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WCBS debuts new mobile weather van

WCBS TV, Channel 2 in New York City, has hit the road with its Mobile Weather Lab—a new type of vehicle that allows weather personnel to report real-time weather information live in high-definition video from center of a storm. It’s all part of the network’s effort to get closer to the news, as it happens.

“I’ve been in the industry for a long time,” WCBS/Ch. 2 weathercaster Lonnie Quinn told the “New York Daily News.” “This is a game-changer.”

The Weather Lab is a Chevy Suburban fitted with weather technology that will allow the station to measure wind speed, humidity, rainfall rate and intensity and temperature, Quinn told the newspaper. The data is collected by a sensor— the size of a car’s oil filter—and circular antenna that sits atop the vehicle.

From the rear, the vehicle turns into a remote broadcast set, allowing weather personnel to broadcast live via satellite in high-definition video. Should the weather situation get dangerous, all of the equipment can be operated remotely using an Apple iPhone.

Readings for weather forecasts are normally accumulated from stationary collection sites, such as the weather station in Central Park or buoys at sea. Information from such stationary sites is accurate only if the actual weather passes over it. With the new vehicle, the weather data is collected real-time from the truck itself.

“With this, you can be right in the middle of a storm and you no longer have to guess,” Quinn observed.

The WCBS Mobile Weather Lab is the first of its kind at a television station in New York City. About a year ago, Ch. 2 introduced Mobile 2, a Suburban equipped with technology that allowed reporters to drive, talk and broadcast at the same time. The new unit goes well beyond the capabilities of Mobile 2.

“It’s good television and it separates us from the competition,” WCBS president and general manager Peter Dunn told the newspaper. “From the community perspective, it’s awesome.”

The Mobile Weather Lab allows WCBS to extend its outreach across the tri-state area by providing hyper local weather information in a unique way. “Whenever storms are rolling into the area, our Mobile Weather Lab will also be on the move to help us differentiate our news coverage by giving our viewers a look at the live conditions and forecast for neighborhoods across the region,” Dunn said.

Besides broadcasting weather news, the vehicle will serve as a community outreach tool, going to schools and other locations. “We look forward to having the CBS 2 Mobile Weather Lab and our meteorologists visit local schools and community events so that students and everyone else who has an interest in learning about the weather can get an up close look at the technology we use to prepare our weather reports,” Dunn said.