STAY TUNED: WINK TV's Jim Farrell dissects Florida's wild weather

BILL GREEN
Jim Farrell points out weather patterns on live TV with the assistance of a green screen and a bit of technology.  Farrell refers to TV monitors on either side of the screen for direction.  Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER

Jim Farrell points out weather patterns on live TV with the assistance of a green screen and a bit of technology. Farrell refers to TV monitors on either side of the screen for direction. Michel Fortier/Staff

When the weatherman predicted a freezing cold and/or wet forecast back in my Tennessee hometown, he often bore the brunt of responsibility — as if he specifically ordered the day from Mother Nature herself.

Today's meteorologists are highly skilled scientists, who are oft touted as one of the most important talents at their respective television stations. No one more so than Jim Farrell, WINK-TV's numero uno climate dude.

Being a meteorologist in Paradise has its benefits. Especially during the winter: "Another beautiful breezy day in Southwest Florida, highs in the 80s."

Even when dangerously bad weather is at our doorstep, like a tropical depression or hurricane, there's a sense of excitement and urgency in the air. No one has time for blame. We're too busy stocking up on water and Spam.

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season comes to an end in just over a month (Nov. 30), and as Farrell explains, we can breathe a measured sigh of relief. Although it was an active hurricane season — one that, so far, has seen 16 named storms, five hurricanes (three major) — it didn't seem bad for the Sunshine State; Florida generally stayed out of those spaghetti models.

I say a measured sigh of relief, because as many of you will remember, Monday marks the sixth anniversary of Cat-Three Hurricane Wilma's crossing over Southwest Florida.

So why has Florida been spared thus far this season? What's in store for the next few weeks as it winds down? For answers we turn to the WINK weather wizard and his 29.5 years experience.

First, a little background. Farrell first came to Southwest Florida in 1981 as an educator. He was hired to teach science at North Fort Myers High School. He later found himself on the other side of the desk as a meteorology student.

Farrell began his career in television in 1982, joined WINK -TV in 1992, and currently heads its weather team as chief meteorologist. He can be seen nightly at 5, 6, 7 and 11 p.m.

Farrell says we owe a debt of gratitude this season to "steering currents" in our upper atmosphere that have been sending those systems northward and away from our shores.

As Farrell explains, you have these systems being born many miles away in the Sahara desert. Once a storm organizes, and winds have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour, we have ourselves a hurricane. These massive systems, which can be 20-30 miles wide, are attracted to the Earth's poles.

"Steering currents change often. They are a byproduct of the high/low pressure systems. The system is working its way toward the poles, and the currents allow them to make that northern turn," says Farrell. "That's why we can sometimes forecast with great confidence that the storm is not a threat to us."

Although Wilma was the exception that reminds us we must be vigilant, Farrell says we're pretty much out of the woods when it comes to seeing a major event threaten us.

"Most major hurricanes occur in August and September. Today forward we are less likely to have a major hurricane affect us," he says.

The later season storms aren't born from Africa's coast, he continues. They form a little closer to home, and have less distance (from us) and heat to work with, thanks to these wonderful cool fronts we experience this time of year.

Farrell says what he has always loved about the job is knowing the future.

"Here's what's going to happen tonight, tomorrow and the next day," says Farrell. "Even if I was not on TV I'd still want to know."

In 2006 Farrell was awarded the title of certified broadcast meteorologist. He was recently awarded the Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his 25-plus years of service in the television industry.

Fall TV report card

Cancelled so far: "Charlie's Angels" (ABC), "The Playboy Club," (NBC) "Free Agents," (NBC), "How To Be A Gentleman" (CBS), "H8R" (The CW).

On the cusp of cancellation: "Pan Am" (ABC).

Some freshmen shows picking up full season orders include "Revenge" (ABC), "New Girl" (Fox) and "Ringer" (The CW).

NBC has also given the green light for a few more episodes of "Harry's Law."

What new shows are you enjoying? Has your favorite been renewed — or cancelled already? Drop me a line at bgreen@naplesnews.com.

Until next time, stay tuned.

Bill Green is a Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com journalist and a professional couch potato. Contact him at bgreen@naplesnews.com. Connect with him at facebook.com/billdgreen.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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