Weather is often on people’s minds, and perhaps more so in the winter when snow and freezing temperatures can play havoc with travel and day-to-day routines. 

For weather enthusiast Dave Hayes, talk of snow and sleet gets him excited – and although there hasn’t been much to talk about this year, he still has over 52,000 followers who want to know what the weather is going to be tomorrow. 

NEPM’s Monte Belmonte and Kaliis Smith talked with Hayes at his home in Florence to learn not only about his love for weather, but also for music.

Read the full transcript:

♫ acoustic guitar music ♫

Monte Belmonte, New England Public Media: When did you fall in love with weather? You didn’t go to school to be a meteorologist, you didn’t get that degree – you were a paralegal, kind of by trade, where did your love of weather come from?

Dave Hayes, The Weather Nut: It came from…well, it started when I was really young, know, when I was seven or eight-years-old, and probably 45 years ago, the Blizzard of ’78 was probably that storm and the storm before that, the Mother’s Day Snowstorm of 1977 in Eastern Mass, where we got a foot of snow on May 9th and May 10th. So, I think the snow — I didn’t have the most joyous upbringing, shall we say — and so the snow, the cadence of the snow falling was really relaxing and peaceful. So, that started it, but then when I was 12, in Metro West where I grew up, there was severe thunderstorms coming through that day, and I was watching Bob Copeland, who was the noontime – morning and noontime – meteorologist on Channel 5, WCVB. And so, Bob Copeland was talking about thunder, severe thunderstorms coming through, he had the radar in back of him and had all these bright colors, and I was just – something about seeing that was like – I was fascinated by it. And then five minutes after he did that broadcast, that weather came overhead.

Monte Belmonte: Wow!

Dave Hayes: We had severe thunderstorms come overhead. So, there’s something about those two things together in a short time period, just something clicked, and then I just started watching all the Boston meteorologists. I would sit there, when we didn’t have remote controls, by the TV at 6:14 

Monte Belmonte: Bruce Schwoegler!

Dave Hayes: Bruce Schwoegler, exactly! Harvey Leonard, Barry Burbank, all those guys. 

Monte Belmonte: Yeah!

So, I would sit there and like channel 4, channel 5, channel 7 at like six and I would just go back and forth to catch all, especially in the winter, to catch all of their forecasts. And — and I just learned…I gravitated towards the ones that would talk about why the weather was doing what it was doing as opposed to this is just what we think is going to happen.

Monte Belmonte: So, then how did you dig deeper and get so good at explaining these concepts to the general public and tens of thousands of people in our area relying on what you have to say about it?

Dave Hayes: I think that it’s, you know, once the, once cable – well, cable, I think, started in the 80s, right? So, once I — once I started getting cable in the 90s, then I started watching the Weather Channel and so then there’s a lot — I really liked Mike Seidel and Jim Cantore and another meteorologist there, and learned a lot from that. And then once the internet came online in the mid-90s, then there was a whole trove of information, then I hooked into the National Weather Service’s website, which is fabulous, and started reading their area forecast discussions, which I still do to this day –that helps me put together my forecast, my reports.

Monte Belmonte: That’s another question too. So, you don’t have a Doppler radar, I’m imagining. So, where are you getting that information?

Dave Hayes: You can access it from the weather services, other – there’s other companies that produce radar imagery and stuff like that — and then I just kind of take all this information and my knowledge of the area and – and put together my reports and my forecasts, what I think is going to happen, taking into account the microclimates that we have in the region, the hilltowns, the valley, and stuff, and try to put it out in a way that has bulleted information up at the top of my report and also write a longer form discussion. Different people — just some people just want a little bit information, some people want to know what the weather is doing and why and so, that’s kind of how I put it together. I started my Facebook page in August of 2011 and then for like the next year and a half, I kind of just did it when I felt like it. And then, Hurricane Sandy came along in October of 2012, and I had a couple hundred people on my page, and all of a sudden, they were sharing my post and I was like, “What’s going on?” And it — my audience tripled and then I was like, “Well, people — I’ll keep doing it,!” 

Monte Belmote: Yeah!

Dave Hayes: You know, people are finding it useful and then — and then it got to actually, ten years ago was the Blizzard of 2013. And basically, at my page, went over 1000 people and everyone was saying how much they — it really was helpful to them, and that something clicked where I was like, “I’m going to do this every day now, I’m going to commit to this” because I really want it to be helpful in some way and then I found a way to do that. And then, it was really that fast forward to December 2013 into 20– 2014, that winter was incredibly cold and incredibly snowy. And, and Facebook didn’t have its algorithm set up yet to throttle you back, so, I was reaching a lot of the people who had liked my page, and it took off and my audience like quintupled in like four months.

