Starting your own weather service seems a bit like creating your own mail delivery – the kind of thing only new countries and millionaire businessmen do.
Bobby Martrich and Susan Haberacker are neither but they managed to launch the “Lehigh Valley Weather Patrol with Bobby and Suzy” 11 months ago and have seen it grow by great gusts. The Weather Patrol, which issues forecasts from its Facebook page, has more than 4,300 fans.
Its popularity has encouraged Martrich and Haberacker, both 35, to move the Weather Patrol to its own web site in January and sell advertisements to offset costs and make money for their labors. The business partners plan to drop their names from the title when it moves to www.lehighvalleyweatherpatrol.com
Even after Martrich struck out on the Dec. 7 “storm” (he predicted 3-6 inches, the National Weather Service said 2-4 inches and the area got zip) the site gained followers. “This was a blown call and it still went up by 1,200 [fans],” he said in a recent interview.
That might be because he doesn’t whiff often.
“Last [winter] I was 11 for 12 in predicting snow level amounts,” said Martrich, who is the Patrol’s meteorologist. “Every time I’d get a correct call, the fan base would go up.”
This winter, he’s predicting total snowfall of 45-60 inches, including the snow that fell on Oct. 29. A normal winter in the Valley sees 32.9 inches.
Tropical Storm Irene in August was the turning point for the Weather Patrol, Haberacker said, with the page adding 1,800 fans.
The service’s interactive nature appears to be a draw for many of them; after Martrich apologized for his Dec. 7 forecast, scores of fans weighed in with comments.
Martrich was criticized by a couple of followers for calling himself a meteorologist when he acknowledges he has a two-year associates degree from Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences with a concentration in meteorology rather than a four-year bachelor’s. He also interned with the National Weather Service. Currently, he works at Cintas, a uniform company in Emmaus.
Martrich argues that what matters most are results. In addition to predicting 11 of the 12 snowfalls last winter, he was accurate in forecasts of Hurricane Irene and the Oct. 29 snowstorm.
Weather Patrol aficionados are quick to defend him.
“I think you guys do an awesome job!” read one typical post. “People are forgetting that weather is not always predictable and out of all the reporting weather people I know I have more faith in LVWP, who do this for free, then I do in any of the people on TV who are paid to try and figure out what it will be like outside!”
Martrich attributes his success rate in part to having a smaller region to cover than, say, the National Weather Service. Being born and raised here, he knows the Lehigh Valley’s weather patterns well.
The Weather Patrol’s frequent updates are appealing to fans, as are Martrich’s explanations for his predictions, which are typically more detailed than those found on traditional sites, Haberacker said.
Like Martrich, Haberacker grew up fascinated by The Weather Channel and would be glued to the television during storm reports.
Both Allentown natives, they were classmates at Dieruff High School before graduating in 1994. A few years ago they reconnected through Facebook, where Martrich often posted weather-related information and forecasts.
Together they came up with the idea of starting a Facebook fan page devoted to local weather and Haberacker created the page and came up with the name.
Since then they’ve added Dr. Chris Martucci as a regular contributor who assists with forecasts. Martucci, a radiologist at , met Martrich through a weather blog in the Philadelphia area and now weighs in at the Weather Patrol under the moniker “Doc.”
Haberacker, who went to Allentown College (before it was ) for travel, tourism and journalism, handles the business end of things. She also does a Friday weather report for The Matt Metal Show on 90.3 FM WXLV.
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