Arts and Entertainment

'Weather World' wins statewide awards for hurricane series, forecasting

Jon Nese, Marisa Ferger, the Nittany Lion, Rob Lydick, Steve Seman and John Banghoff attend the National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Awareness Tour in 2019.  Nese, Ferger and Lydick — along with recent graduates Matt Hoenig and Joe Speir — won a Keystone Media Award for their Hurricane Week 2019 series, which was filmed during the tour.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The team at Penn State’s television show “Weather World” had a rare chance to visit some of the world’s leading experts on hurricanes when the gears started turning: Could the team turn these encounters into an educational series on improving hurricane preparedness in Pennsylvania?

The answer — although the logistics weren’t so simple — became a resounding yes, as the “Hurricane Week 2019” series just earned first place for best series in the Keystone Media Awards. 

“This is a great honor for us because this category isn't just limited to weather related television and it includes a number of qualified participants across the state,” said meteorology lecturer Marisa Ferger. “That’s what was exciting. It was our first year entering so we were thrilled to win.”

The series features experts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) during their Hurricane Awareness Tour, which included a stop in Harrisburg. The series features the role of the NHC, the National Weather Service, the effects of storm surge, the pilots who brave the skies to study hurricanes and historical hurricane data across Pennsylvania.

Although strong winds from hurricanes typically don’t pose a threat to Pennsylvania, flooding from heavy tropical rains does. About 83% of tropical storm-related deaths between 2016 and 2018 were caused by flooding, and half of those were in vehicles, according to the NHC. 

Penn State teaching professor Jon Nese, Ferger and on-air meteorologist and researcher Rob Lydick created, wrote and hosted the series. It was filmed by Weather World media partners PCN. The series aired beginning June 1, 2019, the first official day of hurricane season.

Rob Lydick, on-air meteorologist and researcher at Penn State, conducts an interview for Weather World’s award winning Hurricane Week 2019 series. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

The series is unique because Weather World — which produces a 15-minute weather show weekdays — doesn’t usually travel. But a bit of advance planning, help from the local National Weather Center office, which is stationed in State College, and a complete day of filming help from PCN made the series possible.

The tour meant that the Weather World team had access to top experts.

“The people we featured in this series from the hurricane center who do research with storm surge forecasting and prediction are sought out by other weather forecasting divisions around the world,” Lydick said. “These are world renowned experts for their research and weather analysis tools.”

The team said the goals of the series were to spotlight the work these researchers do while also focusing on the hazards hurricanes pose to Pennsylvania, mainly flooding.

“The overriding goal was to put a face on the people who are involved in gathering data and making hurricane forecasts,” Nese said. “The hurricane center is the organization that, from June to November, is in the news every time there’s a tropical storm or hurricane. We wanted to put a face on these folks and the pilots who fly in the storms. And we wanted to show how their work makes us better prepared for hazards.”

In another category of the competition, Weather World earned honorable mention for “best weathercast.” The team said they weren’t saddened to not earn the top honor after finding out the stiff competition who bested them, Penn State alums Brett Thackara and Dan Tomaso, both of Harrisburg’s ABC27, who earned first and second place, respectively. 

Sharing the honor with Ferger and Lydick are Matt Hoenig and Joe Speir, who both graduated in May from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.

Last Updated June 04, 2020