Monte Belmonte: The other thing that social media affords you is this live interaction about what is going on weather-wise in very specific locations. People sending you pictures, chiming in, I chime in frequently about what the weather is like in Turners Falls. How does that add to your information gathering and what’s that like being a collaborative partner with the — with Western Mass when it comes to putting your forecast together?

Dave Hayes: I really — that’s one of the things that I enjoy a lot — well, it’s helpful to me because there’s a thing called “ground truth” where it’s like you can, you put out a forecast and then when a storm moves in, especially a winter storm or like a mix storm with different precipitation types, it’s really helpful to hear people from Franklin County, Hampden County, Hampshire, Berkshires, Southern Vermont, Northern Connecticut, talk about what they’re seeing so you can see how the storm’s actually playing out and it gives you a clue as to what’s kind of happening in the upper-middle levels of the atmosphere and stuff. So, I love that, and I just love the community aspect of it, you know? It’s like people — and other people have told me they like it, too, because if they have to drive somewhere and they’ve got to go to Springfield, but they’re living up in Turners or something like that, and so they’re like — it helps them figure out.–

Monte Belmonte: That’s exactly what I have to do!

Dave Hayes: — yeah, you do! Exactly,, it’s for you. Yeah, it’s just helpful for people to see, okay, what am I going to — it helps set their expectations a little bit and I like the community vibe of it, because people will start like talking to each other, like in their little nested comments –

Monte Belmonte: Yeah. 

Dave Hayes: —like just aside from what I posted about, and I like that, too.

Monte Belmonte: Dave Hayes, you’re also a deeply spiritual person. You’re a huge fan of Mister Rogers, as I am –

Dave Hayes:  Yes!

Monte Belmonte: — and his sort of whole ethos. You write haikus, you wrote me some beautiful haikus just the other day, which I was really flattered by. You, yourself are a musician and you have even played bass with one of the newest members of the NEPM family, Kaliis Smith —

♫ bass guitar plays ♫

Dave Hayes: Yes.

Monte Belmonte:  — and you’re going to talk music with Kaliis right now.

Dave Hayes: Excellent.

♫ bass guitar continues ♫

Kaliis Smith, New England Public Media: When you started playing in the Valley, who were you playing with?

Dave Hayes: First band I played with was a band called Minibus, and that was back in, like, 1992 or something like that. And then I played with a bunch of people in the 90s, including Chet Keith, who since moved out of this area, and I played with — for years I played with Mentos, Mentos and the New Horizon Band, which was awesome because he had this, like, hyper-rock-funk kid. That’s what I loved, like, Red Hot Chili Peppers and playing like, fast and funky, and he was a reggae musician from the Caribbean. He was just like, — he had to smooth me out and he went through his paces with me, but he hung in there — hung in there with me, and we had a great time going up and down the road together. We played a lot of gigs for like four years together.

Kaliis Smith: And we’re here with guitarsbut, I’ve seen you mostly play bass.

Dave Hayes: Yes, that’s true. Yes, I’m a bass player, mainly, but I’ve been playing more guitar lately.

Kaliis Smith: And other instruments too, as you do.

Dave Hayes: I can fiddle my way around a keyboard, or a piano and I can play a few drumbeats, but it’s mostly based in guitar.

Kaliis Smith: So, we have these two passions of yours: music and weather reporting. 

Day Hayes: Yes.

Kaliis Smith: Is there some sort of synergy? Do they meet up somewhere for you?

Dave Hayes: Yes, well, I’m planning on making them meet up somewhere, because I find that recently, when I play guitar — when I play bass, I play totally different music — but when I play guitar, I play a lot of like relaxing, (♫ acoustic guitar music ♫) you know, pretty chords. And I’d like to — and I noticed that with people, in the winter especially and the weather in general, it can also cause a lot of anxiety for people and upset. Some people have gotten in car accidents in the winter and other people, you know, it just the low light depresses them and stuff. And so, I would like to create music that kind of helps people, either if they’re depressed, kind of bring up their mood a little bit or help them feel a little better, or if they’re anxious to calm them a little bit. I just I want to find a way to take music that I naturally write and maybe kind of put that out to my weather audience. Pretty, open chords, you know, I just I really enjoy listening to them and would like to write some music that could share that with other people.

Kaliis Smith: Open chords, open hearts.

Dave Hayes: Yes! There you go. I like it!

(♫ acoustic guitar music ♫)