I enjoy weather forecasting and communicating weather risks to people and I have made a career out of it over the last 25 years. In late August 2015, almost on a whim, I started posting about local weather interests on Facebook and Woodlands Weather Dude was born. At that time, the closed group contained only a few dozen members. Now over three years later, the group has grown to over 9,000 followers spread out across The Woodlands and Montgomery County. Although I would like to take full credit for the popularity of the group, I believe there are some larger things at play here that are responsible for this growing popularity.
First off, whether we know it or not, the weather touches our lives on a daily basis.
According to a recent Power Research Center study, weather far outpaces other daily news topics on a local level. Over 70% of adults in the Houston area say that the topic of weather is “important for daily life”. In second place was the news topic involving Traffic & Transportation at 52%. Even Government and Politics were only at 26%. Let’s face it; people want to know if the weather is going to have an impact on their kid’s birthday party, commute to work or on their weekend camping trip. Having a cell phone with weather apps or social media, including Woodlands Weather Dude, makes it easier than ever to have access to current and future weather at your fingertips.
Secondly, the weather hasn’t exactly been boring around here. In my 27 years of living in Houston, I believe the most active stretch of significant weather occurred here recently over the last few years. Hurricane Harvey (2017) and the two 2016 Floods both had huge impacts on our community and has stirred even more personal interest in the weather, especially during the tropical season.
Finally, I believe the popularity of the WWD Facebook page may also be an unfortunate byproduct of storm anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Dr. Asim Shah, a Baylor College of Medicine mental health expert, “Close to a year after Harvey, we are still seeing [patients with] depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as well”. Although I don’t interact directly with most of my followers, I have had many conversations with fellow co-workers who have been directly (or indirectly) impacted by Harvey or prior storms. Some of them still suffer from insomnia and storm anxiety and have admitted to becoming obsessed with the weather, especially during thunderstorms.
Weather in Texas can be very scary for many in our area. What I attempt to do on my Facebook site is to provide my own unfiltered view on how a certain weather event is going to pan out. And I always try to do it without any needless hype, although I have to admit some of our recent weather events over the last couple of years warranted some more serious weather language. During quieter times, I sometimes like to have forecasting contests. So if you have a good idea on when we will see our first 100-degree day or when we encounter our first freeze of the year, give me a follow! If you are a successful forecaster, you could even win a small prize. -WWD
Jeff Royed graduated from the University of Oklahoma where he received his B.S. in Meteorology. Jeff has lived in The Woodlands with his wife and two boys for over eight years. In his spare time, he enjoys running and biking on the local trails. He also likes taking his boys on short camping trips.