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Local News

May 27, 2013

When tornadoes strike, Oklahomans trust veteran TV weatherman

(Continued)

Describing himself as an Okie living his dream, England also has a folksy and offbeat sense of humor and a persona that’s pure country, sprinkling his reports with exclamations of gosh, good gracious, and great God almighty.

He calls computers and other high-tech equipment “rascals.” Oklahoma City is “the big town” and menacing storms “the big uglies.” He advises viewers without storm cellars to take shelter in a bathtub and cover themselves with blankets and pillows.

“The ability to take highly technical weather information and translate it into the way in which a rural Oklahoman who’s running a wheat or cattle farm can understand is critically important,” said Kevin Kloesel, director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, a state agency. “If you could call a language Oklahoman, Gary speaks it and invented some of the phrases for it.”

For years England would do segments on the “thunder lizard,” which he described as a 805-pound creature that changed color with the weather. It was completely fictitious, and viewers, in on the joke, called in with tongue-in-cheek reports about run-ins with the beast.

One night on Facebook he wrote one of his favorite lines: “Jump back, throw me down, Loretta, it’s Friday night in the Big Town!” It’s his way of expressing excitement, and his fans commented immediately. “I love you,” one man wrote. “You are an inspiration to my life, and if I was a female, I would marry you.”

At the parades, school assemblies and community picnics he attends throughout the state — he once rode a bucking bull in a rodeo — smiling fans clamor for him, shove babies into his hands, pose for photos and demand autographs.

His quirks are so familiar that in 2006 two University of Oklahoma students — one a self-described weather nerd — created the Gary England drinking game, now played statewide.

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