Joe’s Weather Blog: Saying goodbye to a friend and co-worker (FRI-12/21)
By now I think you’ve heard that Chief Meteorologist Mike Thompson has decided to leave FOX 4 after more than 25 years. This will be the last time he does the 5/6/9/10 as Chief Meteorologist.
I’m going to miss him quite a bit.
When I came to FOX 4 some (gulp) almost 25 years ago from a much smaller station in Texas…Mike and I had lunch as part of my job interview. I don’t remember exactly where we went but I’m betting it was BBQ related. We had a nice chat about what I was doing in Texas and how I might fit into the expanded newscasts at FOX 4. He told me about the station…and the city. Typical stuff really.
For you history buffs, remember that we used to be a NBC affiliate back in the day…and when we switched affiliations over to FOX a lot of folks, including me, were wondering how in the world we could be successful with doing so many newscasts in a day. What? 3 hours in the morning? Are you crazy? No one will watch 3 hours of morning news…now we do 6 straight hours and you, our viewers have responded
So in our “interview” conversations he struck me as a very nice person who didn’t seem to have much of an ego at all. That was what I was wondering about. Me, in my small town TV station, coming to the “big” city and hearing from others how, when you make that giant leap in TV markets…all you work with are people who consider themselves very self-important. Now this was back in the mid 90s..things are a bit different now.
That wasn’t Mike…not even close. He was and still is a very humble person. Not an ego to be found…and that is what put me at ease with coming to KC way back in the day. I have never had any regrets in that decision.
Through the years…he’s taught me a few things…I know I’ve taught him a few things…and we just in general had a great working relationship. I will be the 1st to tell you that there were times when we disagreed on a forecast..tremendously. Now in some weather offices that would be trouble. I’m fully aware of some stations where whatever the Chief says has to be “the word” and that’s the end of that.
Mike, to his VERY large credit was never even remotely like that. His philosophy has been…whoever is on the air has to be the one to do that actual forecast…in other words you have to have conviction in what you believe will happen. You’re on duty…you’re on the air…you’re the one who decides what to say. That isn’t necessarily the standard in some places…but at FOX 4 it was.
This approach, at times, had Mike and myself in different forecast “places”. I won’t lie to you and tell you I was right all the time…or he was right all the time…that’s not the point. My goodness almost 25 years of forecasts will get you to some strange places with our crazy weather What is the point is that he’d let me voice my thoughts…wouldn’t treat me any differently…perhaps I could talk him into something…perhaps he could talk me into something…and that would be the end of it. There was no inter-office drama that lingered for any length of time…I said my piece (and he respected me for saying it) and he said his piece and as we justified our forecast thoughts with each other we both learned.
The changing weather landscape from a data standpoint is what has struck me the most over the years. The advent of the internet for gathering weather data is an amazing thing. Mike was a bit more old school than that for awhile but in time he saw the abundance of information (as we all have over the years) and embraced the new ways of getting data. Folks who would come to the office to visit, who were involved in weather, would almost…to a person..remark that Mike was still posting daily upper air maps on the walls and referring to them. That, these days is just about unheard of.
Over the years so many of you have relied on his “calm” approach to severe weather coverage…nothing too “over the top” compared to other presentations…just sort of the facts. Mike and I have covered dozens of severe weather events over the years together…just him and me..dealing with all the insanity that comes with tornadoes…hail…damaging winds…you name it. It was always so comfortable to me to be his “right-hand” person through those events. Over the years you sort of get into an ebb and flow of severe weather coverage…it was NEVER about him…it was NEVER about him being the only one to stay on the screen…it was NEVER about him having too big of an ego to shove others to the side so he could shine. Back in the day I think we sort of pioneered the double coverage of severe weather in Kansas City that most others have come to rely on now.
From a personal standpoint…we always got along very well…we’d crack each other up in the office so many times…he is/was such a routine type of person…every day…1:30 PM…he’d be there…not 1:45…or 2PM…1:30…maybe 1:25…you could practically set your clock to it like a Florida thunderstorm.
We did/do have different views of snow though. See I like it…a lot. He hated it…a lot! Never had many kind words to say about it really. He hates driving in it…he hates how it messes up the truck he drives…in general he hates snow. All good…a lot of folks probably agree with him.
He’s also not one to be too warm. The 1st thing he’d do, when it was 100° outside and he’d get inside the office is turn on the space heater. It was so funny. I’d be there dripping and the heater would be on! He likes it warm in the office…it can’t be too warm really for him. That always struck me as funny.
Over the years he’d help out hundreds of different events…routinely step in for Santa at the VA Hospital and in general do a lot for the community at large. Always with a happiness that is tough to duplicate.
Of course he will be remembered for many other things…and odds are some of you, when you were younger perhaps came to one of the School Day presentations we did. He put so much of that together. It was truly his “baby”. Scripts that were almost 50 pages were typical. Usually he’d start around Thanksgiving and start getting the ball rolling for a presentation that wasn’t till early May. Over the years several hundred thousand school kids would came out to learn about the weather. His shows have been copied around the country in various forms from other TV stations and other baseball teams. From the sold out days at Johnson County Community College where we did 3 shows in one day…to the sold out shows at the “K”…KC area area school children created lasting memories. Now I have parents talk to me about how they came out to the “K” when they were younger to see the “School Day” presentation and now they take their kids out there to have fun…learn…and watch some Royals baseball. Back in the day…the Royals would only draw 1000 kids for a School Day presentation and now each year over 15,000 routinely come out. Mike had station help…but it was his “baby” through and through.
As they say though…the show must go on…and next year we’ll be doing it on Thursday May 2nd I think.
Mike…I’ll miss you…but I know we’ll chit-chat about the weather and a forecast every so often. Just remember if you visit the station down the road…bring a sweater…because the office will be considerably cooler! Best of luck to you on behalf of all of us at FOX 4 as well as the FOX 4 viewer family.