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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Saying goodbye to telephone weather (936-1212)

By Dan Stillman

O.K., I'll admit it. When I was a kid, I'd wake myself up multiple times on nights with snow in the forecast to dial 936-1212. My anticipation for the latest forecast would build as I heard that familiar opening - "The current downtown temperature is...."

While I found less and less use for the service once I learned to predict the weather myself, it's a little sad, but not surprising, to hear that after 70 years Verizon plans to pull the plug on telephone time (844-1212) and weather on June 1. Metro columnist John Kelly wrote yesterday about the news and the reasoning behind it:

Here's how Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette put it in an e-mail to me: "Time and weather services are a remnant of another era - when sources for this information were very limited. That's no longer the case, as people can get time and weather information from radio, TV weather channels, online sites, wireless phones, PDAs and many landline phones."

As a budding meteorologist I was surely more weather-crazy than most of the millions of Washingtonians who have called in over the years, but I'd bet there are plenty more beyond those quoted in Kelly's article who are disappointed by the scheduled demise of 936-1212, and probably some (especially of younger generations) that don't even know the service exists.

By Dan Stillman  | March 9, 2011; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Latest, Polls, Technology  
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Comments

I had forgotten all about this number. We had the same number in the Philadelphia area, and I used to call it as a kid to get the weather forecast. I remember it as WE6-1212 going way back to the days when we used the letters for the first 2 characters of a phone number, and the "WE", of course, was short for "Weather".

Posted by: FH59312 | March 9, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I had forgotten all about this number. We had the same number in the Philadelphia area, and I used to call it as a kid to get the weather forecast. I remember it as WE6-1212 going way back to the days when we used the letters for the first 2 characters of a phone number, and the "WE", of course, was short for "Weather".

Posted by: FH59312 | March 9, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I used it almost every day from the time I was old enough to dial (yes, actually dial) the phone, which would have been somewhere around 1965, until I got broadband 8 or 9 years ago. And I also remember first learning the number with the "WE6"! I still use 844-1212 to reset the clocks when power outages are over... guess I'll have to find a new method for that.

Posted by: skidge | March 9, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

same memories, guys. and the time number was TI4-1212 ("TI" for time). she'd say, "at the tone the time will be..." also, i think i remember that after the WE6 or TI4 part you could dial ANY 4 numbers. ("any 4 numbers" still works with the time, but not weather, although now you have to dial the area code...)

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | March 9, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I used to call it all day long back in the late 70's when I was a kid. It was the only way you could get the current conditions (unless you had a weather station). It wasn't like you could go on the internet or turn on the weather channel. Neither existed yet. If you wanted to know the current conditions you had to call the weather number.

Posted by: rwalker66 | March 9, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I use this service all the time. Great for when you want to quickly find out the temp or wind speed in DC without switching on a TV or PC.
Very sad about this & I hope they change their minds about discontinuing it.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | March 9, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

These days I usually get my weather info from the internet. But when the weather is really bad and the power goes out, our Verizon FIOS internet goes with it. Then having the telephone weather is more than a convenience. I'm not sure what we'll do without it.

Posted by: ThomasMD | March 9, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Oh nooooo! This is a Horrible Catastrophe! What will I do without Howard Phoebus on speed dial?? Weeping...

Posted by: mkesposito | March 9, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I still call the number every now and then, even with all of the weather blogs and TV channels. It's convenient when you're mobile.

Much like you Dan, I grew up calling the number often as a youngster, especially during winter weather conditions.

20 some years later, it's one of the only numbers I know by heart.

Posted by: wilson7 | March 9, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Yes Walter, I also learned it with the "any four numbers"! I believe I was an adult when it went to 1212, but in any case I remember being annoyed by the change. And I didn't know until now that the "any four" still works for time!

Posted by: skidge | March 9, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm really quite sad about this since I use this number almost daily! I love dialing in, turning on the speakerphone and being able to continue getting ready for work while learning all about the weather forecast, as well as handy tips like "today is cheese doodle day". Haha! But seriously, I'm very sad. I wonder if they will reconsider their decision... please, verizon!

Posted by: sr23 | March 9, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, there are excellent alternatives to Verizn's weather forecast, but I truly depend on getting their accurate time whenever there's a power outage. Heck, it even works WHILE the power's out!

Posted by: dottie_b | March 9, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

For the people wondering how they will get the current weather conditions when their power goes out or they are mobile you do realize you can get that information on your cell phone? Or do none of you have them? I press the unlock button on top of my phone and immediately see the current temp and conditions. If it's raining a windshield wiper is going back and forth across the phone screen and rain is falling. Snow falls on the screen when it is snowing, etc. A click on weather conditions takes me to a page with more info. I also have Topper Shutt's weather app, a weatherbug app, a weather.com app, etc. In the age of cell phones there's no need to call 936-1212. You can't see color radar when you call there to see if a storm is heading your way when you are out in a field. With a cell phone you can.

