Wednesday, January 28, 2015

AccuWeather In the Storm

Today is a gorgeous day in Kansas with temperatures expected to be in the 70's this afternoon, not dissimilar to when I took this photo last spring. As everyone knows, it has been an entirely different story in the Northeast.

Before the Blizzard of 2015, AccuWeather began reaching out to its railroad and other clients with special messages on Saturday that preparations needed to be made for a major storm. One of those is Norfolk Southern Railroad (at right, BNSF Railway at left). AccuWeather serves 100% of the United States' class one railroads and most of the rest.

When we flash the warning that a blizzard is on the way, fuel supplies for "switch heaters" (below) are checked and the heaters readied, snow plows are moved by rail into the affected region and schedules are modified. We often have conference calls with our clients during the storm.
AccuWeather invented the "track-specific" storm warnings where precision information, tailored to the railroads' needs is provided on a mile-post-by-milepost basis. Conservative projections show we have saved the industry well over one billion dollars.

What do the railroads say?

“Using Accuweather and Esri, we have gone from spinning our wheels wasting a lot of time, energy, and money looking at miles of railway, to being able to pinpoint extreme weather and
the threat of danger to a relatively small area.”
John Irwin
Assistant Vice President Transportation Network
Norfolk Southern Corporation 

John is speaking about their former practice of using much larger government warnings that are not tailored to railroad requirements. ESRI is a GIS mapping company used by both AccuWeather and Norfolk Southern. With ERSI, everything geographic is "apples to apples."

I am sometimes accused of being overly proud of my employer and what we do. So be it! Getting to save lives (as unquestionably were saved by the blizzard warnings) and save people money is a terrific way to earn a living. We are part of the "private-sector weather industry" -- likely the most important industry you've never heard of.  :-)

If you would like to learn more about what we do with railroads, go here. To learn more about AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions and how we can help save people, property and profits, go here.


  1. Mike, you should be proud. You and your coworkers saw something that was missing; you ended up filling a needed gap. AccuWeather is a great idea, but I'm betting it did not come easy. I'm assuming you took considerable risk in that you could have played it safe with a more mature company. Start ups are hard. But the reason the American economy so dynamic is due to this "creative destruction", "specialization and trade" (see Matt Ridley' Rational Optimist book), and the "Bourgeois Virtues" (see McCloskey's book by the same name), all of which AccuWeather has exemplified.


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