It's the attitude.
August 9, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

“You know a storm is going to be bad, people in Oklahoma will tell you, when Gary England removes his jacket.” At Oklahoma City's Channel 9, Gary England is on the tail end of a legendary 40-year meteorology career featuring some of the most intense commercials ever) in the midst of Tornado Alley. Following in his Mizuno-clad footsteps (the choice of marathon standers) are the competition: Channel 4, featuring former reality star Reed Timmer of Storm Chasers, rising star Emily Sutton (just trying to get his attention... yeesh...) and, yes, The Dominator. Previously. posted by Madamina (23 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Every time news breaks of a big storm in Oklahoma, my wife regales me with stories of the Gary England drinking game from her days in Norman, OK. I'm starting to regret never seeing him live.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2013

The Times article is fantastic, but this part pissed me off.

Yellowman is 55 and lives in El Reno. Late on the afternoon of May 31, as the EF5 was bearing down on his city, he and four other Cheyenne holy men stood in their homes and enacted the ancient rituals. They spoke with the tornado. They asked it to have pity and turn away.

I am fairly certain that a tornado does not listen to some people and kill others.

Anyway, thanks for the link. I've never heard of Gary England, and now I'm glad I know more.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:48 AM on August 9, 2013

Oh hey, I used to work with a meteorologist who's a weather producer at that guy's station now. They were ecstatic to work with him, but I had no idea he was such a big deal. Also, I just showed that "Calm Before the Storm" tornado promo to the promotions guys at our station because it's the best local news promo that has ever been made in the history of the world. "Listen to Gary England... he's gonna let us know, it's okay..."
posted by jason_steakums at 10:54 AM on August 9, 2013

This gives me a bit more context for why an Oklahoman college friend told me that until he went to school in the northeast, his dream was to become a famous meteorologist.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hadn't heard of Gary England until reading that article this morning. Guess it must have been pretty good.
posted by Madamina at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2013

This is a great post; thank you for all these links. I am saving this to show to all the meteorologists I work with; I think they're going to get a real kick out of it... and I know it'll give at least one of them the inspiration he needs to keep on in his field. This is fantastic.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

My friend's husband works on that weather team (and is mentioned in the story). Now I know why he made her move to Oklahoma City. We were baffled, surely there's another market to do the weather in. After reading the article, it makes a bit more sense.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:27 AM on August 9, 2013

He sounds like the predecessor to Jim Cantore, the man to send into the worst weather.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jim Cantore likes Hootie AND Nickelback, and he mentions his collection of Japanese maples before his kids.

posted by Madamina at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2013

Born and raised in Oklahoma; didn't move to Texas till '96. This article is spot-on. If there's bad weather, you turn to Gary England on the TV (or a radio simulcast).

As one commenter said, "Gary England was the voice of safety in my childhood."

It's also weird to see Chickasha mentioned in the NYT. I graduated from Anadarko HS (17 miles to the west) in '93, and went to college at USAO in Chickasha. Always fun to correct people not from the area when they try to pronounce it - it's chick-a-shay, not chick-a-shaw.
posted by mrbill at 11:53 AM on August 9, 2013

In the sixth grade (growing up in Oklahoma), I was convinced I wanted to be a meteorologist specifically because of Gary England. Once I discovered how much math went into being a meteorologist, I decided to become an engineer instead. In college, while we played Gary England drinking games, I was always a bit bitter because there were no engineers that were so popular and recognizable in the media.

As an aside: I was visiting my parents during the May 31st tornado in El Reno, and we wound up being in the immediate path of the thing. After the dust had settled and things were fine, I was quite astounded to discover that Gary England is 73, which is almost the same age as my grandmother, who can barely handle email. He has handled the advancement of technology with grace and aplomb. It appears that he is also retiring at the end of August. The end of an era, indeed.
posted by conradjones at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

That is possibly the most despairing use of the phrase "I've been eating too many nachos" ever to appear in the New York Times.
posted by ormondsacker at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am fairly certain that a tornado does not listen to some people and kill others.

And Gordon Yellowman believes differently. The article is reporting what they did and what they believed. You don't have to take that as an endorsement.
posted by anastasiav at 12:25 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's also weird to see Chickasha mentioned in the NYT

It was even stranger when we made the BBC, twice this past May. Great to see Gary getting some love. He is a state treasure.
posted by the_royal_we at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lol!! Emily Sutton reminds me of this.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:32 PM on August 9, 2013

I read this article this morning and being a native Oklahoman, forwarded it on to a few friends. Gary England is legendary. I feel bad for David Payne. He is competant in his field, but has enormous Mizunos to fill. Hard act to follow. Unless you have seen his coverage as well as other local coverage, I am not sure a person can comprehend how calm he generally remains and what that can mean to people. Another local metrologist, Mike Morgan, came under fire for his coverage during the May 31 storm for his hyperbole and questionable advice during that crazy storm that kept crossing highways. Storm chasers have been relieved of their duties for on air hysterics. Residents rely on what these professionals say to make decisions that can save their life and their demeanor trickles down to the public., especially those who didn't grow up in the area and find even the threat of tornadoes terrifying.

