25 Years Forecasting On Portland Television

6pm Sunday Evening…

25 years ago this week I started my television career in Portland.  It was my first real TV job and I was lucky to start (and still be in) my home television market.  I figured at the time that I’d do it for 5 or 10 years and then “get a real job”.  Well…I just kept signing one contract after another and here it is 25 years later; somehow I’ve survived in this tough business.  Yes, I have aged.  Check out a collection of pics during that time with the dates on the bottom.  Actually the first one is from my internship tape at KIRO-TV while at the UW in 1990.  I call that the “I’m scared…help me mommy” look.  I was 21 years old.

 

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I had wanted to be a “weatherman” since about 7th grade, the other choice was farming.  I grew up mainly near Monitor (Mt. Angel) in Marion County, but then moved to Chehalis, WA for 8th grade.  Since I lived in Chehalis, Washington in high school the UW Atmospheric Sciences program was an obvious choice for a degree.  To save A TON of money, I went to Centralia Community College the first two years to get the physics and math done, then transferred to the UW.  While in college, I just assumed I would go into the National Weather Service or work for some private weather company.  Then during my senior year up there, I saw that KIRO-TV had an internship for their weather department.  I thought it might be fun so I applied and was accepted (there probably weren’t any other applicants).  I found I liked the TV stuff, making graphics and the buzz of the newsroom.  So after making an “audition tape” which is the first part of the video above, I started applying for jobs in small television markets where the weather was exciting.  Fargo, North Platte, Wichita, Iowa, Mississippi etc…

That was a problem…

No one would hire me because I looked like, well, a little kid, and I gulped and looked scared on the tape, as you see in that first pic above.  As a result I ended up taking a job at Micro-Forecasts, a private company that forecast wind conditions in the Gorge.  I really liked that job, we moved the office to Hood River (even better!), and I hoped I would just stay with them for a long time.  The 2nd pic above was a brief stint at Columbia Cable in Vancouver doing a couple of hours a day while working at Micro Forecasts. Here’s a pic from 1992.  Was it ever okay to wear shorts like that with a shirt tucked in???

Mark MicroForecasts 1992

Then one day the boss asked me something like “how much of this month’s paycheck do you really need?“.  Wow.  Not a good sign.  Things went downhill after that and the company fell apart.  Lucky for me, at the same time both Heidi Sonnen and Bob Shaw (morning and weekend weather) were leaving KOIN-TV; thus KOIN was desperate.  I remember coming in for an interview, and Randy Querin, who had been working 6-7 day weeks said “I don’t care if we hire a monkey, I’m tired of this and I hope you get the job”.  Apparently I was just barely good enough;  I had a real TV job and I was only 24!  I don’t have video of my very first day, but anchor Ken Boddie just before the first hit said “don’t worry dude, there are only about 70,000 people watching” , then laughed.  Wasn’t funny at that time.  By the way, working weekends for about 4 years with Ken Boddie was the best, he showed me what I should and should NOT wear.  I was a small town kid with no fashion sense.  And, Saturday nights the weather center had the only real nice TV for watching Star Trek The Next Generation…good times.  Ken was one of MANY coworkers I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with over this quarter century.

I worked at KOIN-TV for 7 years, then late in summer 2000 I left to be the first meteorologist at KPDX-TV’s 10pm newscast.  KOIN had produced that newscast for 8-10 years, then KPDX built the building we are currently in and started their own news department.  It was a good time to leave KOIN because soon after things changed.  Many owners in the following 15 years included all sorts of layoffs, downsizing etc.  I’ve been in the right place with great managers.

Then in the summer of 2002, KPDX’s corporation (Meredith) bought/swapped KPTV for another station in Orlando, so both stations were now (and continue to be) owned by Meredith.  Lots of layoffs that time too, but somehow I survived. Rod Hill and I were briefly co-chief meteorologists for about 9 months before he left to take a job at KATU when Rob Marciano left.  That was good, because we both figured at some point one of us wouldn’t be needed.

So how do you survive 25 years in this business?

It sure isn’t because I’m beautiful!

Part luck, part timing.  Being in the right position/place at the right time…many factors play into it.  I have seen LOTS of on-air anchors and meteorologists come and go for many different reasons.

There are several factors I feel do help out and probably apply to many jobs.  Listen up kids!

1. Be FLEXIBLE.  Don’t let yourself get steamrolled, but choose your battles carefully!  Remember, it’s not brain-surgery, it’s television.  Is it really worth ruining a career just because you don’t want to put labels on the high temp map???  Just a real-world example.

