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December 2, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Freezes+Heat+Storms = Cold, Hard Cash

It doesn’t always work this way, but in just the past week one of our ImpactWeather forecasters has been awarded $100…twice. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, nothing could be more timely or welcome!

Why the windfall? Three times each year ImpactWeather clients Gil and Vicki Ash sponsor “best guess” contests to help spur friendly competition amongst the ImpactWeather staff, as well as foster an ongoing and lively client-consultant relationship. Gil and Vicki, by the way, go back to the earliest days of ImpactWeather — even before ImpactWeather was officially ImpactWeather. In fact, some of the old timers around here know Gil to be one of our very first clients. Gil and Vicki have been sponsoring these contest for years.

Three contests are spaced out across the year and include:

  • Heat: The First 95F Day (recorded at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport) (tie-breaker: exact time)
  • Tropical Storms: The closest to the exact number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes (tie-breaker: Max HSI)
  • Freeze: The First Freeze (recorded at Houston’s George Bush International Airport) (tie-breaker: exact time)

And so coincidentally, both the Storms and Freeze contests came to fruition within the same week. This past Tuesday closed the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season with a total of 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes (max HSI:37) while the first official Houston freeze occurred last Thursday, November 27 within a few minutes of seven o’clock AM (CST).

Previous First Freeze contest winner, ImpactWeather Sr. Meteorologist Mark Mathiesen (tall) accepts his winnings from Gil Ash (less tall).

ImpactWeather’s Bob Weinzapfel is the lucky recipient and a tremendously skilled (as he would have you believe) meteorologist. By summoning all of his meteorological talent, with a dash of crystal ball foresight and a pinch of salt over his shoulder, Bob most correctly guessed the date of the first official freeze in Houston (he missed by just an hour) and the proper number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes (he was exactly right on all counts). Like meteorology itself, these contests are not an exact science: Guesses were solicited by the contest organizers months in advance and the winner is the one who comes closest to the actual date/time or the actual number of storms. It’s quite possible the winner could be weeks away from the exact date yet be the closest of all particpants, as has happened in the past. There have also been tactical guesses that, much like bidding $1.00 on the Price is Right Showcase, include “no freeze” and 1/1/1 for the number of storms. The forecasters submitting such bids guesses, thereby violating the spirit of the contests, are taken behind the weather locker for a thorough thrashing.

Gil’s a firm believer in the contests and will occasionally sweeten the pot with a custom embroidered polo shirt. If you’re visiting ImpactWeather and see an Impactor wearing a smart-looking “Club 32” shirt, you’ll now know they are previous winners of the First Freeze contest.

Like the holidays that will soon be a distant memory, we assume Bob’s winnings will not last long in his pockets. Already the Impact gang are beginning to talk of 2011 and the long-range forecasts for Houston and that first 95F day.


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