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Kevin O'Connell, Weatherman

Get to know a Buffalonian...

For the past 17 years, Buffalo born and raised Kevin O’Connell has manned the weather desk at WGRZ and faced the unenviable task of trying to forecast the weather in our notoriously unpredictable town. But the local media icon and one-time sub for Al Roker on NBC’s Today Show wouldn’t have it any other way.

You wake up in the morning and look outside. How would you describe the perfect Buffalo day?

My idea of the perfect weather day is early fall, where our top temperature may be in the low 70s with a little wind. I love to play golf on a day like that. I love winter, but it’s more fun in the eyes of the kids as opposed to the adults. But when there’s a good fall day, there is nothing prettier.

How competitive are the WGRZ forecasters with the other guys in town. Do you keep score?

We don’t really keep tab on the other guys. If we’re doing our job, with the number of changing forecasts that we make, it doesn’t give us time to pay attention to the other forecasts. We’re doing our thing and they’re doing theirs, and we like to allow the public to decide.

What is the most memorable weather moment you’ve experienced?

The Blizzard of ’77. That was the bar that was set, and everything afterwards will always be compared to that storm. It was the first time I could remember the weather bringing things to a screeching halt. It just didn’t stop, it was four straight days of the same look outside. Still every day you would hear these nice little stories about people helping each other out, in that typical Buffalo way. There was a professional and a personal side to that storm that was put to the test very simultaneously.

What are your feelings on global warming? Do you think the long-term climate in Buffalo changing?

Well, there doesn’t seem to be as many snow days as there were when I was a kid. I happen to believe that the climate is changing. I don’t claim to be an expert on climatology or anything, but I’ve see enough evidence from my limited amount of exposure to it. To think that everything is the same with all that we have done industrially is fooling yourself. I’m not professing that it’s this big conspriacy or anything, but my attitude is that things are changing and by changing people’s habits, although small, we can very slowly make a difference.

How often does the public hold you accountable for the forecasts that you make?

Do people call in to yell at you? Yeah, they probably do. There are times when we are going to be absolutely dead wrong and the public is going to let us know about it. There was one time when the father of a bride called in, he wanted to know whether or not to rent an expensive tent for the wedding. So I said go ahead and rent the tent, might as well prepare for rain. Those are the kind of questions you cringe about and just hope you can make a good call on.

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