Bad weather leads to good fortune: Richmond appreciation for ‘Weather’ Dan Goff

‘Weather Dan’ is one of the most valuable and prolific people when it comes to educating the layman about weather. His ceaseless reporting during Hurricane Irene inspired many to give back to him, surprising both Dan and the givers themselves.

Editor’s Note: Dan Goff is a paid contributor to RVANews. RVANews was not involved in the creation of the Facebook group mentioned below. Staff, however, contributed once the Facebook drive was made known to them.

Imagine this: You open your laptop to check Facebook. There’s a little red indication in the menu bar on the top of the social networking site. You click it.

What Facebook wants to tell you is that friends and family have pooled together money, a digital equivalent of passing around a collection basket, to give to you.

Just over $1,000, actually.

This scenario, while both fantastic and fortunate, was not unlike Dan Goff’s Tuesday. While his proper name may not do anything for you, perhaps his Internet moniker will: Weather Dan. Dan is a Geography and Meteorology student at Virginia Tech and Chief Meteorologist at WUVT-FM based in Blacksburg, VA.

“I was absolutely floored,” says Dan about the unexpected gift in an email. “I’m not good at putting emotions into words…”

Dan has been ‘Weather Dan’ on Twitter for over three years. Being both a prodigious and knowledgeable online voice when it comes to all things weather earned him the attention of RVANews, who hired him in February 2010.

“It’s a lot of work, and sometimes not a lot of sleep, but it’s something I love to do, and it makes me happy to know I’m putting in a lot of energy to help keep other people safe and give them some peace of mind.” In order to give people that piece of mind, Dan constantly monitored weather and weather-related updates through various channels in Blacksburg, forecasting developments for Richmond residents.

One such person who monitored Dan’s tweets was Nick Dawson, who is a member of the communications team at Bon Secours. During Irene, Nick was in Minneapolis to fill low-residency obligations for his graduate program. His wife, Susan, was home alone with their two cats and dog.

“So here I am…using a Verizon hotspot and an iPad to keep in touch with my wife,” says Dawson. “At one point Susan texted me: ‘where are you getting your information from, I’d like to see what you are seeing.’” It was Dan Goff’s tweets from his Weather Dan (@WxDan) account.

“Dan’s coverage was timely and objective,” says Nick. “Susan and I got some reassurance from lessening wind speeds and severity while Bon Secours got another source of great info to share with our friends and followers.”

In an email, Cristina Del Bueno, a friend of Goff, said that, “With Irene, I was frustrated with local coverage about when the most severe part of the storm would reach us. As the day drew on, I expected things to get better and instead they worsened.”

Dan used his Facebook page to inform his followers that the hurricane would peak between 8 and 10pm, yet have no discernible mitigation until after midnight.

“He was absolutely correct,” says Cristina, who is of the opinion that “his in-depth knowledge of Virginia and the topography helps him be extremely accurate in his predictions.”

It was Dan’s devotion to supplying people with constant and accurate information that prompted Jeb Hoge to do more than merely vocalize appreciation. Inspired by another, he came up with an idea.

A friend in northern Virginia asked if her son could stay with Jeb after Old Dominion University was evacuated because of Irene. The friend insisted that she send Jeb a care package to show her appreciation for Jeb’s hospitality.

Jeb followed Twitter for Irene updates. “On Saturday, after Dan had already been broadcasting storm updates and advice for Richmonders for quite some time, I saw @ketilave (Kate Semp) tweet: ‘@wxdan thanks for all you do for us Dan!’…I added my RT to it and saw others doing the same. Standing there in my kitchen, watching the storm unfold outside and on my Twitter feed, I thought ‘We ought to send him a care package, too.’”

Before his power went out, Jeb created a Facebook group titled WXDAN APPRECIATION SOCIETY. “I set it up to specifically exclude Dan,” says Jeb, “so we could take him by surprise.”

But Jeb’s power went out. Luckily, he had invited others to serve as administrators. One really got things going.

“Dan has always been generous with his time,” says Shane Jimison, a lawyer, and one of the administrators that Jeb recruited. He decided to amend the care package idea and instead “pass around a hat” to let people contribute money via Paypal. “That’s all I had to do,” says Shane, who insists there were no solicitations from the group for donations.

By 8:51 p.m. on Saturday, August 27, when much of Richmond was without electricity, the fund posted $205 in contributions. When Jeb, the group’s creator, received power he checked Facebook to see how much progress had been made. “We were over $400 by Sunday afternoon.”

While speaking with Shane over the phone Tuesday evening, he tells me that there have been 53 contributors and a total of $1,074.50 contributed. The grand total shocked Shane. “I’ve been grinning about it the whole day.”

Speaking of Dan’s commitment to both his work and loved ones, Cristina says this: “He’s been there for lots of us 24/7, even after leaving Richmond. He’ll stay up all night tracking a storm or a weather pattern and forgo sleep if working on a problem for someone else. He doesn’t hesitate in offering help.”

“Dan does something nice for the entire Virginia online community every day,” says Nick. “Wanting to give a little back was almost reflexive – no hesitation. When I thought about how his [Irene] coverage had touched us personally and professionally, it was a no brainer.”

“He gave some of the best information out there,” says Shane, speaking of Dan’s Irene coverage. “He never fails.”

“We just wanted to say thanks.”

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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