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The Rainmakers: DFW’s fearless forecasters

Posted 8:14am on Friday, Mar. 28, 2014

If DFW’s spring weather were to be re-envisioned as a classic movie, it might be something as whimsical and beautifully waterlogged as Singin’ in the Rain, or it could be way more sinister, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Extreme, even schizophrenic weather is the norm here.

One day we’re in shorts, soaking up 80 degrees and sunshine, the next we’re sliding across an overpass in an ice storm.

One minute we’re dining al fresco on Joe T. Garcia’s patio, the next we’re dodging pea-sized hail in the parking lot.

Drought, flash floods, tornadoes, thundersleet — they’re all in a week’s work for the undaunted DFW weather warriors who help us navigate storm season.

In an era when weather geekery has become a national pastime — who doesn’t have an app with an hour-by-hour forecast, radar maps and moon phases at the their fingertips? — it might be easy to assume local meteorologists have lost a bit of their mojo. But once that first tornado siren of spring sounds, you can bet we’ll all be glued to the tube, devouring every update and Doppler dollop they dish out.

“What we can provide that you cannot get on an app is context,” says Larry Mowry, chief meteorologist for KTVT/Channel 11. “I love explaining how the weather works, and I think that’s our biggest asset as TV meteorologists.”

Beyond that, there’s also a personal connection you just don’t get from a phone app.

“People tune in because they like the camaraderie or they like the team or they think that you’re funny,” says Colleen Coyle, who does weather on WFAA/Channel 8’s 4 p.m. newscasts and also does feature reporting for the station. “And they feel like they’re friends with you. I just recently got engaged, and a few days ago, some people came up to me and said ‘Oh my gosh, let me see the ring!’ I didn’t know them, but they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, we watch Channel 8. We heard you announce it.’ 

And like friends, we occasionally get ticked at them when they keep interrupting our favorite TV shows, warning us about a squall line miles south of Mansfield. And we reserve a special ire for them when, on occasion, they get the forecast wrong. (See Evan Andrew’s Top 10 viewer reactions; it’s a hoot.)

But as spring and severe-weather season approach, we’re reminded of just how much a part of our lives they become. So we wanted to pull back the green screen (which is what TV forecasters are standing in front of when you see them working the map), to find out a little bit more about DFW’s rainmakers.

WFAA/Channel 8

Pete Delkus, chief meteorologist

Known for his habit of taking off his sports coat and rolling up his sleeves when the weather turns bad — there’s even a parody Twitter account called Pete Delkus Sleeves (@DelkusSleeves) — Delkus got interested in weather because he spent so much time outdoors. “My dad worked for the street department in the town we grew up in,” Delkus says, “And he started this little business. We cut grass, and then it grew into a landscaping and lawn-maintenance company. So if you have a business that’s outdoors, [it] really depends on the weather.”

Delkus would watch the Weather Channel, fascinated with radar and thunderstorms, but he didn’t initially plan to go the meteorology route. “I went to college with a baseball scholarship,” Delkus says. “I played pro baseball for the Minnesota Twins’ minor-league system for six years, so obviously those six years of my life still revolved around being outdoors.”

With a bachelor’s degree in television-radio-communications from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Delkus figured his post-baseball career would involve sportscasting. After an injury ended his baseball career in the spring of 1992, he started doing an internship at an ABC station in Orlando, Fla. “The weekend weather guy died,” Delkus says, “and they needed someone to do the weather. So they asked me on a Saturday morning. ... I didn’t want to do weather, because I wasn’t a meteorologist at that point. But I thought, ‘If they do weather and they like me, they’ll give me the job in sports.’ 

Eventually, he was offered a job as the station’s morning weatherman. Delkus, still hoping to do sports, said no for a week till the station offered to send him back to school to get a master’s level meterology degree — and pay for it. “That was in the summer of ’92,” Delkus says, “and 22 years later, here we are.”

First green-screen experience: “I’d kind of played around with it when I was a sports intern. It was fun. It seemed awkward at first, but it was interesting and I enjoyed it.”

The trickiest thing about forecasting North Texas weather: “Winter weather … snow and ice. Most often our area is right on the freezing line. Where one or two degrees can mean the difference between all rain, all snow or a wintry mix. To get this forecast exactly right you need to know the temperature profile of the atmosphere at every location in North Texas. Of course, we don’t have this kind of data so we do a lot of ‘extrapolation.’ Given the data we have and all the probabilities that go into our forecasts, I believe we do a really good job at providing helpful information. But it’s tough and it can be very frustrating as a forecaster when you spend so much time preparing and then the forecast goes wrong. I promise when this happens — and it does — no one is more mad than us!”

