SHREWSBURY, Mass. – Jim Arnold has loved the weather since 1944. Today, he's using that love to help Shrewsbury be better prepared for when the weather turns foul.
Arnold is the weather specialist for Shrewsbury Emergency Management, and his emails about severe weather are often the first line of defense against snow, sleet, hail and hurricanes.
Arnold said he was 5 when the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 struck Worcester, where he was living. The family had recently planted a maple tree in front of the house. "I saw that little tree get whipped back and forth, and I was so worried for it," he said.
Later, he said, he would watch thunderstorms with his parents. However, he never pursued meterology as a profession. He earned an undergraduate degree in geology and a masters in environmental affairs, both from Clark University. In 2001, he retired after a career with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Then, in 2005, he received a certificate in emergency management from Anna Maria college. Shortly after, he helped get Shrewsbury certified as a Storm-Ready Community by the National Weather Service.
As far as his weather predictions, Arnold said he is "old school," which begins with just looking out the window. But to get a more accurate gauge on the weather, he'll use what's called pattern recognition, which relies on if/then statements.
For an example, Arnold said, if there is a strong high over Cape Hatteras, then there will be a tropical development over the East Coast.
"Pattern recognition's not fool-proof, but it's as good as any tool," he said, adding that he also uses National Weather Service and Global Forecasting models.
Like any weatherman, Arnold occasionally gets flack when predictions don't pan out. "You gotta be thick-skinned," he said.
"New England is probably the hardest place to predict the weather," he said. "Mark Twain was right – If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."
For Arnold, the biggest threat to his community isn't terrorism or a man-made event. It's the weather. And having his forecasts in addition to NWS reports means there's another set of eyes on the sky.