Editor's Note: Jim Witt is being featured today (Feb. 2) as The Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. The series features stories of people across the nation who are making a difference in their community. Congratulations Jim!
Predicting the weather is just one way Jim Witt has helped his community for the last fifty years.
Since 1986, this innovative meteorologist has been producing a long-range weather forecast calendar that has raised over two million dollars for charity.
Sold in over fifty stores, the calendar features local photographer beautiful landscape pictures of the Hudson Valley, along with Witt’s expert weather projections for the months ahead.
Witt, a resident of Cold Spring and a former science teacher, remembers how he became fascinated with meteorology back in 1944.
“I have been excited about weather since I was a seven-year-old kid watching a barometer go down as a hurricane came up the East coast,” he said. Witt eventually came to the district in 1962 and became the coordinator for the district's science departments.
Tapping into his students’ excitement for forecasting weather, he founded the high school's “Weather Club," an admired program that has been nationally recognized.
“We would meet to plot and analyze weather maps and come up with forecasts for the days ahead,” Witt said of the club. Their three-day forecasts were then broadcasted on local radio station WLNA and appeared in the Peekskill Evening Star.
After retiring in 1977, Witt founded a forecasting company that aided highway departments, shipping companies, crane operators and others in obtaining accurate weather information. He has utilized his broad expertise to teach meteorology, consult for government organizations and as a radio personality on stations like WHUD and WLNA in the Hudson Valley and at WKIT, a station in Bangor, Maine that is owned by the author Stephen King.
It was with colleagues at WHUD that the idea for the calendar was born.
“We knew that people love the weather and with Joe's gorgeous photos of the Hudson Valley—why not make a calendar that would raise money for kids?” Witt said.
All of the proceeds have gone to 50 different organizations involved with the Hope for Youth Foundation charity, with beneficiaries that include the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and Friends of Karen, among others. He added that the Peekskill Rotary club has now become an invaluable partner in the production and distribution of the calendar.
Witt proudly asserts that his greatest achievement has been the success of his former Lakeland district students in their pursuit of science.
“It is really incredible and I am so proud of what these kids have achieved,” he said. “One of my former students is the Director of Research at the National Hurricane Center, another is Executive Vice President at AccuWeather, a third is a lead forecaster at NASA and amazingly, a student of mine is responsible for a breakthrough in forecasting technology that has improved the accuracy of the seven-day forecast.”
His legacy was recognized last year with a prestigious award from the American Meteorological Society for “innovative leadership in teaching high school meteorology, mentoring, and inspiring his students to accomplishments in the meteorological community and in life."
And what about Jim Witt’s forecast for the rest of winter 2012?
He predicts a “major event” during the week of March 18-March 24, with very strong, cold winds and possibly a large snowstorm. Careful out there.
Look for Witt's calendars in these fifty stores around northern Westchester.