Keeping calm during severe weather: “It’s our job to be calm when people’s lives are at risk. We never believe in drama or hype and we certainly avoid it during these times.”

Most memorable weather event: “The tornado a couple of years ago that went just to the east of Dallas [near Lancaster]. I forget how many tornadoes there were that day that touched down, but it was the day that we saw the tractor-trailers getting picked up and thrown around. It was almost surreal. Just watching the strength of those winds doing that damage.”

Before the green screen: “I worked a part-time job at a Goodyear store, changing tires and oil, lube and filter. It was right then that I decided that I didn’t want to have a job where my hands were constantly dirty. Because even when they were washed and clean, they were dirty. You go on a date with one of your girlfriends in high school or college and your hands are just black, and you’re like, ‘Well, I washed ’em 15 times.’ 

The secret life (well, dream) of a meteorologist: “I never had the nerve to do it, [but] I always wanted to be a country-music singer. I sang in the church choir when I was a kid and all through high school and college, and I sang solos in church. But I always wanted to be a country-music singer.”

Colleen Coyle, News 8 at 4 p.m.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a storm chaser or a weather person,” says Coyle, who came to WFAA in 2010. “I have little booklets from when I was 10 or 11 when I would go out and record all the weather conditions.”

Coyle, who grew up in Atlanta and attended Georgia Tech, would eventually intern at an ABC station in her last semester there. “I’m a very outgoing person, so I love the TV side and getting to talk to people. But I also love the weather geek side.”

And the storm chases? She got to go on one as a college graduation present.

First green-screen experience: During her internship, Coyle was allowed to practice on the green screen after the 6 p.m. newscast was over. “It wasn’t until my last week there that someone said ‘Good job today.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ They were like, ‘Oh, you know when you practice on the green screen, it’s on every TV in the station.’ They could see me every time I practiced! It was really embarrassing.”

The trickiest thing about forecasting North Texas weather: “It’s always changing! One day it’s 80 degrees and the next day we’re under Winter Weather Advisories. In the spring, we have something tricky called ‘the cap.’ It’s pretty much a layer of dry air that sits high up in the atmosphere, acting like a lid on top of a boiling pot of water. In order to have thunderstorm development, you must punch through the cap. Forecasting severe weather can get tricky when dealing with the cap.”

When forecasts go wrong: “Of course, I hope to always be on point, but we’re all human and Mother Nature can throw some mean curveballs. In the past, I’ve felt that viewers appreciate when we as meteorologists go back and explain why our forecast did not pan out as expected. They appreciate the explanation, acknowledgment, and the science behind it. And yes, viewers do praise the ones we get right, too! ”

Keeping calm during severe weather: “[I lay off] the coffee and Red Bull — just kidding. I feel that it’s always good to err on the side of caution when dealing with severe weather in Texas. Give them the information as is — no bells and whistles — just the weather plain and simple.

Most memorable weather event: “That’s an easy one — Joplin, Mo. I had started at [WFAA] not long before then. I was at church one night, and I got a phone call at 9 o’clock that said, ‘Hey, Colleen, an EF5 tornado has just hit Joplin, Mo. We need you in a car with a photographer in the next hour.’ I rushed out of church, went home, packed a bag, and the photographer came to pick me up and said ‘We need you on the air at 4 a.m.’ So we drove all the way to Joplin [about a 5 1/2 hour drive] and I was on air at 4:30 in the morning. I’ve seen tornado damage, but EF5 tornado damage — words can never describe it, pictures can’t. It was a really humbling experience.”

Before the green screen: “My first job was at Abercrombie & Fitch. I was the greeter and folder of all the clothes and worked the register.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I am obsessed with Halloween. It’s an unhealthy obsession. This year, my boyfriend — now fiance — took me to a haunted house on Valentine’s Day. That’s my idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day date. I’m also a big risk-taker, I jumped off the highest bungee-jump in the world. I played violin for a very long time. Now I mostly focus on guitar. I have a lot of really random weird things. I really love kale, too.

KXAS/Channel 5

David Finfrock, chief meteorologist

David Finfrock’s father was a geologist, and Finfrock inherited his fascination with earth sciences. Growing up in Houston, he was about 8 or 9, when Hurricane Carla hit.

“That made a big impression on me,” says Finfrock, the dean of DFW meteorologists, with 38 years under his belt at KXAS. “This was back at a time when we had to get the latest coordinates off the radio broadcast — it came out about every three hours, and you’d take down the latitude and longitude and plot them on a map. I could see the progress of the storms as they moved across the Gulf. There was no Internet, and you had to do all that by hand. It really made for a great learning experience. By the time I was a high-school student, I’d set up a weather station in my back yard.”

