A Pair of Locals Have Recreated Winnipeg's Iconic Weather Channel on Facebook
Trigger warning: If you’re of a certain age and grew up in Winnipeg, the graphic below will bring back ALL the memories.
The thing is, this is not a VHS recording.
A pair of local web developers have actually recreated Environment Canada’s iconic weather channel, and it’s currently live on Facebook (complete with the oh-so groovy background music that became the soundtrack of countless Winnipeggers’ childhoods).
In addition to providing weather forecasts for Winnipeg and surrounding areas, the local cable channel provided reports and announcements (like school closures!) before being phased out in 1999 and eventually becoming a far less iconic version of itself.
As the go-to source for local weather in the days before Internet and smartphones, its rotating red and blue graphics were the default “screen saver” in homes across the province and were burned into more than a few TV screens.
The local duo behind the reboot, known on Facebook as Weather Channel Winnipeg, are Craig Midwinter and Brandon Martel. Both were raised in Manitoba and work for a company called Pepper. They say the idea started as a side project at work.
“Every couple of months we dedicate a 12-hour day (coined a hack day) to work on something that is interesting to us, tackle something out of our normal work day or try something new,” says Martel.
“We were initially planning on continuing to work on a project we started on our last hack day, but a couple nights ago I decided that I wanted to play with a few different things,” adds Midwinter. “I tried to come up with an idea I thought would be achievable within the day, and this was it.”
Brandon Martel (left) and Craig Midwinter are the locals behind Weather Channel Winnipeg.
All together, Martel and Midwinter say they put about 30 hours into the project.
While the primary purpose was to stretch their development muscles, they also wanted to create a sense of communal nostalgia.
“Growing up, it’s just what I remember being on everyone’s TV,” Martel says. “Even though my grandparents had cable with plenty of other channels, they seemed to always leave it tuned to the weather channel. It was a favourite among many households, and serves as a bookmark to many good memories. It also shows that even with all of today’s modern tech, it is often the simple things that we all cherish.”
“It sounds cheesy, but with broadcast television or live video, I feel like there is this subtle feeling of connectedness in that sort of shared experience,” adds Midwinter, who actually worked for Shaw TV as a master control operator. “Funnily enough, maintaining the weather channel was one of my responsibilities there. It was on Channel 48 at the time, and it was blue and white, not the iconic red/blue and green that I think really triggers peoples’ nostalgia.
“The channel mostly took care of itself, but if you ever called in to complain that it’s November 12 and the weather channel hadn’t started playing Christmas music yet, there’s a good chance it was my fault.”
Apparently, Martel and Midwinter are not alone in their love for nostalgia.
When Weather Channel Winnipeg went live on Facebook on July 24, the first post blew up, racking up 10K+ views by the next morning. The page has since accumulated more than 400 followers.
So what does the future hold for Weather Channel Winnipeg?
“The plans going forward are to maintain a permanent feed on the Facebook page and get the display a bit closer to the old one,” Midwinter says. “We still want to add some slides, fix some of the bugs and build out the back end so it’s a bit easier to add announcements.”
“I also have a personal goal of making it responsive on mobile — an interesting task seeing as there were no mobile phones or aspect ratios to consider back then,” adds Martel. “That way, people can get a kick of nostalgia and the weather forecast all while on the go. I’m not sure it’s the right medium, but I will definitely do it for myself if nothing else.”