CHICAGO, October 12, 2023 — Tom Skilling, who has defined the gold standard of being a TV meteorologist and has been forecasting the weather on WGN-TV for the past 45 years, announced tonight on WGN Evening News that he will retire on February 28, 2024.
“If you had told young Tom Skilling that he would go on to have a career in weather spanning seven decades, working in Chicago, with some truly wonderful people, I think he would be overjoyed,” says Skilling. And that’s how I feel today. Overjoyed at the colleagues I’ve worked with, the viewers I’ve met, the stories I’ve covered. Overjoyed and grateful. I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it for anything.”
Skilling started his successful career at the unheard-of age of 14 at WKKD in Aurora, while still in high school. He had a series of radio and TV jobs in Illinois and Wisconsin before coming to WGN-TV in August of 1978. Known for his in-depth and highly detailed weather segments, Tom has elevated the audience’s understanding of not just the weather, but the science behind it.
“There was a time when weather forecasting was seen as a not-serious profession,” says WGN-TV News Director Dominick Stasi. “But Tom has taken it to a much higher level. He carefully explains complex meteorological concepts in layman’s terms, support by graphics often featuring isobars and upper-airs charts. Nobody was doing that when he started. Bottom line, he has always treated the audience with respect.”
Adds Stasi, “The events he’s been here for read like a history of Chicago; the brutal winters of the ‘80s, the Plainfield tornado, the 1995 heatwave, the Groundhog’s Day Blizzard of 2011. You name it, he’s covered it.”
In addition to his weather forecasts on WGN News, Skilling hosted nearly 40 years of severe weather seminars at Fermilab, often welcoming in a “who’s who” of severe weather experts from around the world. Tom has also reported firsthand on the weather from locales as varied as Alaska, Las Vegas, an ice-breaking ship in the middle of Lake Huron, and, most famously, was once chased by a tornado in Oklahoma.
“Tom Skilling is a Chicago institution. There isn’t another meteorologist in history of the city, or the country for that matter, who has been more impactful doing what he does,” says Paul Rennie, WGN-TV vice president and general manager. “His enthusiasm for the weather, backed by the constantly evolving technology, is simply unmatched. And above all else, he cares about people, from our viewers to his colleagues, he truly cares about the well-being of others. I’m not alone in saying we’ll really miss him.”
Skilling is a multiple Emmy Award-winner from the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and funds a scholarship to assist a local college student each year. He was presented with the Illinois Broadcasters Association “Broadcast Pioneer” award in 2018. In recent years, he has dived headfirst into the science of climate change, leading talks and participating in conferences across Chicago and the United States.
“A colleague of mine once said ‘Chicago is like Broadway for weather people,’ says Skilling. “And I couldn’t agree more. From Lake Michigan to the storms that roll in from the plains to tremendous heat to gobs of snow, if you want a variety of weather to forecast, it makes the job awfully interesting. And you know it’s also true in another fashion, and that’s ‘the show must go on.’ And the show will go on; I just won’t be in that starring role.”
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