Finfrock would go on to Texas A&M University and then to KXAS, where he started under the tutelage of DFW weather legend Harold Taft. (In its new building at the CentrePort complex, NBC 5 even has a room honoring Taft, whose name still comes up in discussions of DFW TV weather even though he died in 1991).

In 2012, Finfrock announced he plans to retire in 2018 from KXAS — the only TV station he has ever worked for.

First green-screen experience: “We had paper maps when I started. We weren’t even visible on camera. All you saw was our hand coming in with a pointer. Because we spent all this time drawing the weather maps, and Harold Taft and I thought what was important was the weather, not our faces. Different managers came in and marketing people wanted our faces on the air, so eventually, that changed.”

Most memorable weather event: “That would have to be the May 5, 1995, hailstorm — the Mayfest hailstorm that plowed through Fort Worth, including right over our TV station when we were on Broadcast Hill. I had a 6-week-old car out in the parking lot that got pummeled, along with everybody else’s. That was the most horrific hailstorm dollar-wise in U.S. history, and then it only got worse as it headed to Dallas and slowed down. That’s the worst flash-flooding I’ve experienced in my career in North Texas. We had over 20 fatalities that night from lightning, building collapses and flash flooding.”

Before the green screen (and the paper map): “My first job was flipping burgers and making milkshakes at a country club in west Houston. And I spent one summer stocking groceries at Rice Food Market in Houston. Once I graduated college, though, I only had one job — at the same place for 38 years.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I like adventure. I like volunteer-type vacations. I just got back from a week camping with the Sierra Club in Big Bend, where we were removing old barbed wire and hogwire fencing in the park and spent a couple of days doing revegetation work in the desert. So I enjoy that kind of thing, the camaraderie of working together to try to make the planet a better place. I’ve got five continents under my belt, including Antarctica. I still have Africa and Australia to go. I’m sure I’ll get there.”

Favorite weather song: “There’s a lot to pick from — we’ve got Stormy, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head. I’ve always thought it would be a good idea to record a whole CD full of weather songs. It’s quite a long list. For a holiday theme, Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

Remeisha Shade

Remeisha Shade remembers following the local meteorologists in her native Hunstville, Ala., from about the time she was 10.

“All three guys on each station would come on, and I would know exactly what time they would come on, because they would usually do it for 30 seconds to a minute or so,” Shade says. “I’d watch their forecasts and compare, and it was just exciting to me. It was exciting when we had a threat for tornadoes or when we had a threat for snow to see who got the forecast right.”

And she got a firsthand taste of a tornado on May 18, 1995, when an EF4 twister went through Huntsville — and destroyed her family’s house. “They estimated this tornado to have winds of around 250 miles per hour,” she says. “My whole family was at home. I was at cheerleading practice at the time, but they canceled it when the county to our left issued a warning. My mother picked me up, and about 20 to 25 minutes later, the tornado came right over the house. It was a really scary experience.”

But it also piqued her interest in weather further. She went to Florida State University, where she received her bachelor of science degree in meteorology and did a couple of internships at the Weather Channel. She worked at stations in Beaumont and her hometown of Huntsville before coming to NBC 5 in late 2010.

Shade says she enjoys the performance aspect of being a TV meteorologist as much as the science. “My mom put me in pageants starting when I was 3.” Shade won the title of Miss Florida State University and competed for Miss Florida 2003. “I grew up dancing in ballet and jazz recitals. I love the fact that I get to do the science aspect, but I love the television aspect as well, where you’re under that pressure to perform, you’re live, you have to get things right. It really gives me a rush rather than making me nervous.”

First green-screen experience: “It was at Florida State University. I actually did their television program, it was called FSU Weather, for about 2 1/2 years. It really helped give me my start, got me in front of the green screen to practice a little bit. We aired in Tallahassee live, so it gave us the experience of being live and feeling that pressure. . It’s definitely awkward at the beginning, everything’s kind of backward — your hand will be pointing at one state and you’re kinda pointing to the ocean. It definitely takes getting used to.

When a forecast goes wrong: “Viewers are for the most part very understanding. I may get an email or tweet asking what happened but nothing more than that. I think that most people realize that it’s a forecast and weather isn’t an exact science. We are educated and knowledgeable in the field but Mother Nature can still throw us a few curveballs on occasion.”

Most memorable weather event: “It would probably be here. We’ve had multiple tornado outbreaks, and we’re on nonstop and going for hours at a time. We had a big tornado outbreak last year that hit several families.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “A couple of my friends used to call me the dancing meteorologist. Usually weather and dance don’t go together, but if I were not doing weather, I’d be dancing. It was always something I wanted to do, but my parents were like, ‘That’s not a real career,’ so I did stick with weather. I still take ballet and jazz classes now. I also love to skate. I recently took some figure-skating lessons.”

