“I was star-struck. I mean, he’s a legend.” She ran to her car afterward to call home. “Mom, I met Gary England!”
Swope, now 25, is a meteorologist who works with England at Channel 9. “He’s seen the patterns so many times and he knows what’s going to happen, and a lot of times, that’s better than a computer model can do,” she said.
England has been fascinated by the weather since he was a boy in Seiling, a speck of a town in western Oklahoma. Weather was entertainment, he said, even though “it scared the daylights out of [him] when it was storming.”
As a child, he rode with his father on a bread truck route and, with a Brownie Hawkeye camera, photographed the towering storm clouds.
By the time he was in seventh grade, he would a watch 15-minute weather show every Sunday by Harry Volkman, one of Oklahoma’s first television meteorologists. One day, he pointed to Volkman and told his father he wanted to be “one of those.”
England left Seiling for the Navy because, through the military, he could attend weather school. After the Navy — 2 years, 11 months and 22 days, he says — he attended the University of Oklahoma.
Today, the university is home to the National Weather Center. But when he began in the fall of 1961, there wasn’t even a meteorology degree. England earned a mathematics degree with a meteorology option.
After college, England and his wife, Mary, and infant daughter, Molly, spent a few years in New Orleans, forecasting oceanographic and meteorological conditions for A.H. Glenn & Associates, a private weather service. But England longed for a television career, and for his home state, where tornadoes continued to kill and people had little warning.
He got his chance in Oklahoma City at KWTV, though his first news director was bothered by the small-town weatherman’s thick, western Oklahoma drawl.