Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from a colleague somewhere across the planet who basically says: “You’re in Vegas now? But it’s so damn hot there!”
Depending on my mood, I usually say it was hot in Kansas, and definitely more humid in Naples, but that I’m really loving it here and the air conditioning in our office feels just like how the 72 degrees felt at the Lawrence Journal-World offices.
(However, unlike in Kansas, I’ve never heard even one person in Las Vegas say: “Is it hot enough for you?” — which I kind of miss.)
All of this brings me to the launch of the Las Vegas Sun’s new weather site.
I always loved our old weather site at KUsports.com that had the five-day forecast represented as the University of Kansas skyline, and I wanted something kind of similar to that for the Sun’s site.
And that’s what we got. Only with a little Vegas flash — literal and figurative Flash.
The work done on this new weather site by programmer (and fellow Emporia State grad) Sean Stoops, Flash guru Todd Soligo and new-media design editor Tyson Evans is spectacular, to say the least.
The site features the five-day forecast illustrated over the famous Las Vegas Strip. The current conditions also are illustrated with The Strip, via the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and the Luxor. If it’s raining in Las Vegas — like it was yesterday — then it will be raining in the current conditions area.
If it’s dark outside, then it will be dark in the current conditions area, and the Luxor beam will be lit.
Throughout the five-day forecast Flash graphic at the top of the site, you’ll notice the roller coaster running at New York New York, the fountains at Bellagio and the Big Shot taking off on top of the Stratosphere.
This Flash application was built and designed by Todd, with data feeds put together by Sean.
And what about some of the other things on the site?
* You can view historical records and trends, including less traditional metrics — such as how many days Vegas has gone without precipitation.
* New residents to Las Vegas (like, say, a bunch of nerds from Kansas) can find overviews of the areaâ€™s weather and see a timeline of major weather events in the Valley, including reading the original stories of those events from the Sun’s archives.
* Current conditions are fed from more than 80 weather stations around the Las Vegas area — including Lake Mead, Mt. Charleston and Primm. Plus, the water temperature and levels of major nearby lakes are available.
* There also is an easy-to-use Google map of current weather conditions for major cities across the nation.
* I love the photo gallery of great weather shots from Vegas. Snow in Vegas is cool.
The Details …
Sean poured through tons of data resources and parsed tons of resources to put together the info that powers the site. Here is a list of some of the information/resources on the site:
* National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
– current conditionsâ€¨
– temperature, heat index, wind, humidity, pressure, dew point, visibilityâ€¨
– high/low temp, heat index, chance of precipitation, humidity, cloud cover, â€¨windâ€¨
– water conditions (Lake Mead)â€¨
– temperature and elevation
* NOAA — National Climatic Data Center
– historical dataâ€¨
– min/max temperature, liquid precipitation, falling solid precipitation, solid precipitation on â€¨the ground alreadyâ€¨
– data from 1895 to present
* U.S. Naval Observatory
– sunrise â€¨and sunset info
– Hyperlocal conditions â€¨from 80 stations around Las Vegas
– temperature, wind, rain so far today
* American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
– pollen dataâ€¨
– trees, grass, weeds and mold data
* Environmental Protection Agency
– current UV index
So, why put so much effort into a local weather site?
Well, maybe it’s just the Kansan in me, but I’ve always felt like people are interested in the weather. Because of that, every place we’ve been we’ve written lots of weather stories.
And everywhere we’ve been, even LoudounExtra.com at The Washington Post, they’ve become the most-read stories on our site. People read weather stories. I don’t know nearly as much about journalism as I wish I did, but I do know that people read weather stories.
They’re “virtual crack” on a local news site. Trust me.
Just look at the current Top 10 most-read stories on LasVegasSun.com — two of the 10 are online-only weather stories.
(In just the last few months, we’ve learned that weather stories about possible rain in Las Vegas aren’t the only ones that get tons of traffic. Weather stories about the heat, and any other unusual weather situation, also gets lots of readers — even in the desert.)
Since the Sun’s site was relaunched back in January, the header graphic has had the current conditions integrated in a cool way that definitely says “Las Vegas.”
Here is what the site-wide header looks like during the day:
And here is what our site’s header graphic looks like at night:
So, what’s next?
Tyson and Sean tell me we are going to be adding more historical data with lots of trend information and charts.
Deryck Hodge, our team’s longtime programmer extraordinaire, is helping us add really cool integration of Valley weather photos from sites like Flickr, Facebook and Picasa.
And there are even a few Easter eggs hidden throughout the site.
But this is a very cool — and pretty dang extensive — start for our local weather site!
I absolutely love it!
And I’m very proud of the work done by Sean, Todd and Tyson — as well as others on our LasVegasSun.com staff — on this new weather site. It’s damn nifty and extremely functional. You folks kick some serious backside, and I’m damn lucky to be able to work with you all.