National Weatherman's Day: Have you hugged (or blamed) your weatherperson lately?
When the sun shines outside, it shines the brightest on WTAE's Demetrius Ivory and his weathermen kin. When it's dark, rainy or cold, the weather broadcasters, likewise, sometimes get a chilly public reception.
"When it's sunny outside and nice outside, I could run for mayor," says Ivory, of the North Hills. "I could give Luke Ravenstahl a run ... and win the quarterback position from Ben Roethlisberger. Everywhere I go, people are happy to see me.
"On a beautiful day, I get credit," he says. "On a bad day, I try to deflect it and blame it on Mother Nature."
Friday is the day to put aside your complaints. It's National Weatherman's Day, which commemorates the Feb. 5, 1744, birthday of John Jeffries, one of the nation's first weather observers, according to the National Weather Service. Jeffries began taking daily weather observations from Boston in 1774, and took the first balloon observation in 1784.
Jeff Verszyla, chief meteorologist for KDKA, has fun with the holiday, and acknowledges it in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. He jokes with his family about getting him cards and gifts, and he posts tweets on his Twitter page asking fans to send him cards with money.
Verszyla says people e-mail him or stop him when they see him in the community. He'll typically hear: "Thanks for the sunshine" or "Can you make it stop snowing?"
"As if any of us had a master switch somewhere, and we could control these things," laughs Verszyla, of the North Hills.
Sometimes people are joking, but many seriously blame him for the weather.
"Essentially, I think what it comes down to is, people look for someone to assign blame to when things don't work out the way they want them to," Verszyla says. "They can't figure out who to blame. It comes with the territory; it's part of the job. Obviously, you learn to live with and deal with it."
Julie Bologna, chief meteorologist for WPXI, says she receives mostly good-natured questions and teasing from people.
"I've always found that people have always been nice to me, especially in Pittsburgh," says Bologna, of the North Hills. "They say, 'Hey, how's the weather?' or 'When is winter going to end• Give me some sunshine.' But it's never been mean-spirited."
Sometimes viewers will jokingly tell Bologna, "Hey, I'm shoveling 2 inches of partly cloudy off my driveway this morning."
Often, it seems that people see meteorology more as an art than a science, say Bologna and Ivory. But the predictions are based on solid data coming from chemistry, math and physics.
"I think people don't realize the science behind it," Bologna says. "I think a lot of times, they think we're looking out the window and putting together a forecast. I'm looking at computer models every day.
"There's a lot of preparation that goes into it," she says. "I'm almost like a graphic artist at the same time."
Inevitably, some weather forecasts will be dead wrong.
"When you're wrong, it better be on a sunny day. That's all I can say," he says, laughing.
This common weatherman joke, Ivory says, gets old: "That's the only job where you can be wrong half the time and still get paid all the time."
Our meteorologists say they love their careers, upon which millions of people depend for critical, daily information.
"It is a lot of fun. I get excited every day to tell people the weather, because it affects everybody," Bologna says. "Whenever we're telling people to stay home, we have to get there. It's an important job, and a very interesting and fun job. ... I'm glad that I do what I do."