Rick Mitchell

Growing up in Omaha, Neb., Mitchell saw his share of strong weather. In fact, he swears he has memories of “being in a high chair and knowing that there was a storm outside,” he says. “I think I was born this way. If weather wasn’t my job, it’d be my hobby.”

Mitchell got his meteorology degree from the University of Nebraska, and his first job was at AccuWeather in State College, Pa. “I did every kind of forecasting imaginable for all over the world,” he says.

When he came to NBC 5 in August 2012, he already had a lot of experience covering severe weather — he was the chief meteorologist at Oklahoma City’s KOCO-TV for 18 years. He’ll have big shoes to fill at KXAS — when David Finfrock retires in 2018 after more than 40 years at the station, Mitchell will become chief meteorologist.

He has one credit that every other meteorologist envies: “I was in the movie ( Twister),” he says “I was credited for the role of ‘TV Meteorologist #3.’ I make appearances on TV sets throughout the movie. I still get royalty checks for couple of bucks every now and then.”

First green-screen experience: “My first experience on the green screen was the second day of [a TV meteorology] class at Penn State. And I did really well. Because I’d worked at AccuWeather, I’d learned how to ‘visit’ about the weather. The professor said I did very well and the other people in the class were like, “Dude, you weren’t even nervous!” So I knew right then that I was on to something. I sent that tape to one station in Des Moines, Iowa, and got my first TV job.”

The trickiest thing about forecasting North Texas weather: “It’s all tricky. Each type of weather brings its own challenges such as timing, type of precipitation, how warm or cold it will turn, etc. If I had to choose the toughest type of weather to forecast, I would say winter precipitation in North Texas.”

When a forecast goes wrong: “We do have bad days forecasting. Thankfully they’re not as frequent as people think, but they do happen. The most high-profile mistakes are usually involving winter storms. … Most reasonable people cut us slack. We are trying to predict the future, after all.”

Most memorable weather event: “In Oklahoma City, we were on the air for three or four EF5 tornadoes. Those you don’t forget quickly.”

Before the green screen: “In college, I worked at a grocery store. I sacked groceries. I still like sacking my own groceries. There’s something about it. It’s just so simple, and it’s human contact. I learned a lot in that job, actually.”

Favorite weather song: “Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I like Eric Clapton’s Let It Rain quite a bit.”

KTVT/Channel 11

Larry Mowry, chief meteorologist

The small Ohio town that Larry Mowry grew up in was down in a valley. His family’s house was on top of a rolling hill on the east side of town, and he remembers watching with his parents as storms would come through the valley and head toward their house. “That got me interested in weather,” says Mowry, who’s been with CBS 11 for six years. “And my grandparents had a farm, so I worked on the farm, and obviously the weather was real important for the crops and everything.”

But it wasn’t till high school and thinking about college that he realized he could study meteorology. He chose Valparaiso University in Indiana, a small school with a strong meteorology program. “I fell in love with it, with the math and the physics,” Mowry says. “The math and the physics is kind of the basis for how the weather works, and in my job, where I’m more of a forecaster, you have to know how the mechanics work to understand how the car runs.”

First green-screen experience: As an 18-year-old, Mowry got an internship at an Ohio station that had never had a weather intern. “The weather guy was in the Reserves, and he had to leave for two weeks of training,” Mowry says. “Usually they had a reporter fill in and do weather. They let me do it. I was 18 years old, and doing the weather live on this TV station. It was such a cool experience, and I kind of got the bug of doing weather on TV from it.”

When a forecast goes wrong: “For the most part, viewers understand that their are uncertainties in a forecast. And sometimes those uncertainties creep up to change the outcome. There are occasional e-mails, Facebook posts and tweets when forecasts are off. But I try to respond to all of those messages and explain what went wrong. The most gratifying messages are those saying ‘Thank you for keeping my family safe,’ or ‘I changed my plans because of what you said and I stayed safe.’ 

Keeping calm during severe weather: “I think about my family who are watching at home. I think about what I need to tell my wife and kids to make sure they know what is coming their way and what they need to do to stay safe. And that is how I present during severe weather. My whole family just happens to be all of North Texas, and I want to keep them safe. Being hysterical is of no value to anyone watching.”

Before the green screen: “In Columbus, Ohio, while I was interning at the CBS station there, I worked for this really great company called Battelle, which is like high-level research. I was in the records department and filing records from years and years ago, and I came across the boxes from the ‘Star Wars’ project from the Reagan era. I also saw [files] from RCA in 1979, looking at the feasibility of marketing compact discs.”

