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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 01/29/2008

Readers' Choice: Topper on Top

By Jason Samenow

Last week, The Capital Weather Gang rated the evening weathercasters, and Doug Hill (WJLA-7) earned the highest score, with Topper Shutt (WUSA-9) last in the standings. But when we asked you, our readers, who your favorites were, the tables turned. More of you mentioned Topper as your favorite evening forecaster than any of the others.

Over 90 of you commented on our ratings and about half of you expressed your own preferences. Seventeen of you said Topper's the best, 12 liked Doug Hill, while Bob Ryan (WRC-4) and Sue Palka (WTTG-5) tied for the fewest fans. By comparison, the Capital Weather Gang rated them in this order (from top to bottom): Hill, Ryan, Palka, Shutt .


So why did Topper stand out for so many of you? Here's a comment sampler:

During severe weather Topper takes the IBF, WBC, WBA and WWE title belts...he goes into your actual neighborhood on enhanced radar to show you where a tornado may be, and doesn't let the broadcast go to commercial until all is safe. - Dulles ARC
[Topper] is absolutely hilarious. - Mo Sno
Topper educates and informs. You can tell from his demeanor that he lives and breathes weather and storms really excite him. - Rick
His enthusiasm and his quest for snow excites the viewers and gives hope for a snow day. - bernydoode00

While Topper received the most positive feedback, nice things were also said about the other forecasters.

Doug Hill, the #2 vote-getter, is a "nice guy and class act" according to commenter 'Marcee'. Commenter 'Lovin' Doug' added he is "personable, clear in his explanations, interesting, and accurate."

Although some snow loving visitors were sour about Bob Ryan due to an anti-snow perception, commenter Kenny G, who claims to have personally spoken to Bob on the phone, learned "he definitely wants a big snowstorm to hit DC." But Bob isn't a wishcaster (someone who forecasts they kind of weather they want to happen), and has disappointed snow lovers countless times with an unpleasant dose of reality. "He'll be the 'party pooper' to dismiss hopes of a big storm" quipped commenter 'Rob-Rockville,' though acknowledging "he is more often right."

On the other hand, commenter 'ah' appreciated Bob's conservative forecasting tendencies:

Kudos to Bob Ryan for being conservative on snow forecasts . . . It's good to have someone dial down the hype, which is just used to drive ratings anyway.

Visitor 'weathergrrl' admired the same quality in Sue Palka, noting "....she's pretty good at TRYING to play down the hype when obviously Fox 5 wants to go nuts over the idea of a single freakin' snowflake." But most visitors praised Sue for her ease in competently explaining complex subjects - a quality which earned her the top score in the Capital Weather Gang's assessment of the forecasters' delivery.

Not all of the comments about the forecasters were so rosy. Bob Ryan, who was the most controversial forecaster among readers, got some criticism for accountability. Commenter 'bob h' complained he "will never admit when he blows a forecast." Some other commenters took issue with his delivery, with 'kg dave' observing: "it's his eagerness to share a lot of information in a limited time that gets him into trouble."

Little negative was said about Doug Hill, but 'in Alexandria' reminisced:

Does anyone remember when Mr. Hill was often referred to as "Doug of Doom?!" Years ago you could count on him to offer the absolute most pessimistic forecast. He has certainly softened lately, but it's still the running joke around my office.

Sue Palka and Topper Shutt were largely spared negative comments of substance, although both had their academic credentials questioned, as did Doug Hill. Commenters noted that unlike Bob Ryan, who has a master's degree in meteorology, Sue, Topper and Doug do not have similar degrees. For the record, all of them have studied the subject and have accreditation from the American Meteorological Society and/or the National Weather Association.

Overall, judging by the balance of the comments, you -- our readers -- agreed with the Capital Weather Gang: this is a high caliber group of forecasters. As visitor 'Rob-Rockville' concluded: "we're lucky to have solid lead [meteorologists] on all the local stations."

Post scriptum: So, if you could ask these forecasters a question of your choice, what would it be? The Capital Weather Gang will compile a list of questions for these forecasters based on your requests (and maybe a few of our own) and will give them all the opportunity to answer them for you. Assuming they respond, we'll post their answers on this blog.

By Jason Samenow  | January 29, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Media  
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