New state meteorologist weathering storm of criticism

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Weather can be a factor for those responding to emergencies.

Sometimes the weather is the emergency.

So, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency hired television weatherman Jeff Jumper as its state meteorologist.

Jumper, youthful in appearance, has a perfectly sunny disposition in little more than a week on the job.

“I’m adding that extra value of being able to give usable information out for decision makers,” Jumper said in explaining what his job entails.

PEMA director Rick Flinn created the position, calling it an extra tool in his toolbox and an attempt to make Pennsylvania’s crisis management the best in the country.

“We hired him as a scientist, so he’s the meteorologist, just like WHTM has meteorologists,” Flinn said.

Except WHTM meteorologists have questions about the job.

“I’m still not clear on what a state meteorologist is doing on a day-to-day basis,” said Dan Tomaso, who has a master’s degree in meteorology from Penn State University.

Tomaso notes that in addition to the university’s weather information, the state has access to AccuWeather and the National Weather Service. In fact, PennDOT has a six-figure contract with AccuWeather. Taxpayers pick up the tab for the National Weather Service and state agencies are welcome to the data.

“I know the National Weather Service, one of their main foundations is helping in times of emergency,” Tomaso said.

It was a stormy start for Jumper. Hurricane Scott Wagner blew through the Senate floor days before Jumper even started. Wagner ranted about a state agency spending $62,000 on a position during a hiring freeze and without a budget.

Flinn counters that the position was created and Jumper was chosen months ago, long before the hiring freeze took effect.

Jumper will not create his own data. He will use information from the previously mentioned sources. But Flinn says Jumper will focus on specific areas of the state when necessary and he will tailor his information to PEMA’s needs, which AccuWeather and the National Weather Service cannot do.

“I can have this individual – Jumper –  here 24/7 and be able to provide that information to me without worrying about contracts,” Flinn said.

“Information is everywhere,” Jumper said, “but to break it down, chew on it, and push out the factors needed to make decisions, I think that’s the additional value I will bring into the position of state meteorologist.”

Jumper has been a volunteer firefighter since his teens and is working on a masters degree in emergency management. Couple that with his forecasting ability and Flinn is confident he has the perfect state meteorologist.

Jumper understands there are critics, but he has one request.

“Just give me a chance,” he said.

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