Fox Channel 13′s former chief meteorologist Roy Leep died Tuesday. He was 88.
Leep was a beloved fixture on local TV for four decades, providing straightforward updates during stressful storms and delighting audiences with his trusty sidekick, Scud the weather dog.
Weather was always Mr. Leep’s life, said his wife, Jane. In fact, it was what tied their love story together.
They met at a teen dance in Louisville, Kentucky, in the late 1940s. Mr. Leep noticed her blond hair and said he fell in love at first sight. For their first date, he brought her to the airport to show her the weather station where he volunteered.
They split during college. Mr. Leep went off to study at Florida State University, where he would broadcast the weather forecast on the radio. Someone from Tampa happened to hear him on air and invited him to interview at WTVT in 1957. He started working there later that month, and stayed for four decades.
Leep became chief meteorologist in 1959. He was a pioneer in meteorology, embracing new technology at WTVT.
”We were the first station that had weather radar, the first to use GOES satellite radio,” said Fox Channel 13 chief meteorologist Paul Dellegatto. “Our TV station, our weather department was probably considered the best in the country because of him.
”That’s how Jane found him again, years after their high school romance. In the early 1990s, she was visiting Tampa Bay for a work trip and turned on the TV in her hotel room. There was her old flame reporting the weather.
Both were married at the time, but they caught up over lunch before she caught her flight to Colorado. Years later, when Mr. Leep was divorced and Jane’s husband died, they started talking on the phone every night. They were married in January 1996, and she joined him in Tampa.
By then, Leep had already started appearing with Scud the weather dog, a cairn terrier named after a type of low, ragged, fast-moving clouds often seen after storms pass.
“She was low. We didn’t keep her trimmed. She was ragged. And boy was she fast,” Jane remembered. “Roy told me she got more fan mail than anyone else at the station.”
Jane became Scud’s costume mistress, keeping a chest of drawers filled with the sunglasses, hats and outfits that people sent. She remained a fixture until Leep retired as chief meteorologist in 1997. That same year, the station named the Roy Leep Weather Center after him.
“He took what he did seriously. Even on days when it was sunny and nice, he was the ultimate meteorologist,” said Dellegatto, who took over after Leep retired.
”He was doing weather at a time when there was no other way to get weather. There was no apps. There was no internet.”
Leep’s love for sharing the weather didn’t stop after he left Fox Channel 13. In 2003, he started his own weather station, forecasting from his condo for his neighbors at the University Village retirement community.
As “resident meteorologist,” his updates were shared on in-house TV station channel and via his Twitter account, @CW1018_UNIVLG.
Jane remembers he was up early or staying up all night to monitor storms.
She thinks he would be most proud of designing the Channel 13 SkyTower radar.
”I remember he told me he used to sit up on the roof and eat his lunch and watch the builders as they built SkyTower,” she said. ”He just loved the weather and that was his life.”
Information from Times archives was used in this article.