CAPE MAY – Very few people get the chance to live out their childhood dream. Then again, very few people dream of being a local weatherman at age 6.
Speaking at the annual Cape May County Chamber membership breakfast, Nick Pittman, known locally as Nor’easter Nick, said a as a boy he was more interested in watching the weather than watching cartoons. He posted a weather map on his bedroom wall and pretended to broadcast the local weather report. Pittman turned that interest and, later, his ability, into a career with NBC 40. He went on to start his own “NorCast Media Group,” which provides weather information to subscribers.
Pittman, born in Brigantine, said his fascination with the weather grew out of the fact that he was afraid of it as a child. He said one of the best ways to overcome a fear is to learn about the thing you are afraid of, and he started his quest to learn more about the weather.
“When you understand the why behind something it’s not so scary anymore,” he said.
By third grade, Pittman was allowed to set up a TV station, sponsored by Comcast, in his elementary school. His future, and his future moniker, would be solidified after TV weatherman Dan Skeldon accepted his invitation to visit the school TV station. Pittman told Skeldon he wanted to have a colorful nickname like Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz from the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. According to Pittman, it was Skeldon who suggested “Nor’easter Nick.”
Pittman eventually moved on from his elementary school digs but kept up his interest in weather broadcasting, something that was not lost on his high school teachers, who he said told him about a job opening at nearby NBC 40. Although he was only 17, Pittman gave it a shot. He applied and was interviewed by none other than Dan Skeldon, who also hired him. Pittman worked there until their last broadcast on Dec. 31, 2014, and found a new position in WSNJ-SNJ Today News, where he worked alongside some former NBC 40 colleagues.
However, in Pittman’s words, South Jersey is a “media dessert,” apart from some local newspapers. Pittman, who did not want to go back into retail or find a job in another market, decided to form his own company focusing on hyperlocal weather information.
Pittman purchased a weather consulting company and does a lot of consulting work for governmental entities.
At the Sept. 21 chamber breakfast, Pittman talked about some of the twists and turns in his own life and told his audience to never give in to negative people.
Personal philosophy aside, Pittman told the chamber audience that there are three geographic elements that impact the weather in Cape May County – the Appalachian Trail (or mountains), the Atlantic Ocean, and Delaware Bay. Pittman described the “Cape May Bubble,” which is how he described the impact of the peninsula, which he said creates a more stable air system. Pittman said the tides affect storms in a positive way for Cape May County. He said incoming tides tend to break up storms, while storms tend to follow outgoing tides.
“Rivers do the same thing,” he said.
Pittman addressed weather apps, saying people are more reliable forecasters of the weather. He said an app will simply tell people the chance of rain in an area, which, for example, can discourage people from visiting their favorite shore town. He said that the apps don’t explain that the rain might be a quick rainstorm that clears up, and people could have had a nice visit to the shore, where they would have spent money.
Pittman also addressed climate change.
“There are generally two schools of thought with regard to climate change. The first is that it is not going to happen, and the other is that we are all going to die in 10 years,” Pittman said.
Pittman said the fact is the earth is getting warmer and the sea level is rising about two inches per decade. As a result, barrier islands are going to see more street flooding, particularly near the back bays. He said eventually it would become a regular occurrence with every full moon.
“We will see more, minor flooding, and in about 50 years we will start to see more major flooding,” he said. “No level of taxes will fix it.”
He added, however, that there are some commonsense measures that can be taken. He cited efforts in the city of Venice, Italy, a town known for its canals, and some of its efforts to create a system of gates to help regulate the water. He said local municipalities will be forced to consider some measures similar to this to control the inlets in the region. The importance of this is illustrated by the existence of billions of dollars worth of assets that need to be protected.
Pittman and his company, as well as other weather forecasters, are essentially in the business of protecting people from catastrophic weather events. To do this, they rely on weather models, which he said are a tool to help forecast weather.
He said meteorologists look at models, identify high and low-pressure areas, and make a prediction of what will happen over the next five, 10, or 15 days. Beyond that is a little sketchy, he said, however, he said contrary to the reputation weathermen have of always being wrong, he said they are able to forecast weather with about 90% accuracy, but models have to be updated every six hours. Pittman said private companies are now engaging more with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and helping to improve its systems.
He also highlighted the fact that the weather services are now able to pinpoint the center of hurricanes and their tracks with a high degree of certainty. The caveat is that storms can often change course.
Pittman noted that nor’easters and hurricanes are essentially the same, except that hurricanes have a warm core and nor’easters have a cool core. Many of New Jersey’s most damaging storms have been nor’easters, rather than hurricanes. Often referred to as Hurricane Sandy, the storm had been downgraded to a tropical storm before it made landfall.
Pittman also gave his forecast for the winter of 2023, saying there might be more snow but it will be followed by rain.
“You are going to see more sloppy stuff this winter,” he said.
Pittman said he received a lot of questions via his website, the most asked question being about flies on the beach. He said it’s a simple formula to understand.
“If the wind is coming from the east, no flies; if it is coming from the west, flies,” he said.
Pittman’s parting advice to his audience was to, “Know who to trust, know your source, and follow a professional.”
Thoughts? Questions? Call Christopher South at 609-886-8600 x-128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.