There are only a few people you trust with your day’s journey more than your weatherperson. There might be God, to whom many profess the day’s gratitude’s; their spouse, to whom they wish a good day, their children, but that one is iffy especially if you have hormonal ones who might possibly be sour before the day has begun.
But, your weather “go to” is the one you keep your eye on before you rush out the door, trying to make meetings and dinner dates while navigating the rainy roads, to contemplating your wardrobe to suit your plans while keeping you cool and dry, to the larger issues of where do we go when the harmful weather strikes. Many devotees throughout the Suncoast turn their attention to ABC 7 Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan.
With a commanding presence and good looks that make you think he has worn an acting hat or two, it is surprising to learn that the on-air charisma and at-ease motions on set are traits Bob Harrigan was born with. The skilled reporting of real-time weather is something he studied at the University of Kansas, where living in “Tornado Alley” provided a great backdrop for his extensive training. But the eye-catching and fan-attracting way that he delivers the day’s weather on television is the result of just one basic journalism class, and television was never even in his plan. Thankfully, an astute boss suggested he try some broadcasting, and the rest, as they say, is history.
So how many times a day does Bob Harrigan get asked about the weather? Probably too many, but this weather guy doesn’t seem to mind explaining the “hows” and “whys” to friends and neighbors and faithful fans he may see while out for breakfast or running errands. As he explains it, “You never leave the weather, the weather is always there.” With today’s technologies, including satellite imagery, radar, and forecast models, he finds himself with a nonstop 24/7 work schedule. He calls these “opportunities to see what is going on,” rather than feeling the weight of his enormous responsibilities. He says, “The technology on my smartphone is more advanced than the technology I had in the first 15 years of my career.” And with that, every phone owner has access to instant weather via their apps. The problem with that is, depending on the app, your phone receives an automated update and if the source isn’t good, then you’ll always have bad weather advice on your phone. But, this is also a benefit, because this ensures job security for the trained weatherpeople. The constant information cycle, along with the time he spends out in the weather determining forecasts, has Bob continuously prepping for his 5:00 P.M., 5:30 P.M., 6:00 P.M., 7:00 P.M., and 11:00 P.M. forecasts. Phew! When does this guy sleep?
When you think of being in the “eye of the storm,” where hurricane hunters are bound to go, feelings like fear, anxiety, death-wish, and utter illness ensue. But for Bob, who has entered the eye not once, but many times during Hurricane Bertha, a Category 3 hurricane, which he describes as “a heck of a ride,” and again, during Hurricane Ivan, a Category 4 hurricane, which he said was wild because “they flew at night and, interestingly, there was a guy on board from NASA who was conducting remote testing. They were using a head of a pencil to determine wave heights, which in turn, could determine other happenings on distant planets.” He describes the eye of the storm as “extremely calm, you could get up and walk around the plane, and take video. Meanwhile, below, there were waves that were 20 to 30 feet tall.”
The million dollar question to many Floridians is what does this hurricane season look like? Beginning June 1 and running through November 30, this is the season locals are most concerned with. Bob will tell you there are many outlets who provide the season’s forecast, and the group that has been doing it the longest is Colorado State University. Their prediction is for an above-average hurricane season, which means “about 13 named storms, maybe seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.” Bob goes on to explain that, “this is slightly above the average which is 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.” The projection is for a warming trend in the main Atlantic Ocean development area, coupled with a decreased chance that El Nino will develop, Hopefully, everyone remains cautious and vigilant during this time and makes arrangements for pets, home safety, possible evacuation plans, and sufficient supplies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a food and water supply list in case of natural emergencies which can be accessed at http://www.emergencykits.com/emergency-kits.
Bob Harrigan feels a kinship to his viewers and a responsibility to give back when he can. He thinks that “all people who are in the spotlight should do what they can to help their communities,” so, he works with more than a dozen charities around Manatee and Sarasota Counties and wouldn’t have it any other way. He is gracious about lending his name and time to many around the Suncoast with a list that is always growing. On that rare moment when he isn’t weathering the storms and providing our forecasts, he is deciding whether the junk he finds along the road can be transformed from trash to treasure. That’s right, our very own favorite weatherman is also doing his part to keep discarded items from landfills, and he insists most of the furnishings in his home, and that of many of his relatives’ homes are items he and his wife have lovingly refurbished.
So, the next time you are feeling relieved that you are in the know when it comes to the day’s weather, please thank our very own Bob Harrigan. His steadfast concern for the Suncoast is keeping residents informed and empowered to remain safe during Florida’s Hurricane Season and beyond.
Photos courtesy of Bob Harrigan.