Favorite weather song: Windy by the Association, but there’s a backstory: “My dad is incredibly knowledgeable about music,” Mowry says. “He has every No. 1 from 1955 to 1988 on 45. I asked him to give me songs with weather in the lyrics that did real well. He sent me this list of I think it was 45 songs that were either No. 1 or Top 10. My favorite one is Windy, by the Association.”

Jeff Jamison

Some little boys idolize baseball players. Others idolize astronauts. Jeff Jamison, who grew up in Fort Worth, idolized DFW weather icon Harold Taft. “I was 5 or 6 years old and I had a mini-chalkboard with an outline of the United States on it, and was doing the weather for my parents in our living room,” Jamison says. “And we have 8mm film of me doing the weather when I was in elementary school. I was a huge disciple and fan of Harold Taft. This was obviously a huge severe weather part of the country, and I was intrigued by that and tornadoes.”

Jamison admired Taft so much that when Taft died in 1991, Jamison, a freshman in high school, says he taped Taft’s televised funeral and then cried while watching it. After graduating from Western Hills High School, he studied meteorology at Texas A&M — where one of his classes was taught by Taft protege Rebecca Miller. He did TV in College Station and Shreveport before coming home to CBS 11 almost 11 years ago.

First green-screen experience: “My first time on the air was a complete surprise, because I was an intern at the time, and both the morning guy and the weekend guy got very sick, and so they were in a pinch for one morning show, and they cold-called me at 2 in the morning and said ‘Hey, I know you’re not even an employee, but can you come in and do the weather for us this morning?’ I still have that tape and it’s quite amusing to watch, because I was pointing to California and calling it the East Coast and vice versa.”

Most memorable weather event: Getting to fly into the eye of Hurricane Rita. “At the time we flew into Rita, it was the strongest hurricane ever measured in the Western Hemisphere,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘How cool is it to be inside of a hurricane’ but also, ‘This is a monster storm, and it’s headed right toward the coast of Louisiana.’ It weakened by the time it got to the coast. You could actually see several sea life — fish and other sea life — in the eye, because the animals know if they get in a storm like that, you get in the eye and just travel with the hurricane.”

Before the green screen: My first and only nonbroadcasting job was at Spring Creek Barbeque. I still have a weakness for those rolls!

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I hate chocolate. I have a gag reflex with chocolate. I was very unhappy at many birthday parties growing up, because of course there was always chocolate cupcakes or cake. I’m the only person that I know that dislikes chocolate. But I make up for it with other things.”

Favorite weather movie: “I love Groundhog Day. I’ve watched Groundhog Day as often as they’ve played the movie.”

Scott Padgett

One of the newest faces on the DFW weather scene, Padgett came to CBS 11 from Miami’s WPLG in August to do morning weathercasts. Unlike many of his fellow forecasters, he says he wasn’t interested in the weather as a kid — unless being terrified of it counts. “When I was young, like around 3 or 4, we were living in Colorado,” Padgett says. “To me, it seemed like there was a tornado that formed over our car. There was a funnel cloud off in the distance, but it seemed like it was over our car, and it freaked me out.”

When he was nearly 12, his family moved to Illinois and when thunderstorms happened, Padgett’s dad would make him go out on the porch and watch. “[That] helped me turn that fear into a fascination,” he says. “They were far enough away for me to see the lightning and count the time between the lightning strike and the thunder. It helped me really start to be interested in what was going on and what was happening, and I’d go in and watch the news and see what the meteorologists there were saying about the storms coming in.”

He went on to major in meteorology and minor in math and broadcasting at Western Illinois University, and got his first job before he was out of college at a station in Dubuque, Iowa — about 150 miles away from the WIU campus. “I would drive two hours on Fridays to do weather on Saturday and Sunday nights, and then drive back to do class,” he says.

T he trickiest part of forecasting North Texas weather? “Recently moving from a tropical climate, the biggest challenge has been winter forecasting. Especially ice-storm forecasting. Miami doesn’t see ice, so during the past six months I’ve really been challenged [in] waking up that part of my forecasting mind and dusting off my ice/snow/freezing rain forecasting.”

Keeping calm during severe weather: “I like to think of myself as a forecaster and not a ‘fearcaster.’ The last thing that someone at home wants is a meteorologist that is hyped up over severe weather. It is part of my job to remain calm. I remain humble knowing that I am just like everyone watching. I shop at the same places, fight traffic, fight allergies, enjoy outdoor fun, go to the same movie places but my job just happens to be on TV. Keeping that in the forefront of my mind helps me remain calm during severe weather events.”

