The Midlands is bidding farewell to a dedicated and trusted broadcast chief meteorologist whose career has spanned more than 40 years.
This photo was captured during Jim Gandy's visit to Richland Library Ballentine on April 29, 2019. He presented during the program "SC's Climate: How It's Changing & Impacts.
On May 31, 2019, Jim Gandy delivered his final on-air forecast and retired from WLTX. You can watch "Gandy's Goodbye" online by clicking here.
Before Gandy departed on vacation with his wife, Ann, to spend some much-needed time together, he spoke candidly with Richland Library on a number of topics - including retirement, weather and libraries.
Here's our complete conversation with Gandy, also known as South Carolina's Weatherman:
What's your favorite part of forecasting the weather?
It’s probably the challenge. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a sunny day or a stormy day. However, I really got interested in weather because of storms, and that’s what I tend to focus on. But even a sunny day can be challenging.
Looking back over your career, is there one storm that stands out in your mind?
Yes, but it’s not what you think. Everyone remembers Hurricane Hugo, but actually, it was earlier that year in February. There was a snow storm that occurred, and no one forecasted it – but me!
The thing was, as I was going through the process of forecasting, I did everything that science had taught me to do, and I kept coming up with the same conclusion. I prepared the TV station for that. We had already booked like 10 rooms of a local hotel, and we were prepared.
Then I walked back into the weather center, and the National Weather Service has no mention of snow in the forecast. Oh my gosh! What do you do then? So I re-analyzed everything and still came up with the same conclusion. We had a decision, and we decided we would stick with my forecast.
The interesting thing is, the next morning, we got four inches of snow. But the problem with that is, given the resources that the National Weather Service has, you better be really certain if you’re going to go against their forecast. It’s not that they did anything wrong. It’s just that I knew more about the computer models. I knew what they could do and what they couldn’t do. And I knew what was going on. I anticipated correctly. That’s really kind of the key to forecasting, so it worked out for me that day.
What advice would you have for someone who's interested in weather?
They can start the same way everyone starts – first by observing.
When I was growing up, it just so happens that I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and they had opened the Haydon Burns Public Library. I wasn’t old enough to drive, but the bus line was just a block away from me. So I could go catch the bus and go downtown in Jacksonville, which meant going across the St. Johns River. It was really a trip to get downtown, but my folks would let me catch the bus, go downtown and go to the library.
At that time, the library – it was new. It was huge. You know what that is for a library when they have room to spare. They had a weather section that was second to none, and over the course of my junior and high school time, I devoured it all. In fact, I just posted, on my Facebook page, a picture of my first weather book. It was one of those "Golden Guide Science" series on weather. So that’s how I got started studying weather.
So, it sounds like libraries hold a special place in your heart?
They do! I’ve always loved libraries.
Now, in this day, they’re different than they were when I was growing up because you have the Internet. The problem with the Internet is – when it comes to the Internet – you have to be careful. Some of the information there is incorrect. You have to be really savvy about - OK, it this something that I should really waste my time on? Is it not? Whereas the library, you usually don’t have that problem because there are books. It’s pretty well established information. You don’t usually have to run through this gauntlet of trying to figure out what’s right (what’s correct) and what isn’t.
So libraries will always have a place in my heart... they’ve changed with the times, and that’s a good thing.
What are you reading currently?
My life is usually pretty busy. Unfortunately, over the last couple of decades, I have been so busy that I haven’t had much time to read, like I used to.
You know, it’s kind of funny. When I was growing up, I was a slow reader, and I hated to read until I got into junior high and high school. I got some help, and I started reading. Then I just really read, and of course, when you go to college, you have to read. But after college and getting into forecasting, it takes time away from what you can do. With broadcast meteorology, you’re on 24 hours a day, so sometimes, it really restricts what you can do.
The only thing that I’ve really read, over the last 20 years, is research papers. But now that I’m getting ready to retire, I’ve started reading some things that I want to.
My father-in-law, before he passed away, gave me a set of books by the French author Balzac. It’s his entire work on the divine… "The Human Comedy." It’s the entire work, and I’ve always been fascinated with that author from an early age because I read one of his books when I was growing up. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. So, I’m looking forward to going through that.
I’m also big into science fiction. As a youngster, I read the "Foundation Trilogy." And many years later, Isaac Asimov wrote both a prequel and post story to that trilogy. There’s a collection now – of like six or seven books – and I’m in the process of reading them. In fact, I was reading one of them as I was flying back from California to Columbia (a couple months ago). I got so engrossed in the book – we flew from Dallas to Columbia – and I started reading as we took off. The next thing I knew, we were landing. I said, “Wait a minute… what?!”
So you can get lost in books. I hope, as I retire, I’m going to read more. But I also hope to do some writing.
What are you interested in writing?
Well, you write what you know, and I know weather. I know climate, so I’m going to be writing on that. It won’t be in the traditional format because writing today has changed. I’ll be posting things on Facebook. I’m going to revive my blog – things like that.
I may write a book. I don’t know. There are a lot of things I can do, and I will have the time to do it because I don’t have to go in and make a forecast.
I’m really just getting out of the forecasting. I was telling a friend of mine – I said, "I finally get to read research." I actually get to get back into the research game – where I’ve been out of it for the last 44 years.
Once you retire, what are you going to miss most?
I thought I was going to miss something. When I started, and more importantly, when I got to Oklahoma City, it was well equipped. Now, this is before cell phones, digital cameras, the Internet – none of that stuff. The data all came in on teletype machines. There were four of them. They brought weather data from all around the country right to our weather center. In addition to that, we had fax machines that were bringing in weather maps. We had our own radar. We had our own satellite receiver to get satellite pictures. We had everything! And I was thinking, at that time, there is no way that I can ever retire because I have to have this stuff.
Now, I can get all of that on my iPad. I don’t have to have the teletype machines, the fax machines or the radar – or any of the other stuff – because it’s all right there.
So will I miss anything? I will miss the people who I’ve worked with. I don’t know that I’ll really miss being on the air because that’s really a lot of work. Occasionally, you might see me on the air, but it won’t be work in those instances.
I’m not sure that I’m really going to miss anything. They’re not rescinding my degree because I’m retiring. I still get to do what I love to do. I just won’t have to go into work.
A friend of mine who did weather on the air in Memphis for many, many years finally retired, and he sent me a note. He said, “Well, you know... they say it takes time to adjust to retirement, and they’re right. It took me about 35 seconds.”