Greater Latrobe grad shoots the breeze for The Weather Channel
Greg Forbes grabbed his phone and hurriedly reached his cousin in Southwest Greensburg.
Forbes — known as “Dr. Greg,” the severe weather expert on The Weather Channel — saw computer models were showing a tornado developing in Hempfield in 2011.
“I said, ‘Go in the basement,' ” Forbes recalled.
Given his cousin's background, Corry Sheffler heeded the advice. “I really take it seriously when he calls,” Sheffler said.
Forbes, who grew up in Unity and graduated in 1968 from Greater Latrobe High School, has that effect on people. He knows that when his face pops up on the tube, Weather Channel viewers take heed, especially if he is talking about their home area.
“That's sort of the idea,” Forbes said. “If I'm on the air, it's an uh-oh moment. It's the same thing Jim Cantore gets when he shows up doing remote broadcasts from somebody's city. They're not happy to see him.”
Forbes, 63, who lives in an Atlanta suburb, became enchanted with meteorology after taking a class on the subject as a student in Mt. View Elementary School.
“It was eye-opening,” Forbes said.
His interest cemented, Forbes began monitoring barometer, rain and wind gauges as a teen. He watched television, too, turning the dial to KDKA-TV and weatherman Joe DeNardo, a trained meteorologist.
“(DeNardo) made it clear that it was a true science,” Forbes said.
After high school, Forbes left for Penn State University and then the University of Chicago, where he earned degrees in meteorology.
In Chicago, he studied under Ted Fujita, or “Mr. Tornado,” en route to his doctorate in meteorology. Fujita developed the original Fujita Scale used to measure the impact of tornados.
“At that point, I decided I might be able to do something that would save people's lives,” Forbes said.
He started at The Weather Channel in 1999 after working 21 years as a meteorology professor at Penn State.
He said he was fortunate The Weather Channel wanted to “brand” itself by hiring “higher-level expertise” for on the air. Up to that point, Forbes believed he had “priced himself out of operational forecasting” by getting his doctorate.
“They interviewed a lot of people,” Forbes said. “But a lot of people who do that sort of thing like to do storm chasing. I wasn't enamored of storm chasing, so being confined to a TV studio wasn't going to bother me. I like looking at radar.”
Since then, he has become known for the Tor:Con Index — a 1-to-10 ranking of the likelihood of tornados in an area — and telling viewers to “stay safe.”
Forbes said weather prediction is better today than even a few years ago. Advancements in technology, such as Doppler radar, have made the difference, he said.
“Back when I was a student, nobody expected weather to be correct at all. The changes have been so dramatic. The accuracy has gone up tremendously,” he said.
“We're probably as accurate five days in advance as we were for the current day when I was a student in Latrobe,” he said.
Forbes chose weather forecasting for other reasons.
“I knew it really would make a difference in people's day-to-day activities, and I realized it was something to do to get instant feedback,” he said.
Weather isn't any worse today than it was years ago, although many people seem to believe it is, Forbes said. He believes population growth and urban sprawl have impacted people's perception.
More sources of weather information, such as cable channels and the Internet, further heighten people's weather awareness, Forbes said.
Forbes doesn't get back to Western Pennsylvania as often as he would like. When he does, he enjoys visiting Sheffler and his family — he did so over the holidays — along with going to antique stores and area attractions.
“I like to collect things,” including old political buttons, Forbes said.
He and his cousin visited the Heinz History Museum in Pittsburgh to look at an exhibit involving Pennsylvania's role in the Civil War — another interest — and the Latrobe Historical Society.
When he visits, people sometimes recognize him, Forbes said. If they don't identify him immediately but think they know him, they look at him quizzically or start asking questions, he said.
Such a moment occurred last week in the Agway store in Southwest Greensburg.
“The guy said, ‘You look awfully familiar,' ” Forbes recalled. “I said, ‘Do you watch The Weather Channel?' He said, ‘Oh, you're Dr. Greg.' ”
Bob Stiles is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Corbett rips Wolf tax proposals during Hempfield campaign stop
- Laurel Mountain ski plan needs more information, planners say
- Former Penn-Trafford student put on house arrest for drug sales
- One-day lane restrictions set on Route 30 in North Huntingdon
- Rostraver woman, 91, injured in home invasion; 3 sought
- Ligonier Township wants more info on cell tower proposal
- Ligonier Township zoning officer resigns
- Line painting planned in Penn Township
- Greensburg driver charged after ATV struck on rail tracks
- Make A Difference Day is Saturday
- Latrobe Municipal Authority appeals DEP order