Before the green screen: “My first job was at Imo’s Pizza near St. Louis. I was a pizza maker. I parlayed that into work at Chuck E. Cheese, and I made pizza there, and I was also the guy that dressed up as the mouse.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “My index finger on my left hand is shorter than the one on my right hand. When I was little, I was 2 or maybe 8 months, my mom was making chocolate-chip cookies. I wanted to watch her, so I grabbed a chair in our dining room, and I was pulling it over. Apparently I let go of the chair and the chair somehow teetered over and chopped the top of my finger off. It was just a little sliver but you can definitely see it if I hold them side by side. The doctor said, “He’s so young, it’ll just grow over,” and that’s what it did.”

Favorite weather song: “I sometimes use Sunshine on My Shoulder if it’s going to be a sunny day, and then of course there’s “The sun will come out Tomorrow.

KDFW/Fox 4

Dan Henry, chief meteorologist

Snow had a big effect on Henry, twice: Once when he was 9 years old, and a freak snowstorm hit his Bay Area town in California. “It was really the first time I’d ever seen snow in my life,” says Henry, who has been with Fox 4 since January 2003. “I remember a lot of the kids coming out of their houses and it was almost like a second Christmas Day. Of course, it was all gone by the afternoon.”

Not too long after that, Henry’s family moved to Delaware. “I think it was the middle of the sixth grade for me, within two weeks of moving out there, we got a huge, huge snowstorm on Presidents Day weekend 1979,” he says. “The funny thing was the forecast only called for 1 to 2 inches of snow. It ended up being 2 feet. School was literally closed for days. It was something that made quite an impression on me.”

Henry followed his weather fascination to Penn State, one of the country’s most respected meteorology schools, and later interned with the National Weather Service, which led to a research job and eventually a TV gig in Wilmington, N.C. And his weather obsession remains.

“If I’m on vacation somewhere and I see, maybe, a hurricane making landfall somewhere else or there’s severe weather breaking out in another part of the country, I can’t help but be glued to the TV for more information,” he says. “I don’t think it’s something that you can really shut off.”

First green-screen experience: At Penn State, two professors did a nightly weather show called Weather World from the campus public TV station. That was where Henry first stood in front of the green screen.

“It did not go well at all,” he says. “I was always the type of person that was petrified to get up in front of a group of people and talk. So I was very, very nervous. I think I stuttered and stammered all the way through it. And that was difficult for me to overcome, even in my first television job. For the first several months on the air. Every time that red light came on on top of the camera, I would freeze.”

The trickiest thing about forecasting North Texas weather: “Two things come to mind. The first pertains to winter weather. In particular, forecasting what type of precipitation we’ll get. Will it be rain, snow, sleet or freezing rain? Many times it comes down to 1-2 degrees in temperature that can spell the difference between a cold rain and wet roads, and an icy mix that can turn roads into skating rinks! The second pertains to severe weather and ‘the cap.’ The cap is a warm, stable layer of air typically found around 4,000 to 6,000 feet above the ground that we often see in spring. The tricky part: Will we or won’t we bust through that cap? If we don’t, we see a few lazy, fair-weather cumulus clouds and no storms. If we do, and the atmosphere above the cap is very unstable, we can see explosive thunderstorm development that can lead to severe storms blowing up very quickly.”

When a forecast goes wrong: Getting a forecast wrong? I thought we just got the days mixed up. All kidding aside, to work in this business, you need a thick skin and a short memory. You put a bad forecast behind you quickly and move on to the next event, otherwise it can really get you down. I tend to compare us to umpires. The vast majority of ‘calls’ we get correct and no one notices — but it’s the forecasts you bust that earn you more than a few ugly e-mails. And phone messages. I will say this — people in North Texas tend to be much more forgiving than other parts of the country I have worked in!”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I am a sports nut. I love not only watching but participating. I think my wife sometimes scratches her head and thinks, ‘Dan, really — you’re 46 years old, should you be doing stuff like that?’ Over the last few years, I’ve gotten into mountain biking. A couple of times I’ve probably taken on trails that I shouldn’t have been on and flown off the handlbars.”

Favorite weather song: “I don’t think they relate to weather, but Get Off My Cloud and Rock You Like a Hurricane [laughs].”

Evan Andrews

Andrews has been doing weather for Good Day since 1999, making him the longest-running morning meteorologist in DFW. He says his interest in weather goes back to when he was a kid.

“It was one of those things where you went outside in thunderstorms even though your parents told you not to,” he says. “But I did not go to school to be a meteorologist. I went to school to be an electrical engineer.” But after about 18 months, he felt like he needed to make a switch. “I decided meteorology was a lot more fun,” and that led to a master’s degree in meteorology, a couple of internships and his first job, doing weekend weather at a Madison, Wis., station.

First green-screen experience: “That was in Madison. I pointed the wrong way a couple of times. You have to remember it’s a mirror image. Everybody says ‘Move, you’re blocking my town.’ 

