Mike Clay, chief meteorologist
In 1985, I was a DJ for a radio station in central Texas. I had been interested in the weather since I was a kid and always thought I'd like to try to do the weather on TV. A friend knew the news director at the NBC affiliate in Waco. They needed a part-time weekend weathercaster but couldn't find anyone who would be willing to just work Saturday and Sunday nights. I contacted the news director about an audition. He wasn't too sure, but he knew me and allowed me to try. They loved my audition and about two months later made me their weekend weatherman. I worked seven days a week, weekdays at the radio station and weekends at the TV station, for a year. In September 1986, I moved to full-time weeknight weather at the TV station and stayed there for five years.
I was working at a TV station in Rockford, Ill., where I had been an intern while attending college. Because of a change in news directors, both meteorologists who had been promised Christmas Eve off were now required to work. I had been studying the weather, and I volunteered to do it. My first night forecasting the weather was Christmas Eve, and I had a blast. I filled in for the meteorologists after that, and I got the weekend weather job when the station added a newscast. I tell students that when they have an opportunity to try something, they should do it. You never know where it might lead you.
As an atmospheric science major at the State University of New York at Albany, I was enrolled in a forecasting class. The top three students got internships for the following semester. I placed third and took an internship with an Albany TV station. I loved it and knew that was what I wanted to do. The morning meteorologist for whom I interned had a friendly rivalry with a meteorologist at another station. One morning before a snowstorm, my boss called the other meteorologist and bet him that I had the better forecast for snowfall. I did. The next semester, I contacted the meteorologist who lost the bet and asked if I could help around the weather office. He was happy to have help. Later that year, Norm Sebastian, meteorologist with WNYT, told me he would be taking time off for a kidney transplant. He worked with me on my presentation skills so I could fill in when he left. I filled in on weekends for about 12 weeks while finishing my bachelor's degree.
I grew up in New Jersey and disliked school very much. I discovered that each time it snowed, we got out of school. I watched the weather in earnest, and by the time I was in first grade, I was hooked on meteorology, totally thrilled by snow and all types of storms. By age 6 I knew I was going to be a meteorologist. I went to Penn State for a bachelor's in meteorology and the University of Oklahoma for a master's. My first TV weather job was in Oklahoma, the nation's mecca for severe weather.
I had an interest in weather going back to elementary school. As a senior, my guidance counselor suggested I look for a university with a good meteorology program. I was accepted at N.C. State. When I was finishing my last year I still didn't know what direction I would go. I started with a computer research job at the National Weather Service headquarters near Washington, D.C. I quickly realized I was more of a "people person" and needed to get out from behind the desk. I moved back to North Carolina and picked up an internship with a TV station. I gained valuable experience in smaller cities and eventually made my way to work for Bay News 9.
I went to Penn State to pursue a degree in meteorology. While in school, I wasn't really interested in TV. I didn't feel comfortable speaking in front of people. The year before I finished my degree, I was hoping to get a job or an internship in my field, not necessarily in TV. The only person who replied to my letters was Joe DeNardo, a longtime TV meteorologist in Pittsburgh. He gave me an internship, helped me create a resume tape and encouraged me to do TV weather. After graduation, I was offered a job doing weekend weather in Steubenville, Ohio.