I’ve been asked numerous times how Madison County Weather Updates came to be. At the time of writing this, Madison County Weather Updates has over 10,500 Facebook followers, plus 592 on Twitter, and 511 on Instagram. The Instagram page was only created a few months ago, but the Twitter page has been around for as long as the Facebook page; yet it hasn’t taken off like the Facebook page did. I suspect that may be due to the inability to make detailed posts on Twitter. Regardless, we value every single follower who trusts us to provide their weather information.
So, how did we get here? This starts a long, long time ago, in a City right here in Madison County. I have been interested in, and have been studying the weather to some extent since the tornado Super Outbreak of 1974, when I was not quite five years old. Even at that age, I found that event of extreme interest. Of even greater interest to me was the ability of my father (pictured to the side with me in December 1974) and my grandfather to forewarn people well ahead that a bad day was coming. I wanted to know how they knew. What did they look for? That was my first introduction to amateur forecasting, and was my first indication that one did not have to have a degree or be on TV to understand what the weather might do. I began reading any weather related children’s book I could find at the school library, trying to understand the basic mechanics of the weather.
The next major event that inspired me was the Blizzard of 1978. Once again, Dad was ahead of the storm. As I recall, there was a Heavy Snow Warning issued the morning of the storm’s inception. If memory serves me, the forecast was for a few inches of snow. However, Dad realized something larger was coming. At the time, my stepmom worked at Western Electric in Indianapolis. She was getting ready for work when Dad told her she should stay home because the storm was going to be much bigger than expected, and would probably start before her shift ended. By mid-afternoon the National Weather Service realized the storm they expected was merging with another storm and a blizzard was imminent, and the rest is history. Once again, I was curious what made Dad think something larger was coming. During that time, Indianapolis also had three of the all-time iconic weathermen in Bob Gregory, Bob McLain, and Stan Wood, which only furthered my interest. As I got a bit older, Dad and I would stand out on the picnic table as storms approached and he would explain what he was watching for as they developed. I also began reading much more in-depth weather books. Reading aviation weather books were immensely helpful in understanding how the weather functioned well above the surface weather that we all see on TV.
As I continued to learn, I didn’t really do much in the way of forecasting beyond an imminent storm. Beyond what we now call “now-casting”, I simply knew what they said on TV. My attitude on that changed when I was about 19. It was February and it was in the 60s. It was also forecast to stay warm for a couple of days. One evening, my brother Isaac and I were bored. So, we decided to walk overnight from Anderson to visit our grandparents in Elwood. The low that night was supposed to be in the 40s, so we were sure to wear clothes & coats that were plenty warm. About halfway to Alexandria we noticed the wind got awfully cold, and it began to rain. A little bit later, our coats began to freeze and the roads started getting icy. Unwisely, but thankfully, we accepted an offer from a guy west of Alexandria who gave us a ride the rest of the way. It literally took a full day to warm our bodies back up.
That event was the point where I vowed “never again” would I get burned (or frozen as it happened) by a TV forecast. So, I really began to learn about pattern drivers and forecasting methods. I learned the different cloud types and what they could tell you about short-term weather. I learned about the major weather tele-connections and how they make weather travel. If I could learn about it, I did. As I did so, along with applying what I learned from dad, I began to see when the TV forecasts were going to be wrong and why. By the early 90s, I was telling people what to expect when I felt the TV forecasts were wrong. When I lived in Grand Prairie, Texas there were two big severe storms that I told people were coming, when the TV was telling them “there might be enough rain to wet your yard.” After that, if people had plans they began asking me what I thought the weather would “really do.” When I returned to Indiana, the same happened with a couple of big snows, and a couple of busted snows, as well as severe events. It got to the point people trusted my info more than the TV forecasters.
Then, along came social media and free internet weather data and satellite. With MySpace, people beyond my immediate family and friends became acquainted with my forecasting. With Facebook that reach really began to increase. Over the course of Facebook reach, I became familiar with, and friends with then BAM Chase (now BAMwx.com). They were young, ambitious, thought outside the box on weather analysis, and were highly accurate. I already thought outside the box, but through following them, I began to learn even more. I learned more about things I already knew, and I learned a lot of things I had never heard. They explained weather and patterns in a depth I had never heard before, and I ate it all up. During all that time, I continued to post my weather thoughts and forecasts on my personal Facebook, and weather posts started taking over my feed.
Enter Alex Byers in 2015. We had become friends and he was witness to the massive weather content of my personal Facebook. So, he asked if I wanted him to set up a weather-only page so I could update and forecast there, along with providing other Anderson information. He created Anderson Weather Updates in July of 2015. He thought we could probably get 300-500 people to follow the page. I thought that was ambitious, but would be awesome. That milestone happened within a couple of weeks. By that Fall we were nearing 1,000 followers and were getting requests for weather information from across the county. So, we changed to Madison County Weather Updates.
Over the next couple of years, Alex slowly left the page to me, and we continued to grow page followers beyond anything I ever imagined. I also began adding to the tools I utilized on the page to help convey weather events and forecast information to the County. Then, on Valentines Day 2016, I was discussing a possible early snow for the County, when I got a comment from Kristen Young explaining to me what she thought I was missing meteorologically, and why the snow was *not* going to happen. I messaged her to discuss it further, and she and I very quickly became friends. I ultimately learned of her degree in meteorology, and just how knowledgeable she is. Finally, in the Summer of 2018 I asked her to become my co-administrator for the page. I have no idea what took me so long. Though I’m the one you interact with the most, Kristen has proven to be an incredible asset to our forecasting. She has especially proven herself to be some sort of savant when it comes to ice and sleet events (which may be the most difficult precipitation to forecast).
As Facebook page numbers approached, then topped 10,000 we began getting more and more personal requests for weather information for specific times, places, and events. So, I began subscribing to all the data I could afford so I could better answer those questions. Of course, analysis of that data requires a LOT of time; time that has become more difficult to give, since Kristen and I both have full-time jobs. It also does Kristen no good if I’m the one with all the subscriptions and software. So, by default most of the updating of the pages remain largely in my court. I had stayed up all night “now-casting” a couple of snow storms and/or their failure, and by the Spring of 2020, I knew something had to give. I couldn’t afford to maintain the subscriptions I had, let alone double them so Kristen could utilize them as well. Neither of us could dedicate the time needed to keep you informed as accurately as you deserve, without continuing to burn the candle at both ends. That is especially true during severe events and snow events. So, I was going to stop doing the page altogether. However, it was suggested to me that we figure out the level of service we really want to provide, then seek donations or go behind a “paywall.” We chose the donation route because we really don’t want to charge people for information they count on. I had floated that idea to the page in 2018 and got a resounding “no”, but we gave it another shot and enough people found what we do valuable enough to donate so we could hire Jordan Hobbs to build and maintain this website.
So here we are. We truly hope you’ll continue to value what we provide, and will eventually support us well enough that serving you can become our full-time jobs. We have high hopes for what we can accomplish for Madison County, and on occasion, bordering counties. Thank you all so much for trusting and supporting us!!! This is just the beginning.
Be sure to check out Kristen’s Bio as well!!!