STATE COLLEGE - Joel Myers' fascination with weather began at a young age.
"When I was 3 years old, I was fascinated by snow. I stood by the window. When I was 7, my grandma bought me a diary, and I started to write down weather conditions. I still have the diaries from when I was 7, 8 and 9," Myers said. "I always had a burning desire to be a weather forecaster."
In 1962, Myers started AccuWeather, which has grown into an international media company, at his kitchen table.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
AccuWeather’s Violeta Yas, a bilingual broadcaster, gives a forecast in Spanish as she works in front of a green screen and live camera.
At the time, his dream was to have 100 paying customers.
"I reached that in the early 1970s. I called about 25,000 potential customers, they thought I was nuts," Myers said.
Today, AccuWeather provides local forecasts for "everywhere" in the United States and more than 2 million locations worldwide. AccuWeather also provides its products and services to more than 175,000 paying customers in media, business, government and institutions.
"We are approaching a billion people a day who get information from us and are aiming for 2 billion in two or three years, that is what we are shooting for," said Myers, a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.
After operating out of several locations in downtown State College, in 1998 AccuWeather built its 52,000-square-foot facility on Science Park Road.
The building was designed with input from more than 100 employees.
The operations room is larger than two basketball courts, and with a 21-foot high ceiling, it enables AccuWeather meteorologists, graphic artists, editors and operational support staff to interact together as integrated teams.
The headquarters' state-of-the-art design and equipment enables AccuWeather to provide reliable and accurate weather information well into the new millennium.
"We have the largest collection of weather data of any entity in the world," Myers said. "We have a talented team. We are dedicated to having the most accurate forecasts. We provide greater accuracy; we call it superior accuracy."
AccuWeather has offices around the United States and is planning to open international offices later this year in Asia, Europe and Canada.
AccuWeather has played a significant role in the weather forecasting industry.
"AccuWeather has been a leader, throughout its history, in providing customized weather services that meet the needs of its clients. It has developed new markets for these services and helped those in many economic sectors see how strategic use of weather information can be financially beneficial," said Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society. "This has helped to develop the growth of the private sector in weather provision in the nation, but perhaps more importantly, it has helped the national economy by having weather and climate sensitive industries take advantage of the forecasting capabilities now available to reduce risks and improve their bottom line."
AccuWeather has been a life saver over the years.
"We are proud. We estimate we have saved 3,500 lives through our forecasts and over $40 billion in property damage over the years at least," Myers said.
AccuWeather has been a leader in long-range forecasting.
In the 1960s, AccuWeather introduced the five-day forecast when the National Weather Service was offering only a two-day forecast. In later years, AccuWeather became the first to introduce the seven-day, 10-day, 15-day, and 25-day forecasts. And in May 2013, AccuWeather announced the 30-day forecast, becoming the leading source for free 30-day forecasting information.
AccuWeather now offers a 45-day forecast that provides consumers with more advance notice of upcoming weather conditions than ever before.
"We strive to provide forecasts that have the highest value to the people who are using it," Myers said.
AccuWeather has been successful because of its people.
"I've been lucky. I have had so many tremendous people, such high quality dedicated entrepreneurial people that have made this possible. If there is a storm, people come in. It is like a family business; these are tremendous, dedicated people who enjoy what they are doing," Myers said.
Companies like AccuWeather are usually found in Silicon Valley or New York.
"We are in central Pennsylvania. We are the best kept secret in central Pennsylvania. We are a global media company right here in State College," Myers said.
Myers, who received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in meteorology from Penn State, has served on the university board of trustees for 31 years.
Among his philanthropic efforts was a gift of more than $2 million to Penn State for the creation of the Joel N. Myers Weather Center, a modern teaching center for future meteorologists.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.