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With his 5-year-old daughter’s iPad and his 12-year-old son’s laptop perched on a clothes hamper, WFTS’ Chief Meteorologist Denis Phillips is now broadcasting the station’s evening forecasts from his Palm Harbor living room.
Working from home has its challenges since his wife, Robyn, his mother-in-law, five of his six children, two mini labradoodles and a cat are all there, too..
On his first remote report this week, the two dogs barked when the doorbell rang and eventually wandered onto the “set.” Instead of trying to ignore the distractions, Phillips, in his familiar affable style, introduced son Jake and the family pets, Longo and Baxter. Baxter was carrying a stuffed toy.
During his Facebook Live broadcast Thursday, he gave viewers a tour of his house and described the contents in the glass curio cabinet in the background of his remote studio.
“There is the key to the city that Tarpon Springs gave to me after Hurricane Irma, my son’s math trophy awards, my Emmy and a couple four packs of Rule #7 beer — which if this working from home gets too bad I can break open,” he said. (The beer was named to commemorate his seven hurricane rules made famous after his coverage of Hurricane Irma). He has been doing the live social media broadcasts every Tuesday and Thursday evening since Hurricane Irma.
Now, instead of the weather, viewers are talking about social distancing.
“Thanks for sharing your life and your kids with us,” commented one viewer. Another said, “We’re all feeling the work-from-home struggle.”
On last night’s Facebook stream, his daughter Ryan gave a keyboard performance to the audience and was trying to take over the station-loaned microphone from Phillips when 12-year-old Jake came in to declare dinner was ready. “He’s so excited because we are having stuffing and he loves stuffing,” Phillips told viewers.
As of Friday, Phillips said all four of the WFTS-Ch. 28 meteorologists are broadcasting from their homes. They can to connect to the weather center at the station’s Tampa offices.
Most importantly, he is still wearing suspenders for his broadcasts. He said that is because of a conversation with boss Sarah Moore.
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"Her take was if you’re not wearing suspenders, people might be freaked out,” Phillips said. “She nailed it because a lot of people commented on that online.”
When he’s not reporting the weather, Phillips said his family is working on a lot of puzzles and playing board games. He’s also staying in close touch with his oldest son, Brett, 26, who, as a third-year medical student at Tulane University in New Orleans, has been volunteering at local hospitals.
Phillips said he is trying to keep up his usual cheerful demeanor for the sake of his family and his viewers. He doesn’t even want to think about the upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1.
“I can’t imagine trying to track bad weather if this runs into hurricane season,” he said. “That’s a totally different case.”
That might be the time, he allowed, to crack open a Rule #7 “Stop freaking out....until I tell you to. We’re fine" craft beer.
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