For people who know him personally, he is Bob Burger, a longtime Point Pleasant resident and retired police chief who has a penchant for tattoos and is a grandfather to six.
But for a growing group of followers on the web, he is “Bob Weatherman Burger,” the person who runs a hyper-local Facebook page with a knack for precise predictions of borough weather – sometimes down to the half-inch of snow during the past winter – in the form of short, daily status updates.
“Weather changes everyone’s life,” Burger said recently, sipping a beer with Patch at The Ark tavern in Point Pleasant Beach while describing his lifelong passion of meteorology and his meteoric rise to local weather stardom on Facebook.
Up until early August, Burger, who retired as Island Heights’ police chief in the 1990s, had about 300 friends on his weather page, mostly family, friends and former law enforcement colleagues.
He took his weather predicting to the web because those followers had been relying on him for specific forecasts about conditions right here – in the borough and other areas in and around Ocean County.
But when Hurricane Irene became a real threat to the Jersey Shore, though, he started gaining friend requests as rapidly as the storm twirled.
He has more than 1,400 Facebook friends. About 900 of them joined in the few days of Irene updates, he said.
From what to wear, to where we go, to what we chat about with strangers, he said, “Everything we do relies on the weather.”
The world of weather, Burger will be the first to tell you, is filled with people studying and predicting it with all sorts of radar systems and computers.
From the federal government’s National Weather Service, to the Weather Channel on TV to thousands of private local weather enthusiasts operating out of their homes who feed their predictions on websites, the information is out there.
What makes Burger unique is that he tailors the data to his hometown. And there’s also Burger’s access to really good information.
Burger, in his retirement, has become a computer expert and currently is a paid consultant for the federal government.
He can’t say where he works due to a confidentiality requirement, only that he does not work in the weather industry.
But his job has him connected to excellent raw weather data and Burger is allowed to use it to predict weather, he said.
This is the way Burger describes it on his Facebook page: “I have a vast amount of resources and equipment available to predict and track storms and any weather very accurately…I have available the best equipment and the most resources to try to keep you and your family from harm’s way.”
At The Ark, he said of his information, “It’s dead on.”
After receiving the data, Burger heads to his self-described “man cave” in his borough home and plugs it into public computer models.
Burger, though, is not just cutting and pasting information either. He gets good data, he said, but then has to do some math and science to pinpoint it for those in Ocean County who count on it.
Burger always loved weather, but in the past 15 years has studied it more intensely, and has used the computer engineering training he’s picked up along the way to apply it to weather too.
“Weather interests everybody, but I needed to learn about it,” he said.
On Facebook, people just want to know if it’s going to rain.
“I make it fun,” Burger said, “And I try to personalize it.”
Indeed, Burger changes his main Facebook photo to correlate to the current weather, and posts interesting weather photos too.
But when extreme weather is on the way, his predicting becomes more matter-of-fact.
“Snowstorms are my favorite, they’re fun,” he said. “Everybody likes a snow day. Everybody wants a day off from work, or a day off school.”
Last winter’s snow accumulations are where he started to gain steady followers who needed real-time information, like school superintendents about to make the decision to cancel school, he said.
Burger won a fan in borough resident Robert Morris during last winter’s snow storms.
“In virtually all of last winter’s storms, Bob very accurately predicted snow amounts and storm duration for our area, much more precisely than any other weather source that I saw,”, said Morris, a self-described weather enthusiast.
“He also explains the different forecast models and which are more reliable and why, and he will personally answer questions people have," Morris added.
Morris said, though, it’s Burger’s local angle that makes his weather page a daily stop for him on the web.
Morris said the Point area is largely ignored by New York and Philadelphia broadcast news stations.
And, he added, while the National Weather Service is very accurate, a lot of their “Point Pleasant” weather is based on their closest weather station at Allaire Airport in Wall Township.
“Because of the effect of the ocean, weather in Point Pleasant and other shore towns can at times be very different from each other even just a few miles away,” Morris said.
Burger’s boasts about his prediction prowess might best be summed by Joe Graziano, a friend of a friend, who was married in early September in Seaside Park.
The friend sent Burger a message, asking whether Graziano should move the 6 p.m. ceremony inside.
“That particular day we had been having t-storms all day, and there were storms all around New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Burger recalled. “They asked me one last time about 2:30 p.m. for a ‘go’ or move it indoors (decision).”
“I looked over everything, tried to time it out and told them they would have a window of about an hour or so from 5:20 p.m. or so until 6:30 p.m. that they should not have any rain on the beach in Seaside. Boy was I sweating,” Burger said.
Burger said it rained in Point Pleasant, Brick, Lakewood, and Lacey and even in Toms River, and he could tell from his computers that the rain would likely circle Seaside Park. “It did not rain one drop in Seaside until the wedding was well over and they were finished,” he said.
Graziano, who posted a picture of the ominous clouds over the beach at wedding time, wrote on Burger’s page: “If it weren't for Bob's incredible prediction, we most likely would have moved indoors. Thanks Bob, you were right on the money!”
Burger also has his everyday fans who need personalized predictions, the “What Can I Do Today?” crowd.
“I have a lady in Brielle who rows every day and I have a parts manager in Lakewood who rides his bike to work and they want to know if it’s going to rain.”
The interest has caused him to feel his own personal high pressure system to keep up the posts. “Can I say no to them?” he wonders.
“Of course I can’t. I’m Bob the weather guy,” he says with a grin.