Glens Falls company forecasting for ships at sea during Irma

September 08, 2017 06:39 PM

GLENS FALLS -- On the second floor of a building on Warren Street, 34 meteorologists watch over thousands of ships all over the world.

Now is the busy season in ship forecasting. And Irma is making for long workdays.

"We actually started moving vessels out of the way, or at least making preliminary plans to move vessels out of the way, as early as last Saturday and last Sunday," said Brandon Capasso, meteorologist and operations manager of Weather Routing Inc.

The company has already routed all of their ships away from Irma, Jose, and Katia, or to a safe port.

The hard part with these storms was finding ports. Houston is out of commission with Harvey, New Orleans is backed up, and you can't send ships to Tampa and Miami with Irma bearing down on Florida.

The company is one of the top four maritime forecasters in the world, routing paths for cargo ships, cruise ships, and yachts.

"With three hurricanes about, it's very hard to move ships out of an area without putting them in danger in another area," said Stasu Bizzarro, meteorologist and president.

The company is growing, and the Bizzarro is looking for more meteorologists.

"In school, they don't teach them maritime meteorology. So you have your TV meteorologist, you have your National Weather Service meteorologist, but there's not as much education in the maritime industry," said Bizzarro.

On land, you want to know how cold it will be and how much it will rain. But ships need to know about wind and waves.

"Forecasting over land tends to be both more local and more complex. It terms of a precipitation forecast, you can't get a flood in the ocean, so we really don't worry about precipitation as much as we worry about how the wind to affects the sea state," said Capasso.

Even when massive storms aren't forming, the meteorologists are still trying to find the most efficient route for cargo ships. That means considering current and headwinds.

Capasso says it takes at least a year working here to get comfortable with maritime forecasting. Step one is realizing the shortest route is rarely the best one.


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Asa Stackel

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