On Feb. 28, 2024,Tom Skilling, longtime WGN meteorologist, and possibly one of Chicago’s most recognizable broadcast personalities, will retire. How do you celebrate the retirement of a meteorologist who’s been doing the forecasts on your station for 45 years? You go all in.
Chicago is a city known for weather. The Windy City experiences it all. From extreme cold to crippling blizzards, ice and thunder storms, even extreme heat in summer and, of course, high winds.
And in 45 years of forecasting the weather on WGN, Nexstar’s independent, longtime meteorologist Tom Skilling has seen it all.
“The events he’s been here for read like a history of Chicago,” says Dominick Stasi, WGN’s news director. “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.”
But on Feb. 28, Skilling, longtime WGN meteorologist, and possibly one of Chicago’s most recognizable broadcast personalities, will retire.
How do you celebrate the retirement of a meteorologist who’s been doing the forecasts on your station for 45 years?
You go all in.
Throughout February, WGN will air several stories and tributes throughout its newscasts on Skilling and his amazing career.
“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,” Skilling says. “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 career at the unheard-of age of 14 at WKKD-AM in Aurora, Ill., 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,” Stasi says. “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.”
In addition to his weather forecasts on WGN News, Skilling hosted nearly 40 years of severe weather seminars at Fermilab, often welcoming a “who’s who” of severe weather experts from around the world. He 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,” says Paul Rennie, WGN’s general manager. “There isn’t another meteorologist in the history of the city, or the country for that matter, who has been more impactful doing what he does. 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.”
Some of the coverage WGN has planned for Skilling during the month include:
Tuesday, Feb. 20 – Tom Skilling’s Birthday; Tom turns 72
Skilling will be joined by special guests and honored on WGN Evening News.
Thursday Feb. 22 – WGN Morning News LIVE at the Music Box Theatre with Tom Skilling
A live celebration saluting Skilling and what he means to Chicago. He and the morning team will be joined by over 600 fans for a live broadcast from the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.
Wednesday Feb. 28 – Retirement
Skilling will be honored by cast, crew, friends, and family as WGN says goodbye to the beloved Chicago television legend on WGN Evening News, WGN News at Nine and WGN News at Ten.
“A colleague of mine once said ‘Chicago is like Broadway for weather people,’ Skilling says. “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.”
New Jobs Posted To TVNewsCheck
CLICK HERE to see new jobs posted to TVNewsCheck’s Media Job Center including openings for Sinclair’s corporate engineering team, Hearst’s national consumer unit, Nexstar’s Houston station, Lockwood’s station in Augusta and Hearst’s Louisville station.