Sunday, November 11, 2012

A snowy Veterans Day, and 
a sentence that changed my life 
by Rich Foot, CEO & Lead Advisor: Foot's Forecast LLC

Veterans Day 1987 Storm pelting
Arlington Cemetery events

7:00 AM EST 11/11/2012 (Baltimore, MD) Today, we honor the dedication of our military soldiers across the world, and the ultimate sacrifice of those who have given all in the name of protecting freedom. The history of this day, firmly rooted in the original "Armistice Day" marking the end of The Great War in Europe, later became redesignated as one to honor all current and former soldiers of our nation's military forces. 

Twenty-five years ago, though the homeland was in a much more innocent time, the weather had been no less unique and challenging as present day. The 1985 hurricane season had produced a record number of named storms and 1986-87 was a notably snowy period in the Eastern U.S. On Veteran's Day in 1987, temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic were notably cool for mid-November, having just come off a warm October. As a high school senior at the time, I was immersed in the excitement of college acceptance letters and cross country with the Conestoga High School Pioneers in Chester County, PA. Little did I realized the weather was about to change my career path, forever. 

Conestoga Weather Service
of T/E TV news in 1987.
(1988 Pioneer Yearbook)  
IT STARTED WITH ONE TEACHER One class which motivated me to get to school on time was TV Studio Productions  and the "Morning Announcement" homeroom.  These activities put me and my fellow "broadcasters" in bi-weekly TV news productions serving the school and the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District. It was called simply, T/E TV news and led by Mr. Don Smedley (shown right) and Mr. Tony Profeta who were accepting students new to the program. 

Our news programs were similar to the Good Morning America format which had become popular in early morning television. It was an inspiring time that coincided with ABC's Charlie Gibson came on board in 1986 to replace retiring GMA Anchor David Hartman. At T/E TV news, the teachers and students became inspired to produce a morning announcement version of the video program, and the school community, and the administration, were huge fans. 

THE FIRST FORECAST TEAM In the spring of 1986 during my sophomore year, Mr. Don Smedley, who knew of my passion for weather forecasting said after class one day, "Would you like to be our Weather Forecaster for T/E TV News?" That life-changing sentence led to me, my friends Chris Pilko, Frank McDonnell, John Donovan and others being recruited to join the "Morning Announcement" homeroom. We began writing and producing our own TV weather segments for the district broadcast, complete with what was then state-of-the art "chroma-key" graphics. By start of my junior year, we began forecasting for the morning announcements and on the January 21, 1987 broadcast, nailed the biggest snowstorm of our high school years. Though we were just high school students, most days we walked on air because it was like being on top of the world.  

On November 11, 1987 I remember when my co-anchors in the Conestoga Weather Service said on the morning announcements... "Hey Pioneers, it was warm and sunny yesterday, but today it'll snow in Baltimore and Washington. They might get 12 inches!" Just the day before, temperatures were hovering in the 60's and outside the TV studio windows, we noticed the district installed that orange "snow mesh" along the metal chain-link fences. My fellow Conestoga Weather forecasters and I thought, "Umm, why snow fencing in November?"  

Chris Pilko, a fellow senior/co-forecaster, and I had already become the school "weathermen" for predicting the January 22, 1987 storm down to the inch, so the team went with a bold call that morning. Later that day, word filtered in on cable news about Veterans Day events at Arlington National Cemetery being pelted with chunky wet snow. The final tally was 11.5 inches at Washington's Dulles November!

For a look back at that event, WJLA's StormWatch 7 in Washington, D.C.  published this brief recap of the storm on their blog in 2011. For a back in time treat, we offer this classic 11/10-11/1987  video from the bad old days of VHS, as captured and reposted on Youtube by an unknown weather enthusiast. 

MAKE HISTORY AGAIN  Little did I realize that one sentence from a teacher and just a few snowstorms in 1987, would be followed by an internship at the Philadelphia National Weather Service, acceptance to Penn State University, and... well, you know the rest. 

Twenty-five years have elapsed since TV Productions Teacher Don Smedley proposed an idea at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA. Since then, his ideas regarding leadership with students has taken on new life in our team. Our value set is best described in this quote attributed to education researcher K. Patricia Cross:
"The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate 'apparently ordinary' people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people."  
-K. Patricia Cross, Author, Lecturer and Teacher Researcher
Our readers know what happens when one takes time to believe in and inspire a student...look out! A quarter-century later, "Smeds and Pro" as they were affectionately known by students, recently retired and Mr. Profeta has moved on to the great TV studio above, their legacy lives today in the halls of Conestoga High School in southeastern Pennsylvania. The morning announcement program at the school is still called  "Good Morning Stoga" (blogspot link). 

Perhaps there is a prospective forecaster or two out there who might want to start the adventure all over again?  To get started, email us:

Richard Foot is the CEO and Lead Advisor of Foot's Forecast LLC, a weather forecasting and decision support services company based in Baltimore, Maryland. The organization launched in 2004 as a weather blog by Mr. Foot and his 10th grade students at Dundalk High School in Baltimore County, MD. Mr. Foot was a Baltimore County Science Teacher from 2001-2009 and a Teacher-in-Residence with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2010-2011. 
He holds an Advanced Professional Certificate from the Maryland State Department of Education, a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science from the Pennsylvania State University, Teacher Certification from West Chester University. He resides in Dundalk, MD just 400 yards from the classroom where Foot's Forecast began, with his wife Dana, a Special Education Teacher, and his two elementary-age daughters.  
Foot's Forecast and their 70 members focus on three core values:  
  • Passion for authentic local weather forecasting
  • Collaboration across county & state lines;
  • Innovation of resources to expand opportunities for students and clients.


Bobbie Heil said...

This is a great article. Even if I am a bit prejudiced!  

ravensbbr said...

To all of America's veterans past present and future, we salute you and thank you for your sacrifices on behalf of freedom and liberty.