Alan O’Reilly has worked in IT for 20 years but his passion has always been the weather. Armed with an IT skillset, he took this passion to a new level when he created his own weather station website in 2008 (carlowweather.com).
Once the weather station was live, he was able to get consistent weather updates from the comfort of his back garden – and because his updates happened more frequently than other weather sites, he soon became the go-to guy in Ireland for all things weather.
“I have webcams set up as well,” he says.
“I’ve had emails from people in America saying they love seeing the fields and the landscapes [in real time]. There’s a farm in one of my webcams and they love seeing the cows grazing in the background.”
Alan has developed a dedicated online following thanks, in part, to his engagement on social media. He says a good chunk of his followers are Irish farmers.
“It’s my 12th year on Twitter,” he says. “[My following] kind of grew legs then because I started sharing forecasts. I often get contacted by news people when weather events are happening.
“I don’t take it too seriously and would never make up my own weather warnings,” he continues. “I use plain speak and share things non-weather people can understand and relate to. People love sharing weather images as well. It’s amazing how, on a small island, how quickly the weather can change.”
1 First things first: what kind of a summer are we going to have? Haha! If I could tell you that, I’d be a millionaire living on a beach.
2 Were you born and raised in Carlow? I was indeed – born and raised near Tullow in Carlow and I went to college for a few years in IT Carlow also.
3 Were you into weather as a kid? I was always fascinated by snow, especially as a kid. I didn’t have much interest in school. Technology was my main interest and I always enjoyed working. I started working after school and on weekends at age 13.
4 Was your family into science – would you often discuss the weather around the dinner table? One grandfather was a small farmer and worked on a large farm, and my other grandfather was a keen gardener. The farming forecast on a Sunday was the main viewing and you didn’t dare talk during it. I also spent most of my summers with my cousins who were sheep farmers and I was always outside regardless of the weather.
5 What did you study after secondary school? Computer programming in IT Carlow for two-and-a-half years. I got a certificate and decided that was enough study for me. I then found a job in IT.
6 What made you start your Twitter handle @CarlowWeather to begin making weather updates? I had the weather station and had set up the website, so social media seemed the next step. It was an easy way to provide information.
7 Why do you think the Irish are so into weather and weather updates? I think because many of us like to spend so much time outdoors and our weather can change so quickly and influence what we can or can’t do.
8 What’s your favourite thing about reporting on the weather? Providing good news when fine weather is coming and telling people to get the barbecue ready.
9 What’s the worst weather you’ve ever experienced firsthand (can be anywhere in the world)? 2015 in New Hampshire, USA. [It was] -27°C, with snow blowing off a lake onto the road. A complete whiteout for a few seconds.
10 On the flip side – the nicest, most pleasant climate you’ve ever experienced? I don’t like warm weather. [Anything] around 25°C on the beach in Kerry, with a nice breeze (like last summer), for a week is perfect.
11 Do people ever stop you on the street to ask about the weather? Yes, that does happen and many expect you to reveal more than you do online – as if you have some secret information you are keeping back.
12 You’ve made numerous media appearances at this stage in your career – what are some highlights? Any time I talk to Joe Duffy I seem to get a big reaction and I’ve also appeared on Virgin TV on a few occasions. During the fine weather last year, with the pandemic, it was nice to record a piece on good weather as often I appear during storms or severe weather.
13 How has the pandemic affected your weather work – is there more demand or less? It has increased interest in my posts, with many people keen for fine weather so they can get outside and meet up when allowed. My day job has been very busy also, so it has been a very busy time.
14 What do you miss the most about non-pandemic life right now? Climbing mountains in the winter. I love winter hiking in the snow more than anything.
15 What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the pandemic is – once and for all – done with? Book a trip to a winter wonderland, be it Japan (where they get the deepest snow in the world) or Northern Europe for snow and the northern lights.
16 Where’s the first place you’d like to visit (in Ireland) when it’s safe to do so? Brandon in Kerry. [We] went there during a staycation last year and I can’t wait to get back to Murphy’s for a pint after climbing Mount Brandon again.
17 Do you have a favourite place to visit outside of Ireland? Not really. I like going to different places; the colder the better.
18 What are some things you never leave home without? My phone with the camera. I love taking photos while out and about and taking my drone with me too, where permitted.
19 Have you picked up any new skills during lockdown? I made a lot of brown bread during the first lockdown and I’ve been making granola during the latest lockdown.
20 What was something you’ve binged-watched in the past year? The Queens Gambit – I can’t play chess but I really enjoyed the show.