David Finfrock appreciates the outpouring of love.
But part of him wishes that people wouldn’t make such a fuss.
The Emmy-winning chief meteorologist for NBC’s KXAS/Channel 5, a fixture on the North Texas TV landscape for 40 years, is the subject of a new TV tribute.
Channel 5’s 40 Years of Finfrock special airs at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“This year feels no different from any other year that I have worked here,” Finfrock says. “But people are making a big deal out of it, because it’s the anniversary with a zero at the end of it.”
Everyone loves to celebrate when you reach the Big 4-0.
Of course, if you want to split hairs, the half-hour special is several months overdue.
“My first day working for Channel 5 was Dec. 22 of 1975,” Finfrock says. “So my actual anniversary was last December.”
There will probably be an even bigger tribute when Finfrock’s contract is up in May 2018, at which time he says he’ll retire. When that day comes, he’ll have been here 42 years — same as his predecessor, the man who hired him, legendary North Texas weatherman Harold Taft.
“There is a certain symmetry to that,” he says.
The 40 Years of Finfrock special, hosted by NBC 5 meteorologist Rick Mitchell, looks back at Finfrock’s career and at the most memorable storms he covered.
The special also shows how much the TV weather business has changed during Finfrock’s tenure. “When I started, we used paper maps on the air and drew on them with Marks-A-Lot markers,” he says. “It was a far cry from the capabilities we have today with computers.”
There’s also a segment that shares a glimpse of Finfrock the family man and community volunteer.
We chatted with him this week about his life’s work and why he still loves doing it.
Does it boggle your mind that you’ve spent your entire career at this one TV station?
“It does a little. Partly because, until I was hired by Harold Taft, I had never really thought of getting into television. It all happened by accident. My desire, when I was in college, was either to work with the National Weather Service or in research.
“The summer after I graduated from college was spent up on the Juneau Icefield in Alaska, learning techniques of field research. I came back to Texas A&M that fall. I had a full fellowship for a master’s degree in meteorology and I was taking classes my first semester when Harold called me to come interview.
“I never dreamed he would offer me the job. So when he did, I had no preconceptions about television. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.
“But I’ve been very happy with my career and doing the things that I love to do: studying the weather, working with maps on a daily basis, learning all kinds of new technology as it develops.
“There’s always something new to keep me excited. The job never gets old.”
Do you remember your first day on the air? What was it like?
“My first day on the air was during the first week of January 1976. I don’t recall the exact date, because it wasn’t really scheduled. The previous week, I had been drawing the weather maps in the morning and at noon, but I wasn’t on the air.
“But at noon this one day, during a commercial break right before weather, Harold turned to me and said, ‘Why don’t you do it today?’ So I basically had only 90 seconds to prepare. But I had already drawn all the maps. I knew what the weather forecast was.
“It was really a blessing, because I didn’t stew over it all the previous night thinking, ‘Oh, tomorrow I’m going to make my debut.’ He just sprang it on me and I jumped out there and did it, and the next thing I knew I was a veteran.”
When did you realize you were in the TV business — and at this particular station — for the long haul?
“It was in my second year when I met my wife, Shari. We met on May 15 of 1977. Five months to the day after that, on Oct. 15 of 1977, we were married. And not only did I have a wife, I also got a 4-year-old daughter in the bargain, so I had an instant family. We had our son the next year.
“I probably could have made more money in my early years if I had done like a lot of people and bounced around from place to place and from job to job. But it was more important to me, once I got married and had a family, to have some roots, to settle down and to become part of the community.”
Did you ever have one of those days when everything about the newscast went completely wrong?
“There were times back in the ’80s when that would happen. We had gotten a new computer system. It was great when it worked, but they put too much software on a computer that couldn’t handle it.
“So we would get ready to go on the air and all of a sudden the whole system crashed. No weather at all, all of your graphics gone. All we could do was try to reboot the computer, which would take five or six minutes. In the meantime, we could go to sports early and maybe we could get up and running in time.
“That was the biggest nightmare, when we couldn’t trust the technology.”
Speaking of trust, how essential is it for a weatherman to establish the viewing pub-lic’s trust?
“It’s vitally important. If they don’t trust us, they’re not going to watch us or take proper precautions when we tell them to take warning.
“That’s why it’s very important not to cry wolf. You want to save the real warnings for the storms that deserve it. That’s why I never tend to over-hype storms ahead of time.”
40 Years of Finfrock
- 6:30 p.m. Saturday
- KXAS/Channel 5