My Channel 3 weather friend Paul Barys hears it everywhere he goes: in the grocery store, in the mall, on vacation, even when he goes to the mailbox. “Paul said it would be like this!” Here’s the promo that started it all:
I think it’s one of the most successful promo campaigns in Chattanooga TV history. The promos aired only for a few years in the late 1980s, but they sure made an impression. Paul joined WRCB in 1985, and was the latest in a long line of weather forecasters at the station. John Gray held the job for 12 years before leaving in 1970, and after that nobody stayed very long. The station used various men and women, black and white, young and not-so-young. Some were meteorologists, others were not. Some were hired because they were pretty or cute. Some lasted a year, others lasted a month. One or two were quite good, others were um…not. Then came Paul.
Now in his 30th year at Channel 3, the bearded weather wizard certainly knows his stuff. But in 1985, he was just another new weather person on Channel 3, and nobody knew if the Chicago native would stay any longer than his predecessors did. Thankfully, he fell in love with the area, and he and his wife Sarah decided it was the perfect place to raise their daughters Maggie and Jamie.
Everybody has a favorite “Paul weather story,” and I have two. On Thursday, January 7, 1988 I had only been at Channel 3 for about three months. Paul had predicted a significant snowfall the day before, so the station put several of us up at the Whitehall Apartments, just up the hill from the studio. A steep hill, in fact. The news director had asked Paul and me to come in early to handle the weather and school closings. We got up in the wee hours of the morning and prepared to head down the hill. Paul, who had grown up in wintry Chicago, surveyed the heavy snowfall (12 inches!), took a few steps outside, and proclaimed, “Oh, this is nothing. This is the kind of snow you can drive in!” I figured he must be right, so I followed him to his car. He got behind the wheel, while I strapped in on the passenger side. Down the hill we went, spiraling out of control, finally skidding into a ditch at the foot of the hill. There were no injuries, except to Paul’s pride. Needless to say, I never let him forget that. Every time it snows, I ask him, “Is this the kind of snow you can drive in?” He loves it when I do that.
Then on Tuesday March 9, 1993, I had just returned to the station after doing a story in Rossville. It was almost spring, and it sure felt like it. Sunshine and 75 degrees. I was digging out the baseball equipment for me and my sons. Might as well start throwing, the heat was on. That afternoon, I was passing by Paul’s desk just before the news and said hello to him. “Come here,” he said. “I want you to see something.” He showed me some computer printouts of squiggly lines on charts and maps that I couldn’t possibly understand. “We’re going have 2o inches of snow on Saturday,” he said. That was still four days away, and it was short-sleeve weather outside. I patted him on the back, said something like, “Right, Paul,” and wondered if maybe he’d been staring into his computer screen too long.
You know the rest of the story. On Saturday March 13, we woke up to a white-out: 20 inches of snow, even more in some places. He saw it coming several days in advance, long before the days of the Viper, Doppler, and whatever else they’re using today. To this day, people thank Paul for giving them enough notice back in 1993, so they could stock up on milk, pork and beans, and toilet paper.
But it just might have been those promo spots that put him on the map in the first place. There were several of them, but I only have one that is YouTube quality. It was modeled after a KNBC Los Angeles promo, but our Chattanooga versions got a lot of attention, and had enormous staying power. I have almost 200 classic videos on my YouTube channel, and I’m adding new ones every week. You really should subscribe, and you’ll get notified every time I add a video. It’s easy, just click here, and then click “Subscribe.”
Now, since you’ve been kind enough to read the whole story, you get two bonus photos: first is a 2013 photo of Paul in Shanghai, demonstrating the art of Tai Chi, plus a rare photo of Paul without the beard, prior to his arrival in Chattanooga. Enjoy!