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Weatherdogs: Hounding Down An Honest Forecast

Two-self professed "weather nerds" have created a new Facebook page that seeks to provide accurate weather-related information, and just in time as another winter storm heads towards Connecticut.

The Valley-Shore Weatherdogs are Tom Coon and Kevin Burwell. Credit: Valley-Shore Weatherdogs Facebook page
The Valley-Shore Weatherdogs are Tom Coon and Kevin Burwell. Credit: Valley-Shore Weatherdogs Facebook page

It's been a series of significant snow falls and wintry mix messes for most of Connecticut this winter. 

And just as we begin to see signs of spring — mourning doves gently cooing and crocuses popping up here and there in patches of snowless ground — it appears another large winter storm system is on its way to our region, with it expected to begin impacting our area starting late Sunday night.

But will we get a foot or more of snow as some forecasters are predicting, already labeling "Winter Storm Titan" as the biggest storm of the year? Or will the snow mix in with extended periods of sleet and freezing rain, reducing overall snow totals across the state, as others currently caution could happen

So, which forecast is correct? How do you wade through all the conflicting forecast updates to find the most current, accurate prediction of what a storm system may or may not do?

Enter: Valley-Shore Weatherdogs.

'Weather Nerds'

The dogs are Tom Coon and Kevin Burwell.

The two self-professed "weather nerds" — and longtime good friends  — have recently stepped forward to create their own Facebook page

Its mission: to provide followers with accurate, straight-forward local forecasts free from the noise and hype that often accompany and influence reports from other weather outlets.

"We want people to think of us as just your friendly neighborhood weather guys," Burwell told Patch.

"The goal is to be down home and grass roots," he said.

'Up Front and Honest Opinions'

Over the past few years both Coon, an East Haven resident and professional 911 dispatcher for the Branford police and fire departments, and Burwell, a now-retired veteran EMT who lives in Oxford, were regularly posting and sharing weather-related updates and information for family and friends via their personal Facebook pages. 

The two would pour over the radar and other weather data — the same information that television and radio weather reporters review to develop their forecasts — to get a good handle on an approaching weather system.

"We take all the weather models, we study them, and then we come up with our own forecasts," Burwell said.

Eventually, they began tagging each other in their Facebook posts, in order to jointly discuss and exchange their individual takes on local weather and upcoming forecasts in real time, right online. 

"Neither one of has had formal training in forecasting," Coon said. "So, the last few years has been a big learning experience for us."

The two soon found that together, their joint forecasts were pretty much right on the mark. And so, it's no surprise that others began to suggest they join forces to create their own grassroots weather team.

And earlier this month, that's exactly what they did.

"We just want give up front and honest opinions about weather forecasts," Burwell said. "We're not going to provide you with exaggerated numbers."

Serious About the Weather

But what started as a mild obsession and hobby for both men, weather has since become a very serious and integral part of their daily lives. 

In fact, Coon begins his work as an official spotter for the National Weather Service next month, Burwell is looking to return to school to earn a degree in meteorology at Western Connecticut State University — and the two are now contributors to the popular WXedge.com site.

"We're just two regular guys giving you the weather," Burwell said.

Public Safety First

But their page is not just about providing accurate forecasts. It's also about sharing important weather-related safety information, particularly during severe events. 

Coon and Burwell have spent their professional lives in the public safety sector — with both also serving several years as volunteer firefighters — and this, they feel, gives their followers the added benefit of receiving safety information and warnings to prepare for before, during and after a significant weather event. 

"We're both family men. So forecasting for us is also about helping to keep people safe," Burwell said. 

'Two Fathers'

Still in the end, for both Burwell and Coon, it's about developing and sharing the most accurate, reliable and practical weather forecasting they can for their followers. 

"We're two fathers trying to give people an honest and accurate forecast," Burwell said.

To follow the Valley-Shore Weatherdogs, you can find and "like" their Facebook page here.

JQP February 28, 2014 at 09:21 AM
I can understand the pair's motivation. Who isn't frustrated when a forecast is way off the mark? However, there are already many very bright people already in the field working to make it more accurate. Are these two (or you) implying that the current crop of forecasts across the nation are neither upfront nor honest? As far as I'm aware there's no national campaign underway to deceive the public or deliberately provide inaccurate forecasts. Despite some of the best weather tech on the planet, nature finds new ways to be less predictable. So short term forecasts will continue to be significantly more accurate than long term and, over time, this pair will find that their predictive powers aren't significantly different from those already available. Instead, I look at this as an opportunity for two people to do what they clearly enjoy doing regardless.
Kierstin Newell February 28, 2014 at 11:32 AM
I went to high school with Tom and have known him since we were kids. He has never declared that he is a professional weather man, this is simply a hobby. I (along with all our mutual Facebook friends) honestly rely on Tom's forecasts and his ability to ignore media hype with storms. He really does a great job of nailing the right model! I work in the Waterbury public schools and my job is constantly affected by all these winter storms this past winter (as have we all been affected). Even though I live in the Southington area I know Tom will give me his best prediction as to what I can expect and how the weather will affect my day. As a Southington resident I am proud to say I know him and endorse his Facebook page. Congrats Tom on making an article up in my direction!!!
Connie February 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Picture of dog so cute.
Butch Fleming February 28, 2014 at 01:01 PM
Great looking mut!
MikeP February 28, 2014 at 04:45 PM
I understand how the weather can be so off. I live by the shore, one mile inland the snowfall amounts can be completely different.

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