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  1. Life & Culture

When the weatherman has an unexpected assistant

A weekly conversation with Paul Dellegatto, an experienced meteorologist with charisma

Times Correspondent

Chief meteorologist Paul Dellegatto spent the recent lockdown giving the Fox 13 weather forecast from home. His golden retriever, Brody, was the guest comic. One day, Brody bumped Dellegatto’s keyboard and froze the weather maps. Then, front paws on Dellegatto’s lap, his head almost level with his pal’s, Brody yawned. “Didn’t mean to keep you up,‘' Dellegatto deadpanned. The clip went viral worldwide.

Dellegatto, 59, arrived at WTVT in 1990 and became chief meteorologist in 1997. He talked to the Tampa Bay Times about his career, the challenge of forecasting in Florida, how he lost his Boston accent and Brody’s rise to stardom.

What was it like having Brody join you on air?

The thing about broadcasting from home and having a golden retriever … it’s impossible to sit in your office without the dog getting involved. Especially when the dog is 11 months old.

You can’t put him in his crate, ‘cause he’s going to squeal. You can’t tell him to stay away, ‘cause it’s not going to happen…There were times at night when he would fall asleep because he was tired, but generally speaking, in the evening broadcast, he’s going to get his nose into what I’m doing.

How did Brody gum up the works?

He has this tendency, he does it now, … he’ll put his head either in my lap or, when I have my laptop, he puts his head on the laptop … If he hits the wrong key – I don’t know what key that is – it prevents me from changing the maps, and if I can’t change the maps I’m kind of, like, in trouble.

Since the pandemic began, Paul Dellegatto conducts his climate segment from his home. Its producer records it from the window. Photo: Courtesy Paul Dellegatto [Photo: Courtesy Paul Dellegatto]

Did he get fan mail from viewers?

I think I’ve had emails and messages and social media messages probably from every continent. It’s crazy. A lot of people in Australia were messaging me. The morning it was on CBS morning news, it was on the “Today Show,” it was on “Good Morning America” ... I got email from random people just around the country who watched it. And I think there’s a pretty big golden retriever following ... Everybody who had a golden retriever could see what he was doing and certainly relate. “Oh, yeah, my dog would do that, too.”

It’s been reported that in peninsula Florida, forecasting the weather is more difficult. Is it?

I’m not going to say it’s the most difficult in the country to forecast because, I mean, I grew up in New England, and I can tell you, anyone that’s from the Northeast knows that one day it’s 80, the next day it’s snowing, the next it’s this and next day it’s that …

I mean we certainly have our challenges … A lot of people say, “You live in Florida, so it rains every afternoon in the summer at 4 o’clock,” and the reality is it doesn’t. That’s probably the biggest misconception of people ... It can rain in the morning. It can … rain all day. It can rain at all different times a day. Some days you can get an inch of rain, and you can go five days with no rain. So, I think it’s more challenging than people think.

Why did you go into this profession?

I had a fascination with snowstorms … I always told my parents, “I want to be a meteorologist.” I would draw my own maps and I would mail them to all the meteorologists in Boston and just write them letters. … I was lucky. I tell my kids, I said find something, if you can, that’s in your blood, because it makes it lot of easier to have a career path if you find something that you really have a passion for.

In a past interview, you talked about taking a job Winston-Salem, N.C, when you still had your Boston accent.

I still “pahked the cah,” as Boston an accent as you can have. So I’m up there for a while being on TV, I realized that – my boss realized – that I needed to go to speech school. So I actually went to a lady’s house in Dallas and stayed with her for a whole week, living in her house, where I just learned to pronounce my r’s right. It doesn’t fix you 100 percent, but it certainly kind of made it so people could understand me.

Were you nervous when you first went on camera?

Yeah. I remember my first broadcast in Portland, Maine. It was funny because the one thing I do remember about that, the tides are a big deal, and it was before the internet, so a lot of boaters would watch TV – they just want to have the tide information. And tides up there, there are huge differences between (them). Unlike here – we have a foot or two difference – up there it’s a lot. But I got them all backwards on TV ... I have low tide is high tide and high tide is low tide, so I had a couple of boaters call me up and go, “Dude'' – in a Maine accent – “It’s not high tide, it’s low tide, you idiot.‘'