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Md. Meteorologist Always Had Head In The Clouds

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CARA R. ANTHONY
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — WeatherBug meteorologist James West keeps track of the weather all year long, but what you may not know is that he lives in Frederick with his wife, his two daughters and two cats.

What’s his favorite weather season? Autumn.

That’s when the dog days of summer have faded away, and “you get to open the windows and take in the fresh air,” West said.

Rain or shine, sleet or snow, West travels from Frederick to Montgomery County every morning to check on the weather.

His daily drive down Interstate 270 ends at WeatherBug headquarters in Germantown, where he settles into a desk and updates the website. After checking the forecast, West, WeatherBug’s editorial content editor, spends the day fine-tuning weather stories that come across his desk.

“We don’t get snow days. We don’t get days off for thunderstorm or hurricanes,” West explained in a recent interview.

The stories this winter have varied, but headlines about snow have kept the meteorology team at WeatherBug busy. When 20 inches of snow hit Frederick just before Valentine’s Day, West hit the road at 4 a.m. to monitor the forecast. It’s his job to communicate the forecast to WeatherBug.com users. He took on the job after working as a weather content developer at USA Today.

At USA Today, West worked with Jack Williams, founding weather editor for the newspaper and author of “The Weather Book.” Williams retired in 2005, the same year West joined the WeatherBug team.

His career journey also included a stint in in the Netherlands working for MeteoConsult, the largest private weather firm in Europe. For 2 1/2 years, West predicted the forecast for workers on North Sea oil rigs and ships.

“They were trying to figure out how the Web was going to work and how they were going to use it to communicate,” West said of his time in Holland.

Back then, he was a recent graduate of Penn State University. A quarter of all meteorologists in the country graduate from Penn State, West said. He chose the university in part because his big sister went there. They were raised in Newark, Del., where West grew up and dreamed of being “like the guy on TV.”

“We had this big huge window that goes up to our stairwell, and every summer when thunderstorms would come by we would be scared to go up the steps,” West recalled with a chuckle.

The claps of thunder and lightning flashes piqued his interest, so he decided to learn more about storms and weather events. An earth science teacher at his high school also inspired him to make meteorology his career.

Now, decades later, West has fulfilled his dream. When he’s not keeping an eye on the weather, he is spending time with his family.

Taking care of two young daughters keeps him busy, but West recently completed a master’s in business administration from Hood College. He also takes care of two cats his family adopted from the Frederick County Animal Shelter.

The best time of year to be a meteorologist?

“I always get excited in the springtime when I give people a 100 percent guarantee that `This is going to be a beautiful spring day,”‘ West said with a smile.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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