the term into the DNA at AccuWeather, making it not only something the entire force of meteorologists strive for at AccuWeather, but a standard that consumers and clients can depend on.
“Every statistical comparison has shown that AccuWeather provides the most accurate forecast available, but we go beyond the statistical superiority of our forecasts," Myers said, adding that communication is as critical as an accurate forecast. "It’s through how we word the forecast, how we explain how the weather is going to impact people and companies so that they make the best decision,” that has been a crucial factor in AccuWeather's success over the years.
This is particularly critical when it comes to tornado forecasting. "With more hours of advanced notice than any other weather source, AccuWeather provides an average of 16 minutes of advanced life-saving notice ahead of tornado strikes compared with the government's average of 8 minutes," Myers points out.
The AccuWeather operations floor in State College, Pennsylvania, is a constant source of innovation, such as the implementation of the AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature and SkyGuard technology.
"It used to be (that) people made fun of weather forecasting," Myers' brother and AccuWeather Chief Operating Officer Evan Myers said. "They would say that they can't trust it beyond a day or two, or what's going to happen tomorrow. You really don't hear that so much anymore." And the superior accuracy that AccuWeather forecasters have mastered over the last 60 years is a key reason the industry has improved as much as it has.
As AccuWeather celebrates six decades of service to the global public, Joel Myers' entrepreneurial spirit has breathed life into constant life-saving weather tools and information for the public.
"AccuWeather is one of those places where we can make the difference in the daily lives of people," Evan Myers said. "And it's not just all these severe weather forecasts that kept people out of harm's way, but it's the daily forecast. It is whether I need an umbrella today or should I have my kid wear their snow boots."
Katrina: Putting forecast tools to the test
Several infamous storms over the years, including some of the most severe weather events in United States history, best showcase AccuWeather's technological advancements and innovations.
One such event was Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, in which AccuWeather stayed ahead of the massive storm, gathering crucial data on the weather system.
"We talked about the impact that was going to have on the central Gulf Coast before anyone else, when FEMA and other governmental agencies were trying to figure out what was going on," Evan Myers recalled.
Gaining knowledge about the impending situation, particularly in the New Orleans area, Joel N. Myers and the AccuWeather crew of meteorologists were able to warn the public of the coming hurricane in a national setting.
AccuWeather was at the forefront of Hurricane Katrina coverage in 2005
"One of our meteorologists was about to go on the air with [television host] Geraldo [Rivera] ... and we made the call that the levees were going to break, that the way that the path of where Katrina was going to go was going to cause the levees to break," Joel Myers said. "And the city of New Orleans would be flooded for days if not weeks. And we made that call ... [we] went on the air and said that and I remember Geraldo saying, 'Wait a minute, are you really saying that?' And yes [the meteorologist] repeated, we're saying that, and we all know what happened."
Not only did AccuWeather give the New Orleans area crucial preparation time for the impending hurricane, the meteorologists also predicted that life-threatening conditions were likely, even when governmental organizations thought otherwise.
"The government's National Hurricane Center at a particular point in time was saying minimal flooding in the New Orleans area ... here at AccuWeather, we thought far different and we used wording talking about devastating and catastrophic, life-threatening flooding in the New Orleans area and that portions of the city could be underwater," said Jon Porter, AccuWeather chief meteorologist. "And we did not take those decisions lightly ... unfortunately, that is exactly what ended up happening."
Katrina peaked as a Category 5 hurricane and made landfall twice as a Category 3 storm, first with 125 mph sustained winds in southeastern Louisiana and then with 120-mph sustained winds along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. The hurricane caused one of the nation's most infamous natural disasters, but the quick and correct forecasting ahead of its arrival allowed for timely evacuations in New Orleans, AccuWeather experts said. In fact, a congressional committee recognized AccuWeather for warning the public of Katrina’s threats to New Orleans.
"We received so many notes from users in that area who had heard our wording and heard that life-threatening tone that we talked about ... and they said because of the language that [AccuWeather] used, 'we got our grandmother out of there, we got our uncle out of there,'" Porter said. "Even in areas where there wasn't a mandatory evacuation, they heard that message and brought family members to safety," Porter continued. "While we were devastated by the tremendous and tragic loss of life in New Orleans and surrounding communities as a result of the storm, we were really honored that we had such a positive impact on so many lives."
Tornado alert in Mississippi
Less than three years later, AccuWeather saved lives in the southern United States, this time correctly predicting the path of a tornado that tore apart a Caterpillar manufacturing plant in Oxford, Mississippi. On the night of Feb. 5, 2008, plant health and safety coordinator Sherry Black received a message from AccuWeather's SkyGuard service that a tornado was in the area, giving the plant 22 minutes of advance notice before the tornado struck. With that preparation time, Black guided 88 staff members working in the facility to safety, with no injuries suffered in the catastrophe.
