Philadelphia’s Weather Forecasters: Who Gets It Right?

And, more importantly, what they do when they get it wrong

John Bolaris almost made me wreck my car. I was listening to Howard Eskin on WIP. Like more and more people in Philadelphia, I only listen to Eskin when Mike Missanelli goes to commercial break on The Fanatic.

Eskin started out ripping TV weather people for hyping the snow fall we had this week. And then he quickly backtracked. You see, WIP is owned by CBS, so he couldn’t attack Kathy Orr on CBS 3. Eskin works for NBC 10, so he couldn’t criticize Glenn Schwartz. And he and John Bolaris are pals so he couldn’t bash Fox 29. That left Channel 6. You could actually hear the rusty gears in Eskin’s brain figure this out. Or maybe it was just my AM signal. He ended up saying, “I think it was Channel 6,” which means it probably wasn’t.

But that’s not the good part. John Bolaris called in to say Channel 6 is well known for hyping snow storms. If you heard a strange sound at about 3:20 yesterday afternoon, that was a chorus of Philadelphia commuters yelling “What?!?!” at their car radios.

Let’s play Philadelphia Family Feud for a second, shall we? The topic is weathermen who hype storms. Survey says? Ding Ding! John Bolaris is the number one answer. Of course that would never really be a Family Feud Topic because there is only one answer.

Later I would relay what I heard on the radio at my business meeting and, after everyone stopped laughing, one guy said, “You mean, The King of Hype?” Yes, that’s who I mean.

Bolaris had the nerve to go on for a good 10 minutes accusing WPVI and AccuWeather for always going with the least reliable of the models so that they can predict the highest snow totals. If anyone knows about unreliable models, it’s John. He even had the nerve to invoke Orr and Schwartz’s name for support, as if this is something the three of them talk about all of the time. You know, at the weekly meteorologist coffee clutch. I have worked with both Kathy Orr and Glenn Schwartz and, although the two are competitive, they both have a great deal of respect for the other meteorologists in town. I know for a fact that neither Kathy nor Glenn would ever publicly criticize Cecily Tynan of Channel 6. Johnny was just exaggerating again.

It was radio’s version of theater of the absurd. And then came the line that almost made me drive off the road. Eskin pressed Bolaris to give an example of how Action News hypes storm. And Bolaris said, and I swear I am not making this up, “Well they do it in their teases. They say things like ‘Storm of The Century.’” Honest to God, he said that.

Tow trucks must have been out in force pulling drivers out of ditches. Even Eskin and his co-host Ike Reese seemed dumbfounded for a moment. The only person to infamously use the words “Storm of the Century” to hype a storm is John Bolaris at NBC 10. I was anchoring at the station then, and I remember it well. It was the last night of sweeps and we were in a close race with WPVI for first place. We needed a big night, something special. I was in News Director Steve Schwaid’s office when John came running in. He was all excited about a storm heading right for us. It was at least five days out, but if it maintained its current course and its strength, and if all other weather patterns remained the same, it would be the biggest storm to hit the area in a hundred years — hence, the “Storm of the Century.” It seemed like a lot of ifs for five days out, but, again, we needed something special.

At this point, John Bolaris likes to blame Steve Schwaid for writing a crawl to run across the bottom of the screen during Law and Order that Wednesday night before NBC 10 at 11. Again, I was there, and although Schwaid did type the copy, Bolaris was leaning over his shoulder helping him come up with the words, specifically “Storm of the Century.”

The problem with the tease is that it didn’t say when the storm was coming; or maybe that is the brilliance of it, it all depends on your perspective. Either way, it worked in the short term as we had huge ratings that night and tied WPVI for the February sweeps. In the long term, the storm missed us and Bolaris became the National Poster Boy for blown forecasts. He was on the cover of the Daily News and on the Howard Stern show. He claims he received death threats, and he was booed when he appeared on the giant video screen at a Flyers game.

That year he left town to work in New York. And now he is back in hopes that we all forgot. But he has not been able to lift the ratings at Fox 29 one iota, which is probably the reason for his bizarre hype attack on WPVI.

Truthfully, I think everyone would forgive and forget about the “Storm of the Century,” if Bolaris could just shut his mouth and stop calling into radio shows to remind us about it. But we all know that is never going to happen.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to