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October 17th, 2018

Q & A with Local Forecaster Roger Hill

By Katie Moritz

Roger Hill has been forecasting weather for listeners of Radio Vermont (WDEV, WLVB, WCVT, and 101 The One) for about eighteen years now. He also freelances. On Friday, May 3rd, Hill took the time to answer the questions below.

1. How did weather first interest you?

I was about seven or eight and we were traveling by car, just outside Yellowstone National Park, near Butte Montana, when we encountered a tremendous hail storm (at least in my young mind) which made a huge impact on me. Fierce rainfall within close lightning strikes is a powerful thunderstorm… hail that must have been the size of a golf ball.

2. You learned the trade in the Army; what did that involve? Did you also study on your own? I was involved with the Artillery of the 25th Infantry division in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. It involved sending up weather balloons to sound the atmosphere so that ballistically the artillery round would land at their intended targets. I spent 21/2 years doing this in real time, as the data was used by the National Weather Service as well as Pearl Harbor Naval Weather, Air Weather Service Air force Weather, and the US. Army for target acquisition.

3. You have been forecasting weather for the radio, VELCO, local schools, sugar makers, and other organizations; how does what you do differ with each?  Utility forecasting is for what parameters might cause power outages – such as wind gusts that take down trees and power lines, or ice storms and heavy wet snow or thunderstorms – all of which is capable of causing power outages. My job is to alert those utilities through VELCO of impending storms that produce outages ahead of their occurrence for preparation and restoration.

Schools require travel by busses and what might affect busses is ice and snow and safety thereof. So, I also work with various towns road commissioners and the City of Montpelier. Again it’s about incoming storms that cause changes. There are many types of snow, some of it easy to get around in and some is not so easy.

Radio Forecasting is more general, but may encompass all of the above and usually does. I’m most known for my ties with Radio Vermont as their forecaster.

Advice to sugar makers is very niche, as one might imagine. They typically look for spring sap runs, or warm and cold stretches after they have already tapped their trees. It’s become a big industry and weather information for their projection on manpower can be intense for them. There are so many niche issues when it comes to our weather; they all involve good science, knowing the behavior of the local micro climates, climate change trends, and all of the above.

4. Do you play drums in a band? In my personal life, I do play drums and have been in many different bands. I am in and out of playing with different veteran musicians currently. I find the art of drumming or percussion and being a musician doing odd time signatures a good counter balance to forecasting. Weather patterns and musical percussion patterns can be interestingly similar – of course at much different scales. Some of the bands I have played with in the past are the “Toasters,” BTU’s, and others in California, like Sandy and High Country.

5. What are some of your favorite components to forecasting? Forecasting niches are all different. Point forecasting for Stowe Performing Arts and live shows, such as the Grateful Dead up in Highgate or Bob Dylan and Woodstock, are challenging and intense, but also gratifying. Our Vermont weather will always keep a threat going. Folks who manage and oversee the varied outdoor venues know that we can have serious issues with lightning and winds and heavy rain, but I try keep those venues functioning when the weather is tight to their window.  If things become unsafe, I’m there to call it or at least convey danger from lightning or what have you. It’s on me to help keep everything going and safe.

6. How did you end up in VT? Are you from this area? I’m originally a Californian, but moved to Vermont in the mid 80s and love Vermont as if I was born here. I like the land, the people, and even the politics (compared to other places). Going on vacation is always fun, but when you come back to Vermont, it’s like you are so glad to be back in such a changing seasonality kind of place.

7. Anything else? I feel a heavy responsibility of educating folks on connecting the dots of weather to larger trends of climate warming. I also feel a need to keep our elected officials from procrastinating when it comes to our environment, which is very special.  You don’t know what you have until you have lost it.

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