Posted by: rwalker66 | March 9, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Yes, there are excellent alternatives to Verizn's weather forecast, but I truly depend on getting their accurate time to reset the clocks whenever there's a power outage. Heck, it even works WHILE the power's out!

Posted by: dottie_b | March 9, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

dottie_b, I think you back up the point in the article about Isabel, and it was worth noting, but going forward it seems less people will rely on actual land lines -- whether they are using voice over IP or wireless. So, moving forward I'd suspect there would be less value to the "works with no power" idea. I've never called the service but I know some of the folks involved, so I am sad to hear it is ending.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | March 9, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

It's funny how as a kid we called this number everyday before going to school to just touching the weather app on the Droid. actually gunna miss hearing that. =[

Posted by: cbmuzik | March 9, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I use to call the weather all the time back in the 60's & 70's. WE 6 & any 4 numbers worked. Once I got a weather radio
I didn't call the # very often. Probably haven't called the weather # in the last 25-30 yrs. Also was a # u could call at the Post to get baseball scores in the days before ESPN. Man I'm getting old.

Posted by: VaTechBob | March 9, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

As a CWG member, I really like seeing all the memories being recounted by you all. All of you weighing-in. Thanks for participating and letting us know what you think--always!

As a Washingtonian, I worry about those without internet or mobile devices. While broadband/internet saturation in the region is high, it certainly isn't 100%. And this cut--in my humble opinion--may disproportionally affect those who have less access. Those who aren't as plugged-in as us here on this blog. It sounds like a useful enough line to check weather and set clocks to (does the DC line do both? give you time and conditions?)

My grandmother and I used to dial this number all the time from her home in Page County. And remember The Weather Channel's first dark-blue screen for Local Forecasts? They may still have it, over there...

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | March 9, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

wow, i'm surprised 14% of respondents use that weather number "all the time"... i don't think i've called it in 20 years. but, i'm also surprised that 40% have never heard of it. i guess i'm older than i think....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | March 9, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I routinely use 202-936-1212 to "test dial" a number on my cell phone since I rooted it and install new ROMs on it almost weekly. One thing I won't miss, though, is the gruff, smarmy announcer on Verizon phone weather - I mean, seriously, could the guy sound any MORE like he hated reading the weather over the years?? Once he ended the forecast reading but apparently forgot to stop the recording, and you could hear him talking to a colleague using (surprise, surprise) a string of obscenities. Anyway, I get my weather elsewhere (mostly CWG and AmWx forums) so I won't miss Mr. Gruff Verizon on the phone...

Posted by: ToBeBlunt | March 9, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

@ruwalker66

Gee, my Tracfone doesn't do all that! But then I pay only about $100 a year for my service, no fees, no taxes. And, well, no weather.

Posted by: dottie_b | March 9, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Used to use it all the time, only sporadically nowadays.

There was also a number called "Fishy Fifty" we used to call for more complete aviation-oriented forecasts and area airport conditions, also further details on watches, warnings and advisories. You simply dialed "FISHY50" [347-4950]. Don't know if it's still operational @ 202-347-4950, 301-347-4950, or 703-347-4950.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 9, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Forgot to mention...936-1212 was Bill Kamal's last area posting before he went to prison for sex offenses against minors, or so I believe.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 9, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"Once he ended the forecast reading but apparently forgot to stop the recording, and you could hear him talking to a colleague using (surprise, surprise) a string of obscenities."

I remember hearing that! So funny... That was the one who went by Howard Feebus (or however it's spelled), right? He really did have a terrible manner. I thought the others were all at least OK, though

Posted by: skidge | March 9, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

If I need weather info, in order of preference: 1) CWG on a computer, netbook, or tablet. 2) CWG on the browser on one of 4 smartphones in the house. 3) WTOP. So before I'd need to dial 936-1212, the power's been out for the 90 minutes it takes to burn through the battery backup on my laptop, fios, and router; or the fiber itself isn't passing traffic; both the GSM and CDMA networks are out; the FM/AM/shortwave bands are all empty, or both cars and my emergency radio are dead. If all those things are dead, either I already know the weather conditions, or it's really not the first thing on my mind.

Is it a verizon landline-only service? Well, then I guess that's the only thing on the whole list that's out, since I don't have one of those.

