Thursday, January 27, 2011

A New Look

Have you noticed? There's a new look to the SkyTracker7 HD weather graphics.

Several weeks ago, SkyTracker7 meteorologists started training on our new system. While the "look" is different to you, the operating system is new to us.

Think of our weather presentation as a giant PowerPoint. Our previous software was a bit cumbersome when setting up a weathercast, however, our new "show player" is much improved. Within seconds we can set up a show and update graphics (no rendering, which saves us time). The show player also allows us to put new "transitions" between graphics. I like these. It's a little thing that makes our forecasts "pop" just a little more than before.

Another new feature we call "MAX1" allows us to record forecast briefings from the weather set at WDBJ and upload them to our website. You will see us post a quick, informal, weather presentation on; especially in times of developing weather. Think of it as a weather "extra".

Our new system also allows us the capability to show WeatherBug within our shows. In the past, you may have noticed we always started with WeatherBug, which shows live weather conditions across the NEWS7 viewing area and beyond. Now, we can embed this feature, which often lends itself to telling a better weather story.

So far, viewers are reporting they are thrilled with our new look. When a new graphics package rolls out, often there are tweaks or suggestions from viewers. We're always open to those, so let us know at

"MAX" has only been on the air a few days. We've only shown the tip of the iceberg so far, so stay tuned for a new, crisp, flashy look from SkyTracker7 HD weather. Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Isabel Slams Virginia (2003)

Some weather nerds (like myself) enjoy snow storms. Some, severe thunderstorms. Others may like (boring) days of endless sunshine. I love all of our weather in Virginia, but I especially like this time of the year when the tropics heat up.

We're nearing the seven year anniversary of Hurricane Isabel. Once a major category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, Isabel weakened to a CAT2 before making landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on September 18, 2003. Isabel would then race across Virginia.

In 2003, I was working at the ABC affiliate in Harrisonburg as the morning and noon meteorologist. It wasn't the first hurricane I had covered, but it was the first one I was about to cover that was like looking down the barrel of a gun. There was no doubt Isabel would track across the Shenandoah Valley and dump heavy rain. Dump it did. Rainfall totals from our weather watchers poured into the weather office. Often viewers would call more than once an hour reporting "another inch of rain". When all was said and done, we averaged 6-12" of rain. Some places got more. Upper Sherando in August County had around 20".

I was on the air when the heart of the storm hit. A reporter came into the studio and said Harrisonburg police were searching for people in an overturned canoe. The exact details have faded with time, but I remember one young man died in that accident. I believe he was a JMU student. The normally very dry creek became a raging river of muddy water. Later in the day, two more people died in Rockingham County when their horse and buggy overturned as they attempted to cross a fast-flowing river. I recall video of the black horse still in the river. Not pretty.

I have always had an interest in what tropical systems can do to Virginia, specifically the inland affects. Camille (1969), Hugo (1989) and Isabel are just a few that come to mind. As we reflect on Isabel, it's a good time to remember to have a plan. This is National Preparedness Month. Make a safety supply kit for your family. Know what to do during an event like Isabel.

We're at the peak of hurricane season now. Stay with SkyTracker7 Weather, and depend on us to bring you the latest on what could still offer some attitude from the tropical Atlantic. Hurricane season ends November 30th.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Day the Rains Came

A persistent ridge of high pressure during June provided record heat (Roanoke and Blacksburg's hottest June on record; Danville's second warmest and Lynchburg's eighth warmest.) Not only did the heat beat down, but little rain fell down. Before our eyes our plush green lawns dried up, and so did crops. I was talking to a farmer in the New River Valley just before the dry spell hit. He was worried such arid conditions would return, because as he said, it seems to every year. He was right.

Finally, it appears there's a slight shift in the atmospheric pattern, and our luck. This week should offer a decent opportunity for showers and thunderstorms. Today has certainly been the case (so far today our rain gauge at Kent Square in Blacksburg has topped 1.00" of rain since midnight - and it's still falling). Severe upper level pieces of energy will rotate through our hot and humid air mass giving rise to area super-soakers this week. As mentioned, the humidity will be running high this week. Since the air will be primed with fairly moisture laden air, heavy rain could develop over your hometown. Like late last week, some of you may get 1-2" of rain in a rather short period of time, while your neighbors get much less. Case in point: so far this month at the Roanoke Regional Airport, that site has received 3.30" of rain. Last night I noticed at our downtown rain gauge at the Science Museum of Western Virginia there's only been about 0.70".

So keep the umbrellas on standby this week, and enjoy the rain. You never know when we'll dry up again!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Webb Arrives!

