The Norman Transcript

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October 27, 2013

Gary England can’t stop the rain, but he can start the parade

(Continued)

NORMAN —

“No one would hire me,” he said.

He started a private weather service in Oklahoma City but then his wife got pregnant and it was “time to get a real job,” he said.

He worked as a oceanographer and meteorologist in New Orleans for a time, then took a job back in Oklahoma with KTOK radio.

England credits the mentorship of Bob Riggins for helping him make the breakthrough.

“I was stiff,” he said.

England said Riggins told him, “I’m going to teach you how to laugh on the air.”

They invented the 805-pound thunder lizard.

As England began to make weather come alive via radio, people called in and he gained experience interacting with the public.

Eventually the general manager of Channel 9 called England and said, “You sound a little crazy but I want to talk to you.”

Now, 41 years later, Oklahomans can’t imagine not having him on the air.

“Almost everybody feels like he’s family,” Boren said, noting that England has been, by virtue of home television, in everyone’s living room.

“Gary is a scientist,” Boren said. “He is extremely involved in and keeps up with the science. It’s been great having him here today.”

OU developed Doppler radar’s use with storm predictions. England is credited with being the first on-air meteorologist to use commercial Doppler weather radar to warn viewers of an impending tornado.

Boren said as a child growing up in Seminole, he remembers people watching the skies and someone in the town with a whistle as a warning, but his family had no storm shelter.

“It was watch the skies,” he said. “That was so inadequate.”

Now the level of accuracy as to the path of a tornado allows for much more advanced warnings and England has broadcast those warnings, saving countless lives.

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