Damage is seen to the Caterpillar plant in Oxford, Mississippi, on Feb. 6, 2008, following a tornado that left scattered damage across several Mississippi counties. AccuWeather's SkyGuard service was able to warn the plant's employees that a tornado was en route, leading the 88 on duty to stay safe during the event. (AP Photo/Bruce Newman)
"The safety personnel at that facility were so pleased and so profoundly struck by the accuracy of that warning that they called into our operation minutes later, almost crying, that we had saved all those lives and that 88 people were going home to their families because of that warning that AccuWeather delivered to that facility," Porter said.
Much like ahead of Katrina, AccuWeather was able to glean information that spelled potential disaster before anyone else.
"That particular case, there was no warning from any other source, there was no government tornado warning in effect in that area for that particular tornado," Porter stated.
Hurricane Sandy, Pearl Jam interrupted
Over the past decade, AccuWeather forecasting has continued to make the save with its predictions, such as accurately stating the landfall and severity of 2012's Superstorm Sandy eight days before impact, well ahead of other sources.
A tornado warning descends upon Wrigley Field before a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Padres on June 13, 2022, in Chicago. AccuWeather's forecast of a lightning storm at the stadium in 2013 allowed Pearl Jam concertgoers to remain safe when lightning struck behind the stage. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The next year, one of the company's other business partners, concert venue operator Live Nation, received a warning that lightning was incoming during a concert for the band Pearl Jam at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Due to the advanced warning, Pearl Jam lead vocalist Eddie Vedder was able to inform the crowd that they were to evacuate, moving the tens of thousands of concertgoers to safety. Just 20 minutes later, a lightning bolt struck right behind the stage. After an "all clear" was issued, the concert resumed without casualties.
“When it comes to severe weather, AccuWeather has no peers,” Joel Myers said.
In 2017, AccuWeather provided another life-saving service by correctly predicting the path of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm and caused nearly $200 billion in damages.
The countless instances of life-saving forecasting, as well as the daily coverage people have come to count on, have shown how AccuWeather's reach has grown exponentially in the years since Joel N. Myers founded the company.
Today it's a multimillion-dollar business that's entrenched in all forms of media, including the most-trafficked weather site in the world, the AccuWeather television network, weather apps, media partnerships as well as AccuWeather NOW, an online streaming service.
In total, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide rely on AccuWeather daily. The company's cable television network is available in 35 million homes. More than 100 major television stations, 800 radio stations (including in seven of the top 10 United States markets) and 700 newspapers depend on AccuWeather forecasting. AccuWeather serves more than 45 billion data requests daily to hundreds of thousands of websites and apps.
AccuWeather has expanded its reach over the years to include major television, radio and print partners, as well as the implementation of a wildly successful phone application that provides up-to-date forecasts.
AccuWeather for Business continues to take off, serving over half of the Fortune 500 companies using the service for customized weather solutions. AccuWeather for Business serves clients in manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, retail, insurance, energy, and transportation sectors, including every railroad in North America.
Importance of forecasters
Of course, at the heart of AccuWeather's success is the expert team of meteorologists and dedicated employees. The tireless teams working out of offices in State College, New York City, Wichita, Montreal, Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai, and Tokyo -- as well as remotely -- are able to spin countless reams of weather data into digestible information for the greater public.
"That communication is more important than the actual scientific breakdown of the forecast, because if it's either too complex or it's not communicated in such a way that people understand it, or it's not timely enough, it's not going to count for very much," Evan Myers said.
AccuWeather meteorologists discuss Hurricane Dorian during one of their regular meetings to update its progress in late summer 2019. The meteorologist team is at the heart of the company, translating complex data into digestible information for the public. (AccuWeather / John Roach)
Able to be called upon at a moment's notice for live television interviews, packaged video or quotes for website articles, the team takes statistics that the public may not fully understand and puts them into proper perspective. For example, the amount of snow that constitutes a considerable snowfall may not be widely known, leaving room for forecasters to act as both an authority on the subject and translate into layman's terms.
"We pioneered in doing that over the last 60 years, putting all that together, experimenting with the best way to communicate that to folks," Joel Myers stated.
On to the next 60 years
After a wildly fruitful journey through the first 60 years of AccuWeather, what do the next 60 hold for the company?
According to Chris Gavlok, AccuWeather's director of television operations, the potential is near-limitless, as evidenced by the rapid evolution of television graphics.
"As technology continues to change, I think there's probably going to be a push more toward augmented reality," Gavlok said. "So you're going to have the people in the weather [see] more realistic conditions and hopefully [use] touch screen technology. Our new platform is on interactive touch screens, so hopefully that's going to be the future."
With the recent transition of Facebook's parent company into Meta and the introduction of the "metaverse," AccuWeather could potentially take a look into how that can be best used for communicating forecasts to the public.
"Maybe people at home will be wearing headsets and sitting around watching their TV, and they will really be inside the weather," Gavlok said. "That's a good possibility."
Smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin in central China's Shanxi Province. Over the next decades, AccuWeather's commitment to technological advancement will take on growing climate change. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil, File)
"I think that's what keeps users coming back to AccuWeather, for that trusted superior accuracy throughout the years," Porter added. "I think in a world driven by climate change and with extreme weather impacts accelerating, and the weather becoming more volatile in all parts of the world, I think that there's going to be an even greater need for our forecast warnings and insights over the next 60 years."
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