Last day on the air February 28
Longtime WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling announced on the station’s 5 p.m. newscast his retirement after 47 years broadcasting the weather. His last day on the air is February 28 of next year.
“There’s no formula for this. I am going to retire at the end of February after a marvelous 45 years at this incredible television station,” Skilling said during his announcement Thursday afternoon on the Nexstar-owned station. “We all get to a point where we have to make a decision. ‘Is it time to retire. It’s the toughest decision.”
Skilling said he isn’t really going anywhere, although he did mention he planned to travel.
Currently the longest tenured personality at WGN, Skilling arrived at the then-WGN Continental Broadcasting station in 1978, arriving from WITI Milwaukee and changed the way weather was forecasted in Chicago, using the latest technology and explaining it to viewers in an easy-to-comprehend manner. It was this method to help WGN perform strongly in the ratings at 9 p.m. and in other time periods when the station expanded its newscasts into other time periods and at 10 p.m. One example – a snowstorm in February 2018 had viewers tuning in to Skilling and put a ratings dent in the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics from South Korea.
“There was a time when weather forecasting was seen as a not-serious profession,” said 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.”
Among the weather events in the Chicago area Skilling handled was the Blizzards of 1979 and 2011; the Plainfield tornadoes in 1990; the Chicago heat wave of 1995 where over 600 people died; and heavy rain episodes.
Skilling was also known to partake in some fun at WGN from time to time, including appearing in skits for WGN’s popular morning newscasts, such as this memorable one:
And Skilling appeared in a promo to promote Dennis Miller’s short-lived talk show in 1992:
In addition, Skilling hosted weather seminars throughout the Chicago area, including several at the Chicago White Sox’s home ballpark for “WGN-TV Weather Day” when the station had rights to the team. Skilling also traveled the country reporting on weather issues and how they would impact Chicagoans (he traveled to places such as Alaska, Lake Huron, and Oklahoma, where he became a tornado chaser for a day) and became a leading voice on climate change, recently reporting on the subject in a news special Forecast: A Fragile Climate.
He was also known as a national weather figure given WGN was a Superstation until 2014, being seen in cable and satellite homes across the country.
Among the accolades Skilling has amassed over his long career include several Chicago/NATAS Emmy Awards; induction into the Chicago/Midwest Silver Circle in 2004; and received a Broadcast Pioneer Award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association. Not bad for a person who started his meteorologist career at the age of fourteen at the high school student TV station in Aurora.