Sunday, February 06, 2011

Weatherperson's Spotlight: Elliot Abrams

You've heard his voice two, three, four times a day on KYW 1060, delivering the weather forecast with wit and lots of wisdom.  Elliot Abrams is the dean of broadcast meteorologists in Philadelphia, having delivered the forecast on KYW (via AccuWeather) since 1971. Elliot is one of the founders of AccuWeather's broadcast service and has been with AccuWeather since the late 60's.

Elliot's interest in weather seemed to begin on day one. "My dad, who was a research chemist, built a mercury barometer for me when I was 5," Elliot recalls to us. "I was already interested in the weather. My first "broadcasts" were when I called my grandmother every day at around age 7-9 and recited, from memory, the US Weather Bureau (now the NWS, of course) forecast for Philadelphia. I would get the forecast by listening to the automated phone forecast available by calling WE7-1212."

That's pretty cool that he could remember the letter/number phone combo. Yes, for the youngins on the block, your phone "number" contained letters at one time related to either geography or something specific to the region.  Elliot not only recited the weather forecasts as a youngster, but he also followed the weather forecasts of Wally Kinnan and scored an internship at The Franklin Institute in the mid 1960's, under Kinnan's tutelage. Elliot watched and followed Kinnan often enough that his fellow Boy Scouts nicknamed him "Wally."

Elliot told us that if he didn't become a meteorologist that he would have wanted to become a train or subway operator.  Thank goodness he chose to go to Penn State and become a meteorologist instead!

What's a typical day like for him?

"I arrive at 3:15, write and collaborate on forecasts until after 4 AM, then prepare and provide radio reports for stations in Portland, Boston, Providence, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Morgantown WV, Pittsburgh, State College and York in Pennsylvania, Kalamazoo MI, Racine, Wisconsin; Chicago, Cincinnati and Kansas City.  I finish my last report at 10:15 with a live shot on WBBM AM in Chicago."

Needless to say, Elliot gets around!    I also asked Elliot about a forecast he was particularly proud of.  He spoke of a forecast from the 1970's.

"On a travel weather report for a York station back in the 1970s, I talked about a nasty snow storm that would be affecting travelers in New Mexico,"  he told me.  "The storm stranded many motorists and I think there were fatalities. Weeks later, a caller to the same station claimed I saved her live with that forecast  because she went a different way after hearing the forecast."

Outside of weather, Elliot's musical tastes are unique and varied as Philadelphia's weather.

"The activity I spend the most time with is running on an elliptical trainer about an hour a day while watching music videos on my iPad. I am demographically challenged, since I have tracks by Dr. Dre, Drake, Rihanna, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney, Flo Rida, Jessie James, My Chemical Romance, Nickyi Minaj, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and anything old or new on iTunes."

Flo Rida?   Nickyi Minaj?   Awfully hip musically.   Bonus points for listening to Dr. Dre as well!

Elliot is also active in the community, a member of Rotary, an organization that works to improve life locally and globally. He's also a township supervisor in Patton Township and has been re-elected four times.

What about that unique and varied Philadelphia weather, Elliot.  What's the biggest challenge of forecasting weather around here?

"How the ocean is to the east, the changing elevations in the city from a few feet above sea level at the Delaware to more than 450 feet on Summit Avenue in Chestnut Hill, the effect of the mountains to the west... and the fact that we are often near so many weather boundaries."

It's knowing the local climate though -- bonus points for knowing Summit Avenue in Chestnut Hill -- that gives Elliot a keen insight to this region when it comes to talking about the weather.    What does Elliot say to those who aspire to become a meteorologist?

"Work as hard as you can in school and concentrate on Math, Science, and English. Working hard does not guarantee success, but NOT working hard often assures failure of some kind."

Elliot's definitely been successful and a hard worker over the course of his career!