Most memorable weather event: “Hurricane Bob up in New England, when I had to watch a tree fall on my car and smash my car, and then go back in and broadcast for the next several hours, knowing that my car was flooded and I had no way of getting home.”

Before the green screen: “I was a DJ in college and high school, but I’m coming up on 29 years doing [weather]. I wouldn’t know how to do anything else, that’s the scary part.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I’m also a day trader. I grew up with my dad on Wall Street. I was a stock trader long before stock traders were in vogue.”

Favorite weather movie:The Day After Tomorrow. It was a great movie and totally meteorologically incorrect. These things could never happen, but it’s always fun to watch.”

Jennifer Myers

Myers came to Fox 4 in July 2012 after a two-year stint in El Paso, but “[weather] has always been part of my life,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, she says the weather didn’t get severe enough for her taste. “When my parents were planning vacations, they always asked me where I wanted to go, and it was always the place with the storms,” she says. “So I’d get to go to Florida, because it rains there all the time. That would make me really happy.”

Myers would end up going to school at the University of Oklahoma, in the heart of tornado alley. She graduated in 2010 with a bachelor of science in meteorology.

First green-screen experience: “It was horrible. I was bad. I expected it to be like a mirror, and I remember trying to point to things and pointing in the wrong direction, and your brain tries to compensate and you overcompensate, you get nervous and then your nerves get the better of you. It was just one of those experiences where you spent your whole entire life building up to this moment and then you do it and you’re like, ‘Oh, no — I’m not very good at this.’ 

The trickiest thing about forecasting North Texas weather: “How quickly things can change — and how one minor change can derail an entire forecast.”

When a forecast goes wrong: “Viewers can be pretty harsh when it comes to getting a forecast wrong. You get a lot of ‘must be nice to be wrong and still get paid’ comments that are actually pretty hurtful considering the kind of hard work and long hours you put into that forecast. You can get 10 forecasts right, and no one says a thing.”

Most memorable weather event: “Probably my first tornado. I chased a lot in college, because that’s what you do when you go to University of Oklahoma. I remember we had this caravan of probably six or seven cars, and most of us were freshmen, and I was in the second car. We see the tornado, and there are five cars behind us, and they just all turned around at the same time and went in the other direction, and we didn’t hear from them till we got back to the dorm. But the two lead cars chased the tornado. It was in Bigheart, Okla. It was beautiful, but it was scary. We saw skinned pigs. You go from ‘Wow, this is a tornado” to ‘This is something that hurts people.’ It demolished a farmhouse.”

Before the green screen: “I worked in food service. I was still slinging beer four years ago while I was in college. It paid my way through college.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I was a ballroom-dancing instructor in college. That was one of those weird things.”

Favorite weather movie: Twister. “I can quote that movie front and back. It’s completely scientifically inaccurate, but most people my age who are into meteorology have a special place in their heart for that movie. … That’s where I first saw University of Oklahoma, one of the characters was wearing an OU hat. Even at 8 years old, I was like, ‘Yep, that’s where I’m gonna go to school.’ 

KDAF/Channel 33

Krista Villarreal

When Krista Villarreal was a little girl, maybe as young as 3, she had no fear of thunderstorms. “I remember feeling physically energized by storms,” she says. “It was like I felt the energy from it.” What sealed the deal was a flood in Argyle, where she grew up, when she was in second grade. “It was actually the remnants of a dying Pacific hurricane, and my school was evacuated because of the flooding. I remember being carried from our school building by adults to cars that were waiting to get to higher ground. That made a big impact on me.”

The same year, she bought a Weekly Reader book about tornaodes that featured the 1979 Wichita Falls tornado, which had recently happened. “I have that book framed in my house, because it precipitated my interest in weather,” she says.

Villarreal has done fill-in weather stints on KDFW/Channel 4 and KTVT/Channel 11, as well as being lead weather anchor for CBS Radio Dallas, where she was heard on KRLD/1080 AM. She’s been at CW33 since June 2013 and has worked in other markets, but she’s probably best-known in DFW for her 1998-2004 gig at KXAS/Channel 5. And she likes to say that she’s a part-time meteorologist, full-time mom.

“But I think meteorology is unique from a lot of other professions,” she says. “I think for many of us, whether we’re getting paid to do it or not, once a meteorologist, always a meteorologist. But I’m not [a weather geek] to the extent that some people are. I do have a thermometer at home; I don’t have a full-blown weather station in my back yard.”

First green-screen experience: Villarreal, who worked at the National Weather Service, was studying for a master’s degree in marketing when she decided to give TV a try. She sent a tape to one station — in Lubbock, because she had heard that you should start in a small market. She got the job — but never took it.

