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‘Jumping’ into action: State meteorologist welcomes storm surge

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SUSQUEHANNA TWP., Pa. -- Sitting in front of a computer screen and analyzing radars, Jeff Jumper's current job doesn't seem too different than the one he called home for the last 10 years.

"The hours are better!" he quips. "And Governor Wolf is like my producer."

Jumper is Pennsylvania's first appointed official state meteorologist, a position which came with controversy given he was added to the state's payroll during the lengthy state budget impasse. Along with questioning the appropriation of state funds, critics wondered whether the position was necessary, as they said the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Association (PEMA) seemingly worked fine without an official meteorologist for years.

After a mild winter to this point, this weekend's storm is Jumper's time to shine.

"As a meteorologist, this is the type of weather that really excites you," said Jumper, who prior to becoming Pennsylvania's state meteorologist, was a local television meteorologist, his last three years at FOX43.

His job is much more than reading a map, he admits. He serves as an expert to the state's service agencies. If PEMA is forced to deploy the National Guard to a county, for example, Jumper will be in contact with PEMA's Emergency Operation Center to inform them of current and incoming conditions which they then pass along to the necessary state agencies.

"What time? What location? Where do we need to preposition so we can respond? I think that's where the value comes in by having someone in this position," Jumper says. "Those agencies are then able to make decisions off (our information), so they can help the residents of Pennsylvania. That's where the importance comes in."

He spends multiple times each day collaborating forecasts with Pennsylvania's five National Weather Service stations. When he's not in contact with the NWS, he's in touch with other state agencies and the governor's office to keep them informed.

"And pushing out the changes. Here are the changes and here are the impacts," he adds.

Jumper isn't too far away from his local television roots, however. For the best localized weather coverage, he says it is still best to watch "your favorite TV meteorologists." Yet, when it comes to keeping Pennsylvanians safe during an emergency, that is where Jumper feels he's best served.

"You're able to help warn people in the agencies so the residents of Pennsylvania can be taken care of the best way they can," said Jumper, who has spent 14 years as a volunteer firefighter. "It's the best of both worlds."