Congratulations to my brother Chris and sister-in-law Bethany on the birth of their daughter, Avery. She was born in Blacksburg this week. I accidentally deleted a great picture of her, so enjoy this one that's 99% me, and 1% Avery.
Again, congratulations to Chris and Bethany. Avery will teach you as much as you'll teach her.
(Our baby update: As you may have read in an earlier blog post, my wife and I are expecting in November. We should find out if we're having a boy or girl in about two weeks. Stay tuned...)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Well deserved, my friend!

Just a quick "congratulations" to SkyTracker7 HD Meteorologist Brent Watts on being awarded the coveted American Meteorological Society's "Seal of Approval". Brent is the complete package when it comes to broadcast meteorology. He tells a great weather story that's easy for viewers to understand, he's a social butterfly - meaning you'll often see him around town emceeing events and enjoying festivals; he's one of the finest graphic artists I've ever seen, he writes code for the SkyTracker7 weather page on (something I don't understand at all), and most importantly - he's just a good human being.

Meteorologists such as Brent who have earned the AMS seal (or the CBM or NWA) have not only had demonstrated a solid understand of weather through education, but have had their on-air work reviewed by a group of their peers. To get a Seal of Approval from "your peers" is a really good feeling. It's nice to know fellow broadcasters from across the country believe in your work - from your on-air performance, to your graphics, to your clothes and make-up.

Again, congratulations Brent! Now enjoy earning your continuing education points! :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BIG News!

Christmas will come about a month early in our home this year. My wife and I are expecting a baby boy or girl on November 12th!

We're super excited about our new addition, but I'm beginning to have flashbacks to five years ago when we were expecting our first child, Parker. I had forgotten (but how quickly I remembered) the awkward feeling of going with my wife to see her doctor. Those who know me well know I'm sheepish, and it takes very little to make my stomach turn. Seeing my wife go through a painless exam makes me very uneasy. My wife and her doctor freely exchange thoughts, ideas, medical terminology and bodily functions, while I hunker down in the corner of the room and turn a pasty white. Really - I can be spared the details!

Thankfully, the pregnancy is going pretty well. I have a lot of respect for my wife. She's a great mom to Parker, and we're both ready to take on the challenges - and rewards - of having another baby around the house.

We still are waiting to tell Parker. We don't think he'll "get it" until Sarah starts showing. That might not be too long, as some of her closest friends have already made the observation. We're thinking of creative ways to tell him. He's only four years old, so his reaction could be priceless. We think he'll be a great big brother. He's very good with children younger than him.

The doctor says she's 51% sure of the sex. That's not good odds as far as picking out pink or blue paint, clothes and toys, so we'll have to wait a bit. Obviously we're praying for a healthy baby, but beyond that, I know my wife would really love to have a little girl. We'll see - the dye has been cast!

I'll keep the blog updated with baby news. In the meantime, hope I don't pass out at the next doctors appointment!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring means strong storms

We're only one week into spring and already a tornado has struck the NEWS7 viewing area. On Sunday night, March 28, a severe thunderstorm with rotation spawned a brief tornado in Halifax County near Alton and Turbeville. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service have determined this was a very weak tornado. It was rated an EF0. Despite its "weak" rating, the storm packed a punch. An EF0 tornado has winds between 65 and 85mph. Winds Sunday night in the Halifax County twister were estimated around 75mph. The tornado was on the ground for only a few seconds beginning at 10:02pm, but caused a mess. Several out buildings had roof damage, and one unoccupied mobile home was flipped over and destroyed (see photo above).

As meteorologists, we often stress that NOW is the time to prepare for severe weather. When a tornado warning is issued, you need to know what to do. That is NOT the time to figure out what you and your family need to do to stay safe. Preparation is easy and cheap. Basements, bathrooms, rooms without windows - are great places to ride out the storm. Buy a NOAA weather radio. Have a flashlight charged or loaded with fresh batteries. Exit mobile homes (see photo above).

It's also a good time of the year to point out that it's our job to warn the public of severe storms. We will "crawl" information at the top of the screen as long as we can, but the second a tornado warning is issued we will cut-in over programming. Golf, Cold Case, Undercover Boss, Wheel of Fortune - it all takes a back seat to a tornado warning. We know tornadoes are small in size and affect a tiny area of our huge coverage area, but it's our job - plus the FCC requires us to cut-in to keep the public informed. As soon as we pass along important information we'll get you back to our programming. We want to keep you safe - and we want you to enjoy great CBS programming. Our severe weather cut-ins are not designed to make your life miserable. :-)

One tornado down, and perhaps more to come this spring and summer. Take a few minutes and come up with a severe weather action plan. Thanks for watching "Your Hometown Station" WDBJ7!

The Enhanced Fujita Scale

EF0 wind speeds 65-85mph
EF1 wind speeds 86-110mph
EF2 wind speeds 111-135mph
EF3 wind speeds 136-165mph
EF4 wind speeds 166-200mph
EF5 wind speeds greater than 200mph