The Parthenon

Fitzweather growing like a storm

Zach Wright, Reporter

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Some college students struggle to find a major to study. Other students have a passion from an early age, and never deviate from that path.

Joseph Fitzwater, junior physical geography student, fits in the second category.

Fitzwater said his interest with weather started at an early age, thanks to his parents.

“When I was in first grade, my parents took me to a local news station to see how the news works behind the scenes,” Fitzwater said. “I was introduced to weather, and how it is always changing captivated me from the start.”

Years later, Fitzwater is making a name for himself through his website, complete with weather information and forecasts.

Fitzwater said the website, fitzweather.com, began as an idea in the summer of 2011, which he worked quickly to publish.

“I saved up my money and bought a domain and hosting for the website in the fall of 2011, and published it for the first time in November 2011,” Fitzwater said.

Fitzwater said the website’s original purpose was to provide accurate weather forecasts for central West Virginia, but it has expanded beyond that.

“The site is designed to provide the most accurate weather forecasts and information to central West Virginia,” Fitzwater said. “I also forecast for Marshall University, and people now ask me all the time what the weather’s going to do.”

Fitzwater said he uses a few software products to aid in his forecasting.

“I use GRLevel 3 to track storms, Weatherbell (weatherbell.com) to use a weather model for guidance, and a program offered by the weather service called Bufkit as another modeling application,” Fitzwater said. “I also use a program called Weatherstudio for current surface data. It gets expensive, but I enjoy it.”

Fitzwater said fitzweather.com has opened opportunities for him.

“I was able to do a weather internship for WOWK-TV 13 over the summer,” Fitzwater said. “I’ve been able to publish weather research in both California and Florida since spring 2013.”

Fitzwater said he takes pride in providing the weather to local residents.

“I love being able to help people, so telling people what the weather is going to be like is something I take a lot of pride in,” Fitzwater said. “Knowing that people trust me over the guys in the suits really captivates me.”

However, the journey with fitzweather.com hasn’t always been easy. Fitzwater said he’s still experiencing hardships with the site, but the encouragement and the support from people and his love for weather will sustain it.

“I spend about three hours a day, seven said a week, working on weather forecasting for the website,” Fitzwater said. “I could easily look at a weather model if I wanted to, but I like to dig into science and figure out why temperatures are increasing or decreasing or why it might rain.”

Fitzwater said the financial aspect of the website is hefty at times and costs him heavily throughout the year.

“It is very expensive for a website that is free for users,” Fitzwater said. “I currently pay about $600 a year to keep it going, and that doesn’t include the price I’ve paid for the equipment.”

While the price may cause problems now, Fitzwater hopes in the future he won’t have to worry about financial restraints. The recent support from viewers has helped keep him going.

“I’m over 20,000 clicks in a little less that three years, with 11,000 of those coming since May,” Fitzwater said. “Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to not worry about the expenses.”

Zach Wright can be contacted at [email protected]

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