Posted by: antuvschle | March 9, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

This is so wrong! Facebook protest page:
http://on.fb.me/hMArTS

Posted by: mary65 | March 9, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Not to belabor the obvious-- but anyone commenting on this blog has figured out a source for local weather information. That said, the good news is that the meaning of 'We-6-1212' is now officially trivia.

Posted by: mfein2 | March 9, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

How sad. A passing of the times, I suppose. I used to call this number all the time when I was in high school. My husband always laughed at me when I called the weather number when we were first married (now he has just accepted my weather obsession).

I must admit I haven't called the number since getting broadband, but recently when we lost power I was distraught at being unable to get a weather temperature update and couldn't remember the number to call. Before I got my cell phone I had the number written on the inside of the handset of the phone.

Posted by: cqjudge | March 9, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

As a CWG member, I really like seeing all the memories being recounted by you all. All of you weighing-in. Thanks for participating and letting us know what you think--always!

As a Washingtonian, I worry about those without internet or mobile devices. While broadband/internet saturation in the region is high, it certainly isn't 100%. And this cut--in my humble opinion--may disproportionally affect those who have less access. Those who aren't as plugged-in as us here on this blog. It sounds like a useful enough line to check weather and set clocks to (does the DC line do both? give you time and conditions?)

My grandmother and I used to dial this number all the time from her home in Page County. And remember The Weather Channel's first dark-blue screen for Local Forecasts? They may still have it, over there...

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | March 9, 2011 12:43 PM |
_________________________________

It's one of my concerns as well. My mother STILL uses this service. When I was over her place the other day, she picks up the phone and calls the weather to see if it was going to rain or not.

I couldn't believe she was still using it but it raised a flag for me because I had just purchased an emergency preparedness kit and thought of what if for those who still rely on these free services.

Makes you think...

Posted by: cbmuzik | March 9, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't live in D.C. now (moved to NH after 40+ years, primarily to have more snow), but as a wx/snow fanatic I recall many nights either staying up the entire night waiting for the first flake...or watching the storm...and calling 936-1212 every hour for the latest hourly obs. And as any snow lover from that era knew, the recordings at 10am/pm and 4am/pm were exciting and crucial, as those were the ones where the actual forecast was updated. Even better than 936-1212 (and I think not widely known) was FISHY-50, which you could call to get the aviation weather, which provided a great synopsis of surface and aloft data (broke any snow lover's heart to hear that winds aloft were anywhere from the east to south, or would be shifting in that direction).

Posted by: snowbird25 | March 9, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

How very Comcast of them. Can we get another dime here? Dollar there?

Punch it up every morning heading to the office (don't need the 10 minute TV version where they wait till 'later' to give you the forecast) .. and once more splitting from the office.

Plus it was quick, useful info for those who know something about weather.

Where's K Kramer. Can dump Moviephone for Weatherphone.

Posted by: tslats | March 9, 2011 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Now teens don't need them to call each other late at night, either. After call waiting but pre-cell phones, that was that was the big thing. I will call the weather/time line and stay on it, then you call me and I will click over! We can talk all night....They are useful for other reasons, like the intended ones, too.

Posted by: johnslau | March 9, 2011 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh no, I have called the weather number since I was growing up in Arlington! It was always quick and to the point. Even with all the other options out there now, it was nice to know it still existed (and I cannot remember phone numbers to save my life, but this number has always stuck with me).

Posted by: lgp2 | March 10, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Like Walter, I remember you could use any four numbers after 936. On a rotary dial phone, the fastest way was 936-1111, whereas on a touch tone phone, the fastest technique was 936-6666. The time and weather numbers were good to call if you were pretending to talk to someone.

Posted by: spgass1 | March 10, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

WE6 and TI4 were the first telephone numbers, other than my home number and maybe preceding it, that I memorized as a kid. And they've never changed.

Leave it to Verizon, one of today's poster children for "progress isn't always."

Just like the Redskins aren't Dan Snyder's, this isn't Verizon's. But nobody knows that anymore.

Posted by: poorskins | March 10, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I used those services very much when I was a kid growing up in Alexandria. I still use these services every now and then when no computer or TV are nearby.

It is a sad thing to see things that were so important to us go by the wayside as technology progresses and years go by. It's sort of like ham radio which was a popular hobby at one time but has not attracted newcomers to the hobby due to the Internet.

Posted by: david_in_stafford | March 10, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Anyone have any idea how much (or little) these services cost Verizon?

Posted by: LHodskins | March 11, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I have known about these services forever and use them regularly. I'm disappointed and hope Verizon changes its mind, but I'm not hopeful. The almighty dollar wins, tradition and public service lose.

Posted by: dcdenizen17 | March 12, 2011 3:15 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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