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The Weather Dude by Nancy Kolsti
Spring 2004      

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The Weather Dude


The "Inauguration Day Windstorm" in 1993 sent gusts up to 100 mph to Seattle and other cities in Washington. The storm toppled trees and power poles, forcing widespread closure of roads. More than 600 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage.

The windstorm was also the start of a new career for Nick Walker ('77), a news anchor and reporter at KIRO-TV in Seattle.

Walker had been filling in for one of the station's meteorologists, who had suddenly quit. He expected to return to news reporting in a few months. But after his reports about the storm, he became hooked on weather.

"Only one person died in Seattle. I realized that weather reporting saves lives," Walker says. "It's what I've wanted to do ever since."

Eleven years later, Walker has one of the most prestigious jobs in weather forecasting: on-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel in Atlanta. He's the co-host of First Outlook, which airs weekdays from 4 to 6 a.m. Central time.

DJ to storm tracker

  photo by Kay Hinton

Nick Walker


A Fort Worth native, Walker didn't consider a career in meteorology when he entered North Texas in 1971. He majored in communications and worked as a disc jockey for KNTU-FM.

"The radio station was a great experience because I learned to ad lib. Today, almost everything I say on camera is an ad lib," he says.

After graduating, Walker worked briefly for a Denton radio station, then switched to television. He was hired by a San Angelo station.

"I shot film, wrote stories and anchored. It was a great place to start," he says.

Walker then worked at television stations in Austin and Wichita, Kan., before joining KIRO-TV in Seattle.

After deciding to make weather forecasting a career, he earned a certificate in broadcast meteorology through a correspondence program at Mississippi State University.

Singing about snow

Walker doesn't just explain weather to the business travelers who are the primary audience for his Weather Channel show. As the "Weather Dude," he regularly gives presentations to elementary school students. A musician since high school, Walker also produced a CD, Sing Along With the Weather Dude, with 10 songs to explain weather to children.

He became the "Weather Dude" when his Seattle station asked him to speak at an elementary school.

"A teacher suggested I sing a weather song to keep her class's attention. I wrote a little rap song, and later wrote two more songs. Then I decided to do a recording," Walker says.

His CD and the accompanying book are now being used in classrooms across the United States. Walker also maintains a web site ( to answer questions about the weather.

"Explaining weather to students keeps me sharp. Once in a while, a question will stump me, and I'll go to one of The Weather Channel experts for the answer. I always learn something new," he says.

Taking weather seriously

Since joining The Weather Channel, Walker has covered several significant weather events, including Hurricane Floyd in September 1999 and the Fort Worth and Arlington tornado in March 2000.

Walker says large storms increase viewership of the channel.

"The weather determines the ratings. A snowstorm impacting only a small area is not going to get the audience of a snowstorm that affects several major metropolitan areas like New York and Boston," he says.

He says the biggest challenge facing meteorologists is finding a line between underplaying a storm and overwarning about it.

"You want to err on the side of caution, giving people the idea of the storm's potential without scaring them," he says.

When weather isn't always as predicted, some blame the meteorologist, he says.

"Hurricane Floyd looked like it would hit Florida at first, but it passed Florida by. People who had prepared for the storm were mad at us," he says.

At the same time, others don't take The Weather Channel seriously.

"Lots of people like to poke fun at it," Walker says, adding that clips of him aired in comedy bits on the Late Show With David Letterman and Comedy Central's The Daily Show. "But it does provide a valuable service. When I was a news reporter, not everyone watched my stories, but just about everyone watches the weather. After I started doing weather in Seattle, people would actually come to me on the street to talk."

And while Walker feels gratification in providing useful information about approaching storms, he personally prefers quieter weather.

"My favorite weather is blue sky, temperatures in the 70s and low humidity," he says. "We only get a few days like that in Atlanta. But it's always wonderful when it happens."

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