Port Ewen resident Alex Marra has been a weather zealot since grammar school, indulging in a passion so consuming that it amounts to hours of attention per day, and so expansive that a simple Facebook page devoted to regional weather gained 8,852 fans in approximately one year.
“When I was a kid I used to watch the Weather Channel before it even had any programming — back when it was just the weather,” recalls the super-big-box-store manager Marra.
The 29-year-old detailed the crushing heartache and frustration of being stuck with weather information meant for Albany, Poughkeepsie or New York City, and excluding the entire Hudson Valley. “Not only is the weather hard to get between two cities, but there are a lot of intricacies that major weather stations haven’t picked up on,” Marra explains. The Hudson Valley needs its own forecasting, he thinks. “The Catskills play a major role in the weather — meaning there’s rain in the valleys and snow in the mountains.”
There’s a large and involved audience for accurate local weather forecasting, it seems. Marra’s Hudson Valley Weather Facebook page has proven to be one of the biggest things in local social networking, becoming the go-to meteorological source for thousands of people in a little over a year. It has nearly 6,000 fans more than the Daily Freeman’s Facebook does, as well as nearly 6,000 more fans than regional TV network YNN. (To be fair, it also has about 8,400 more Facebook fans than this newspaper.)
“There is a national Accuweather man who has had a Facebook page for several years now, and my friends pointed out that I have 1,000 more fans than he has.” Hudson Valley Weather’s predictions and posts have been viewed over 9.8 million times since Jan. 7, 2011.
Marra attributes the Hudson Valley Weather’s popularity boom to the accuracy of his predictions from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, during which time he attracted hundreds of new fans every day.
Another involving factor stems from the ability to see the page and predictions in one’s Facebook newsfeed, and the ability to interact with the Marra’s distinct and down-to-earth personality. His own mother even posts every now and then.
He does not get paid for the page, though he did just add a new donation link — at fans’ requests. He is hopeful of generating enough funds one day to create an interactive web page.
Never blown a forecast?
Marra forecasts from National Weather Service information. He gets access to the maps and models he uses to make his predictions through his Accuweather Professional account, the same program that the big shots use. Marra’s ongoing narrative of how he uses the models in his forecasting offers insight into the prediction process one doesn’t often get from other weather wizards. It’s one of the many appeals of his page.