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AccuWeather forecaster Jim Kosek's over-the-top antics make him a Web sensation

By Eric Athas
Saturday, February 13, 2010; C01

Meteorologist Jim Kosek is wearing a charcoal gray suit with a silver tie. He stands in front of a weather screen, holding his clicker. He has all the markings of an ordinary weatherman.

Then he begins his forecast.

"Oh boy. Fourteen. To twenty-two. Inches of snow. Ohhh boy. Well, I'm AccuWeather.com meteorologist Jim Kosek," he says during a video forecast. "Our paralyzing, crippling, RECORD-BREAKING STORM COMES TODAY!"

He rocks back with his fists in the air and hooooowwwwllls.

This is Al Roker meets Sam Kinison. Samuel L. Jackson's five-day forecast. Chris Matthews on a Starbucks jag. Howard Dean post-Iowa caucuses -- but with live Doppler radar.

The blogosphere -- the blogosphere! -- calls him "extreme," "crazy," "rabid," "obnoxious," "wild," "nuts" and "out of control."

In the hours before Washington was smothered last week by the first of two historic snowstorms, Kosek roared like Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" as he predicted power outages, road closures and flight cancellations.

This is Kosek's style and he's been doing it for years -- he's 45 -- but after his Feb. 5 video forecast for Baltimore hit the Web, this weather maniac was skyrocketed into viral fame.

"It just so happened that somebody somewhere knew what they were doing, tossed it up onto YouTube," Kosek says, "and then the thing grew legs and went at a sprinter's pace like crazy."

The 90-second video clips of his over-the-top "snowmageddon" forecast registered 900,000 YouTube views in one week. Kosek received hundreds of e-mails, made dozens of appearances on radio and TV stations, was mentioned on a slew of blogs and had his video linked from Twitter over and over again. A Facebook Fan page was created in his honor. Kosek's schedule this week became so crammed -- he has a wife and a month-old son at home in a small town just outside State College, Pa. -- he was forced to turn down some interviews, including CBS's "The Early Show."

Ahead of the viral storm

Before going viral with his pre-snowstorm freakout, the AccuWeather veteran had been tracking cold fronts and pressure systems for 23 years, while also demonstrating how to apply deodorant, singing into a fan and whipping an inflatable pool across the set.

"You can get weather just about anywhere nowadays -- you don't have to pay for this stuff," Kosek says, "so I think you've gotta add a little uh-umph, some panache to it."

Kosek says his silly side comes from watching too many sitcoms as a teenager, and his weather obsession began during high school. A year after graduating from Penn State in 1986, Kosek landed at AccuWeather, a syndicator of local forecasts based in State College.

A radio meteorologist for most of his career, Kosek's big TV break didn't come until the eve of the new millennium, when temperatures dropped into the single digits during midnight celebrations. Kosek was called up to do his first on-air spots.

This began what Kosek characterizes as a gradual shift into meteorology antics. One day, he wore a hat and gloves and leaned up against a snow shovel. The next day, he added a little dance to his routine.

"Within the last 10 years or so, Jim consciously decided to let his creativity and his own personality kind of come through in the style of his forecast," says Ken Reeves, director of forecasting operations at AccuWeather. "Jim's all-out, manic style is very well suited for our Internet era that we're in right now."

Reeves's office is about 20 feet from the closed studio where Kosek films his TV hits. But Reeves says throughout a normal day, he can still hear the shouts from down the hallway.

Fooling around

A big part of Kosek's act relies on props from a box in the studio: a stuffed groundhog, a Russian fur cap, an apron, Halloween costumes, a witch hat and even women's clothing he sometimes wears on air.

During his forecast before the Tuesday-into-Wednesday storm, Kosek channeled Washington's frustration over copious inches of snow this winter and cold-cocked a box labeled "OL' MOMMY NATURE." "Snow? Snowww? Huh. Ohhhhh yeahhhhh," he says, peering into the empty box. "WELL, I'VE HAD IT! ENOUGH ALREADY!" A left hook to the front of the box, a violent kick to a table and once again, Kosek launches into a weather-fueled tirade. He ends the spot by singing a calm, yet excruciating version of "Let It Snow."

Despite the foolishness, Kosek says he spends most of his time at work studying weather patterns and preparing graphics for his segments. The outbursts? Those kind of just happen, he says.

"All of the sudden something pops into my head like five seconds beforehand," Kosek says. "Other times, I'll be just waking up in the middle of the night and was dreaming something. If I dream something and I think it's funny at the time, I'll just write it down."

With a larger audience taking notice of the 6-foot, shrill-voiced prognosticator of rain, sleet and snow, Kosek hopes to turn his bit into an in-your-face weather TV show. Perhaps something akin to the Weather Channel's "Storm Stories" or Discovery's "Storm Chasers," combined with the WWE.

As for the near future, Kosek is busy homing in on a storm system expected to arrive Monday in Washington.

"The jury's still out in terms of how much accumulation," Kosek say. "Whether or not I pull out a shovel and smash it into pieces later this week or early next week, or just jump off one of the tables like the wrestlers. If we had some padding or anything, I'd probably fall on my back and make a fake snow angel."

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