“The day before I was to pack up and leave, Channel 5 called and said, ‘Hey, we need a weekend person,’ and they were aware of me from having interned and because I was a meteorologist at the National Weather Service,” she says. “So I got off my last shift at the Weather Service, ran over to Channel 5, talked to the news director and was given the job. I called Lubbock and said ‘Never mind!’ The following weekend, I was supposed to be shadowing Rebecca Miller to sort of get a feel for things, and Becky ended up throwing me on the air that morning. She said, “Ah, I think you’re ready,” and that was my first green-screen experience. It was ugly, I’m sure, but I’ve always felt very at home doing it.”

The trickiest part of forecasting North Texas weather: “This isn’t really specific to our region, but among the challenges would be the perception of the forecast. For some people, if the forecast states ‘scattered showers,’ but it doesn’t rain at their house, the forecast was wrong. However, let me say that the overwhelming majority of people understand the difficulty of predicting the future and are very kind.”

When a forecast goes wrong: “People love to joke with me, but I have found it rare to have someone truly angry about a forecast. … I’m often approached with the starting line, ‘I hate to bother you with this, but what do you think will happen tomorrow?’ I think it’s an honor to be part of people’s lives on a nearly daily basis to provide information they can use in decision-making — from what to wear and whether the T-ball game will be canceled to how to stay safe in an emergency.”

Most memorable weather event: “The Fort Worth tornado was probably the most memorable. March 28, 2000. I was supposed to be off the air already. David [Finfrock] was coming on shift and I was getting ready to leave. We just had a feeling that maybe I shouldn’t. Within an hour, we had visual confirmation on our tower cam, and that rolled into nearly nonstop coverage the next day. That was during my first year of TV. I had done a lot of tornadoes from the National Weather Service side, but it was very different doing it on the air.”

Before the green screen: I was a bus driver. I drove buses at A&M, which was a very fun job, actually. Although not so fun for the driving test. When you have to parallel park a bus with a DPS officer sitting behind you, it’s a little nerve-racking. I also drove one of those little machines that picks up the golf balls on the golf course, where everybody’s trying to hit you.”

The secret life of a meteorologist: “People are always kind of surprised at my musical tastes. I’m a bit of a rocker, and people don’t seem to take me for that. I may have attended some Metallica and Queensryche concerts in my day. I’m a child of the ’80s.”

Favorite weather song: “I’ve actually made a whole CD of weather songs. It’s very old now. I made it 20 years ago. But [Martha and the Vandellas’] Heat Wave is one of my favorites. Rock You Like a Hurricane, by the Scorpions, would be another.”

KXTX/Channel 39

Néstor Flecha

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Néstor Flecha experienced tropical weather and a couple of hurricanes. But he didn’t have his sights set on weather. “I wanted to be an airplane pilot,” Flecha says. “But you have situations where your parents maybe don’t have enough money to send you to an airplane-pilot school. So when I was in high school, I was looking for the closest thing to airplanes, and basically, that was the sky.”

Flecha found that he enjoyed tracking hurricanes, dot-by-dot on a map, when he was in high school. And while attending the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, he did some research for the National Weather Service. That led to a TV gig in San Juan, an internship at the National Weather Service headquarters in Fort Worth, and eventually to Telemundo 39, where he’s been since April 2013 — a month before the May 15 tornado outbreak.

“My wife is a meteorologist, too,” Flecha says. “She doesn’t work on TV — she didn’t like that. We … have weather vacations. We go to do storm chasing. We like to experience weather around here, and it’s very interesting because sometimes she’s my other hand. I’m here [at the station] and she’s sending me reports of ‘Hey, I’m having this kind of weather in this particular area.’ But she says one [TV meteorologist] in the family is enough.”

First green-screen experience: “It was in Puerto Rico doing TV. The weather all the time is pretty much the same. First day on live TV, I stood in front of the camera and knew nothing was going on, and they said, ‘You have to talk for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.’ I said the same thing like all over again, all over again, because I ran out of ideas.”

Most memorable weather event: “The May 15 [2013] tornado outbreak — I had been here for a month. People barely know you, and you’re telling them to “seek shelter, now.

The secret life of a meteorologist: “I’m a very young meteorologist with a lot of experience [Flecha is 25], and my viewers on the Spanish side, little by little they’ve figured it out: ‘Hey, this guy knows what he’s talking about.’ I’ve done TV for four years. I did school really fast. And in Puerto Rico, the official languages are English and Spanish — but everybody speaks Spanish. You have to take English classes when you are starting school. The English I speak is because of my education. When I went to college to get my degree in meteorology, all my professors were Anglos. But my broadcast is all in Spanish, no English.”

Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872 Twitter: @rphilpot

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