Nancy Barnes: Paul Douglas is returning

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES , Star Tribune Editor
  • Updated: February 14, 2010 - 5:18 PM

He'll be part of updated weather coverage in print and online.

Weather is a quintessential element of the Minnesota story, from the coldest, snowiest, darkest days of winter on the frozen tundra to the glorious, humidity-free days of summer on a lake. It's one of the three safest topics of conversation for any elevator ride, right beside how the Vikings and Twins are doing this season. And it's one of the most important pieces of information for any resident, when it comes to planning out his or her days. As we've discussed how to improve our content, we have concluded that weather has to play a larger role.

For that reason, we are making some changes to our weather content both in print and online. We've had a terrific partnership with WCCO over the last year, and I want to personally thank its leadership team for all the effort they have put into delivering our weather news for us. Beginning this week, however, we are developing our own weather strategy, and we are starting by bringing back a familiar face to our readers.

Paul Douglas, former local TV meteorologist and Star Tribune columnist, is returning to the weather page. In addition to writing a column, Paul will be blogging on our website, producing multiple weather videos daily, and working with his company, WeatherNation, to bring readers the most up-to-date interactive technology and tools to track weather in a very personal way. Our goal is to make StarTribune.com the most authoritative destination for weather in Minnesota. Starting Monday, find Paul's blog at www.startribune.com/pauldouglas.

There's no better person to help us do that than Paul, who is a true authority on all things related to Minnesota weather.

Paul's passion for this subject is unceasing; he believes that the more information you have about weather, the better prepared you are to lead your life. Weather is also his own personal story. He became interested in weather as a teenager, when tropical storm Agnes stalled over Lancaster County, Pa., "wringing out 20 inches of rain over two days, turning our basement into an Olympic-size swimming pool full of 5 feet of cold, muddy water." None of the forecasters had predicted that Agnes would stall over Lancaster County and result in the worst flooding in history for the Susquehanna River Valley.

He was so intrigued, he started to track the weather himself. He also read everything available on storms, severe weather and computer modeling. In high school, he began his first radio show for "a little 500-watt radio station" down the road. "That single station grew into 11 radio stations at Penn State, and I launched my first company, Total Weather, literally out of my dorm room."

One day, one of his clients asked him to try delivering weather on TV. "I filled in that one day, did a pretty horrible job, but the next day the news director called. 'Paul, it was a little rough, but we think you have potential. We'll pay you $50 a weekend and put you up every night at the Luxury Budget Hotel in Wilkes-Barre. Interested?' So my senior year at Penn State, I would attend the football games, and then at halftime drive 2 1/2 hours to WNEP to do the weekend forecasts. By this time I was very hooked on weather."

From that early beginning he has built a lifelong career out of studying weather, forecasting it on radio and TV, and creating technology and new tools to help better tell the story.

"It just naturally progressed from hobby to career," he said. "There are limits to how accurate the weather forecasts will ever become, but no limits to how we can make the weather story more colorful, relevant and fascinating. ... There's still a huge, lingering challenge to write the next chapter, helping people manage not only severe, life-threatening weather events, but navigate every day, helping people schedule their commutes, outdoor plans, weekends -- what I call 'weather optimization.'"

Together with Paul, that's what we at the Star Tribune hope to help our readers and users do; we're lucky to have him working with us. Welcome back.

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