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Local News

May 27, 2013

When tornadoes strike, Oklahomans trust veteran TV weatherman


“We need to get Gary’s voice fixed,” England recalled the man saying.

“I was country,” England said. “Every news director who came along tried to clean me up, and they never did.”

He would laugh on the air. He told unscripted jokes and started talking about the thunder lizard. His ratings skyrocketed.

Forecasting techniques were still developing, and severe storm warnings usually came too late.

“In the beginning, I would only warn Jane a tornado was coming because John’s house blew away,” he said.

At England’s urging, KWTV purchased its first weather radar in early 1973. In the 1980s he became one of the first TV weathercasters in the world to use Doppler radar, which can detect precipitation and the speed and direction of wind to make forecasts.

With the Doppler radar, England often sounded the alarm before the National Weather Service’s official warnings.

“I’m sure I must have mentioned on the air that we were ahead,” England said. “I was a brash young man.”

England was the keynote speaker when the gleaming new National Weather Center was dedicated in Norman in 2006. A few years later, as one staffer tells it, a group of elderly women was touring the building; they saw the giant globe suspended from the lobby ceiling, the Flying Cow Cafe, rooms of scientists peering at glowing radar maps.

But then they caught sight of England, who happened to be there that day. The women stopped listening to the scientists guiding the tour. They wanted Gary.

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