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This Deerfield man’s tuned in to the weather

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
Amateur weather forecaster Dave Hayes measures snow from winter storm Nemo with a yard stick at his home on River Road in Deerfield

Recorder/Peter MacDonald Amateur weather forecaster Dave Hayes measures snow from winter storm Nemo with a yard stick at his home on River Road in Deerfield

DEERFIELD — All week, New England residents filled with dread as they waited for the winter storm to approach, but one local man was full of excitement.

That’s because Dave Hayes is a little different from most folks.

Hayes is a weather nut.

“I love the weather. I’m passionate about it, and it makes a lot of sense to me,” said Hayes, 43.

Since August 2011, he’s been helping it make sense to others with his Facebook page, “Dave Hayes the Weather Nut.”

His predictions for this past storm called for 15 to 25 inches of accumulation, which was right in line for western Massachusetts. When the final flakes had fallen, Hayes had an even two feet in his yard, and the National Weather Service reported 20 inches in Greenfield, 14 in Heath, and 28.3 inches in Southwick.

Hayes doesn’t have a degree in meteorology or his own Doppler radar or an array of expensive weather equipment on his roof; rather, he digests raw data from several sources and extrapolates on it to make his own predictions.

“I’m a total amateur; I don’t even have a thermometer,” he joked.

Nonetheless, more than 1,100 people turn to his Facebook page for Hayes’ take on the weather.

Friday night, he kept his readers posted as he measured the snowfall in his yard every half hour through the peak of the storm.

“People seem to appreciate the reports I do,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to do something that I enjoy, and people find useful.”

His page also serves as a place for people to share what the weather’s doing in their own backyards.

“I really enjoy interacting with people on the page,” he said. “I also like hearing what the weather’s doing where other people live.”

His page has followers from all over Massachusetts, and parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York, many of whom share their own weather updates on the page.

“It gives me an idea of what’s really happening, rather than just watching a radar image,” he said.

For his own raw data, Hayes relies on sources like Accuweather, and his favorite, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, run by the federal government.

Hayes’ love of the weather goes back much farther than his Facebook page.

“I’ve been following the weather since I was 12, about 30 years ago,” explained Hayes.

“I grew up in eastern Mass., and I became interested through watching the Boston meteorologists. I remember one summer, I was watching Bob Copeland. There were storms coming through, and the radar looked wild.”

In this weekend’s storm, Hayes got to experience a weather phenomenon he hadn’t experienced before: the “deformation zone.”

“The area of the storm deforms, and snow bands pack up against each other. At some point, they don’t go any further north or west, they just keep getting packed in. When that’s in the area, it snows like hell.”

“I watched as it crept its way in from southeastern Mass., all the way over our area, and pushed its way into the eastern slopes of the Berkshires,” said Hayes. “That feature really never makes it this far inland.”

Friday night’s deformation zone stuck around in the late-night hours, bringing snowfall rates as high as 4 inches per hour from midnight to 2 a.m., said Hayes.

“It was a really historic event,” he said. “It woke me right back up. I couldn’t believe I was actually witnessing it; I’d heard about (the phenomenon) for so long.”

While the heavy snow stuck around, Hayes made trips to the yard twice an hour to check on the snowfall, and hurried back inside to update his online followers.

He went to bed around 2 a.m., just long enough for his head to hit the pillow.

“I was back up at 6:45 a.m., and it was basically done, it was just flurrying,” he said.

By then, the tail end of the storm was working its way east and out to sea, leaving New England’s streets, cars, and backyards buried in its wake.

However, Hayes said another storm could likely follow its path.

“Sometimes, when storms carve out the atmosphere like this, they can repeat in a two- or three-storm series,” he cautioned. “Right now, they’re talking about another coastal snowstorm on Thursday.”

That would be fine with Hayes. Winter storms are his favorite, and the life-long Massachusetts resident was certainly born in the right region for them.

His favorite storms include the Blizzard of 1978, and a May 9, 1977, storm that dumped 10 inches of snow on the eastern part of the state, bringing down trees that were in full-foliage before the rare spring storm.

Hayes thinks Friday’s storm rivals that of the Blizzard of 1978.

“This storm was as powerful as the storm of ’78, if not more powerful,” he said. “The Blizzard of ’78 slowed down more, whereas this one kept on moving.”

The 1978 storm also came right on the heels of another major snowstorm, leaving many towns with no place to put the snow.

Where others may see these storms as chaos incarnate, Hayes finds a certain Zen nature to them.

“The cadence of watching the snow fall is very peaceful,” he said. “When it’s snowing, I’m not thinking. I’m just being. Everything slows down; you’re just in the present moment.”

He can get almost too caught up in the moment during a storm.

“I get so focused on watching the storm, all of a sudden I’ll realize, oh my God, I’ve got other stuff to do!”

When he’s not feverishly tracking a storm, Hayes is a salesman for Sports Travel and Tours or enjoying his other hobbies, none of which, interestingly enough, include skiing, snowshoeing, or other snow sports.

To see what Hayes has to say about the weather, check him out at www.facebook.com/pages/dave-hayes-the-weather-nut/183463861719516.

David Rainville can be reached at:drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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