Chief Meteorologist Jeff Lawson never planned to be on television. He knew he would work in science, but in high school, the question for the lover of math and science would be which area of study would he pursue.
Jeff was torn between becoming a meteorologist or a chemical engineer. Since no school in Virginia had Meteorology as a major, he decided to apply to the top school in the country for forecasting, and if Penn State accepted him, then he would consider it an omen and go there. If the university turned him down, he planned to attend Virginia Tech and major in Chemical Engineering.
Fortunately for 13News Now, Jeff headed north to Pennsylvania.
While he attended Penn State, Jeff worked for the Campus Weather Service, providing forecasts for radio stations throughout Pennsylvania. One of his most memorable forecasts came when emergency planners who were handling the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant meltdown called asking which areas to evacuate because of radiation fallout.
Because Jeff planned to be a scientist and not to be in television, he didn't take any TV courses while he was in college. He intended to work for a private weather service when he graduated.
Jeff spent summers and Christmas breaks working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is the umbrella organization for the National Weather Service. While he was there, he worked with Dr. Vern Dvorak to develop methods of estimating the strength of tropical systems from satellite pictures. Those methods still are used extensively by the National Hurricane Center to estimate how strong tropical systems are when they are too far away to be accessed by hurricane hunter aircraft or in between recon flights.
Jeff participated in forecasting contests, both on a national level and against his professor, Dr. Joel Myers, who was the founder and president of Accu-Weather. At the time, Accu-Weather was the world's largest private weather service company.
Dr. Myers had a standing offer that anyone who beat him in the contest was offered a job with his company. Jeff and his college roommate ended up beating Myers. The started working at Accu-Weather right after graduation. Jeff's roommate still is there.
Jeff's job at Accu-Weather was to call weathercasters who were not meteorologists and tell them what to say on television that night. He also did radio forecasts for other clients such as power companies, ski resorts, and municipalities.
Jeff left Accu-Weather to work for a company called WeatherCenter where he did the same type of forecasting for clients including Exxon's offshore oil rigs, The Boston Globe, and radio stations across North America.
As Jeff became less shy and realized he liked explaining science to people, he decided to give television a try.
After renting time at a TV studio and making a demo tape, Jeff was offered a job by WWBT/TV 12, the powerhouse station in Richmond. He stayed there for four years doing weekend weather and weekday reporting before moving on to WTTG, the FOX station in Washington, D.C. as weekend meteorologist.
Jeff met his wife, who is from Hampton Roads, in Washington. She convinced him to apply at 13News Now where he has been Chief Meteorologist for more than 24 years. When you combine his time doing radio in the market (2WD was one of his clients before I got into television) with his TV time, Jeff has been forecasting continuously for Hampton Roads for more 34 years, longer than any meteorologist in the history of the area.
Jeff is proud to say he does all his own forecasting, never looking at another person's forecast. Because of that, he believes that the 13News Now audience gets forecasts that are different and more accurate than those from other stations where people have little or not training in Meteorology and rely primarily on the National Weather Service to tell them what to say.
As we continue to see technology advance at a rapid rate, and more and more automation comes into play with things like weather apps that come strictly from computer models, Jeff and his team promise to use their experience, schooling, and training to give audience members forecasts that are the most accurate available.
Jeff has been married for a quarter of a century to the world's greatest woman. He has three children, a Golden Retriever, a cat without a name, and likes to workout in his spare time.