City Desk

Will the Weather Be the Same Without Bob Ryan?

Bob Ryan Retires

In 1996, big snowstorms didn't get fancy names on social media. All we had back then was Bob Ryan.

As the blizzard of '96 (still the third-largest three-day snowfall in recorded D.C. weather history, despite Snowmageddon and its ilk) approached, Ryan was getting punchy. A day or two before the snow arrived, I was home from college, watching the news with some friends in one of their parents' basements. I don't remember exactly what Ryan said, and I haven't been able to dig up any video online of the broadcast I have in mind, but 17 years later, I still remember marveling at the tone he struck on the air that night: One part alarmed, one part a little overwhelmed, three parts very, very, excited about the weather we were all about to experience.

Because Ryan has always been a meteorologist first and a TV personality second. (His fellow meteorologists, who made him the only TV weatherman president of the American Meteorological Society in 1993, agreed.)

His presence on the air—a little geekier and more awkward than your standard-issue anchor—made him iconic in his three decades at Channel 4. His move to Channel 7 in 2010 as part of the launch of the now-defunct was big news, even beyond the media reporting beat. Along with Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler and the late George Michael, Ryan had been part of what turned 4 into an unstoppable force in local TV news. But his retirement, announced yesterday, showed that Ryan, even at 70, still isn't one to rest on his laurels; part of the reason, he told the Washington Post, was disappointment over the failure of TBD and the end of WJLA-TV's experiment in digital news.

These days, like more and more Washingtonians, I don't watch the 11 o'clock news that often, preferring to watch The Daily Show or read. And when I do, also like most Washingtonians, I usually turn to Channel 4, not 7. But I faithfully follow Ryan on Twitter, where his personality is exactly the same as it is on the air. And when the weather drifts over the boundary from small-talk topic to bona fide news—like when Hurricane Sandy menaced last fall—I still flip over to 7 just to hear from the master. Nothing against Doug Kammerer, of course, but when things get primeval outside, it's reassuring to hear from the guy who's been telling you about the weather most of your life.

Finally, as we all begin to ponder a D.C. TV world without daily Ryan appearances, here's a look at his explanation of weather forecasting circa 1977, when he worked for Boston's WCVB. Spoiler alert: It involved facsimiles from Washington:

Screen grab via WJLA-TV

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  • APL he retiring? If so, your story is missing a really important lead.

  • Mike Madden

    @ APL:

    He is retiring, which the story mentions, and which was announced yesterday (so this isn't the first anyone's hearing of it).

  • Mark Hoekzema

    Having worked with/for Bob for 13 years from the late 80s to 2000, I can attest that your impression is pretty spot on. I was there working the 96 blizzard and it was a crazy 5 days of forecasting and broadcasting - I'm sure Bob was harried, but focused, and still communicating the forecast in clearest way the threats the storm would bring. And might I say - a very accurate forecast. The video is classic - Bob did many of those "educate the viewer" videos and there was always a silliness to them with a good dose of dry humor and puns. He was always meteorologist first and a TV guy a distant second.

  • truth hurts

    Nice portrayal of Bob Ryan and his boyish exuberance. I doubt he's 70, though. The guy still plays tennis with the energy of a teenager.

  • Jes’ sayin

    A pro's pro, a nice guy, and a part of our lives for decades.

    Thanks, Bob, for coming into our living rooms or bedrooms every night and telling us what to wear the next morning. And - twice a year - reminding us to spring ahead and fall back.

    You might not know all of our names, but we all know you. And we consider you our friend.

    Good night. And good luck.

  • Good riddance Bob…

    The original weather hype-master calls it quits...goodbye and good riddance!

  • saywhat14

    We are going to miss him, because this weather has been bi-polar, and I can't imagine getting any accurate readings after Bob is gone. But goodluck Bob in your retirement. Enjoy yourself.