I found the part about the Cheyenne very interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I know Yellowmans wife and I know how hard they work at trying to keep the history and traditions of the tribe alive and intact. I am not surprised they guard some things so tightly - people are very willing to take potshots at things they don't understand and i think those ancient traditions and rituals are hard for even some current members of the tribe< much less the rest of us, to grasp. Second, Gary England is a man of science. I have literally grown up watching him - i was 5 when he began. The progress that was made in the field of meterology in those 40 years is astounding. We have gone from a minute or two of warning to 15 to 20 minutes.They accurately pinpoint days that the threat is elevated as much as a week ahead of time. On both of the days of the largest tornadoes in May, stations had been reporting that conditions would be ripe for that kind of weather for several days. It is really unbelievable when you think about what they are able to predict. And despite the fact Gary England has been a part of all these advances in technology, prediction and understanding, he is still interested in the how native peoples dealt with the dramatic weather for centuries.

This all makes me think of my grandmother. On May 3, 1999, my husband was out of town and she and i took my 4 year old out to dinner. Granny was 82 at the time. We were about 75 miles to the west of the developing storms that day. Even though the skies were clear and the evening beautiful where we were, we could see the back side of the weather to our east. She said "now that's a bad cloud". Sure enough, it was a very bad cloud. Sometimes there is no substitute for experience and wisdom and that's what we will miss once England is off air.
posted by domino at 1:41 PM on August 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

Lifelong Okie here. This is all pretty much spot on, but there would be no Gary England without Fred Norman. Fred was the KING.
posted by HyperBlue at 2:31 PM on August 9, 2013

This weatherman is on Senator Inhofe's list of "scientists" who deny anthropological climate change. He should be ridiculed, not celebrated.
posted by bzn at 4:58 PM on August 9, 2013

Talk to me, Val!

For those of us latchkey kids, Gary was a very important part of our lives, especially during those 4-6pm hours during tornado season. KWTV was aware of this (I always wondered if angry parents had called into the station complaining that Gary was scaring the living bejeebus out of us), because at some point during the 1980s, Gary started actually started saying things on air like "Now for those of you kids who are home alone, don't panic, here's what to do..." How many of us grew up with the sound of his voice saying "lowest level, center of your home" ingrained in our brains?

David Payne is more than suited to the task of filling Gary's shoes and will do a terrific job. Damon Lane has been doing a splendid job filling Rick Mitchell's shoes at KOCO. I really like that both of them have more chilled out and calm personalities.

It's funny that the NYT mentions Emily Sutton's May 19 coverage at KFOR because that was the night in which I started being repelled by Mike Morgan and his Severe Weather Tie (which has its own Facebook group, BTW), as he barked at her repeatedly while she was chasing the Norman/Shawnee storm. He just seemed really unhinged and unprofessional. I'd like to be a fly on the wall over at KFOR's weather room because it's starting to feel like a huge clash of egos when Morgan and Reed Timmer are on air at the same time. If it feels this awkward from a viewer perspective, I can't imagine what it's like in that weather room.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:05 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I gave up Mike Morgan too, that afternoon, Zira. He sounded totally flaky, almost hysterical, while I needed Gary England calmness to figure out the direction of the tornado. I like Emily, but she was demoted to non prime time hours.
posted by francesca too at 7:03 PM on August 9, 2013

When I lived in the area Gary England was spoken of in really high regard; what I saw of him I liked but we got most of our severe weather/news coverage from KFOR.

I giggled to see Emily Sutton and Reed Timmer mentioned in the post because there's a local media blog that has, in the past, shipped them as a couple.

Yes. Weather coverage is such a big deal in Oklahoma that fan fiction is very nearly written about it.
posted by HostBryan at 7:53 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Man, the more I think about it, the more I miss OKC-area weather coverage. Where I live now, the weather coverage is basically babytown frolics.
posted by HostBryan at 7:56 PM on August 9, 2013

"He has become a cult figure: a combination of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Foghorn Leghorn, Atticus Finch, Dan Rather, Zeus and Uncle Jesse from “The Dukes of Hazzard."

This may be the best description of anything I've seen all week.
posted by 4ster at 9:44 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

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