2. Treat others well.  I’m no angel, but I try to treat others fairly.  Don’t make enemies for absolutely no reason.  If you’re cranky or unhappy, there is no need to drag everyone else into it.

3. Be willing to learn and adapt.  I’m pretty sure I would have been dumped at one specific point if I wouldn’t have simplified my presentation a bit.  That doesn’t mean dumb it down (well, maybe a little), but be willing to give a little when a boss comes to you with a new idea.  A few times I’ve been approached with what I think is the dumbest new concept.  Most of the time I’ve played along.  Within a short period of time others discover it’s ridiculous and it goes away.  No reason to immediately freak out.

4. Don’t burn bridges!  It’s tempting to do that if you leave a job, but don’t.  A coworker who produced weekend newscasts at KOIN ended up as my current boss!  Glad I didn’t act like a jerk back then.  Although she is aware I should never get on a sugar-low and then come in for a meeting…

The big questions

  1. Do I still like my job?
  2. How long will I keep doing it?

Yes, most of the time I like my job.  I get tired of the late evening shift (to bed at 1am), it’s always been obvious to me that I’m a morning person.  My kids (now 17 & 18) grew up without seeing me 4 days a week, but I tried to make up for that by never doing things on my own weekends and avoiding work commitments on my days off.

I still come in most days and stare that the maps/models just like I did 10, 15, or 20 years ago.  Each day is new in this business (both TV news & meteorology).

Busy winters (like two years back) are very stressful in this business, but anticipating our slow summers with vacation time gets me through those years.  That’s what I always tell my wife when I run out of the house an hour after waking up…because 2″ of snow is about to fall on Portland.

I’ve had a lot of fun and it’s paid the bills.  Plus I get paid to do my hobby…what’s better than that?

So I have no plans to leave this odd television news business or FOX12 for that matter.  Will it be 30 years?  Or 35?  We’ll see!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

70 Responses to 25 Years Forecasting On Portland Television

  1. Gene says:

    What a great run, Mark, especially in an industry (local TV news — just look at KOIN-TV 6!) known for its instability and fickle nature. And we all especially appreciate this interesting and informative blog — so much time put into it to give all of us weather buffs a steady supply of great info about weather on a weekly (and, during big weather events, even a daily) basis. Once Mark finally decides to retire, where will we all go for our weather fix?

  2. Mike Cole says:

    Congratulations Mark ,and here’s to another 25

    Maybe with all your seniority you could buy out the station and work the am shift ? Lol

  3. Diana F. says:

    Absolutely loved hearing about your life and career! I will be sharing with my 10 year old when she gets home from school today, as she recently told me “it’s never too soon to plan for my future, cos I’m gonna need skillz to pay the bills”……to which I initially said WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? You’re TEN! But she proceeded to come up with a very reasonable explanation about why now IS the time. What a new and wonderful world!

    I expect she’ll find your post very exciting, as you are her “favorite wishcaster”!

    Oh, and the shirts tucked in? Yah, um, no that’s never been a fashionable thing to do. And an equally unfortunate look is…..drumroll please……white socks with shorts. And wow do I see a lot of men still wearing them!

    • Gene says:

      You must not ever play golf, Diana — what else is there to wear with shorts but white socks?

      • Diana F. says:

        With golf shoes you’re a-ok in my book—(golf fanatic here). It’s the white socks and sandal look, or the white socks pulled up to here with sneakers look, that does you guys in : )

  4. Roland Derksen says:

    If anyone down there in Portland or thereabouts is longing for rain- come up here. I measured 1.30 inches overnight. So far my total for the month is 4.89 inches.

  5. Ken in Wood Village says:

    The only thing I like about the 12Z GFS is from 288 hour to the end of the run. It’s awesome!! I know it won’t happen but it’s really good. If it did happen, it also looks like the Jet Stream would finally consolidates (the split goes away) and brings storm after storm into our area. I know, wishcasting!!!!

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      The GFS giveth and taketh away. I really loved the end of the 12Z GFS but the 18Z GFS taketh away 😦

      • K says:

        It always does. I was hoping this year could be different from last year, but alas it cannot be so.

      • W7ENK says:

        RE: from previous…

        “The 06z and 18z are low resolution runs. They only aggregate half the amount of data the 00z and 12z runs do, and the 06z sources part of its data from the previous day’s 18z run. For these reasons, those two runs are incredibly unreliable, and far inferior to the full resolution 00z and 12z runs, to be taken with a very large grain of salt.

  6. W7ENK says:

    Okay, so never before this evening have I ever witnessed a red ball sunset in November. Never mind the fact that the air outside tonight smells of faint, distant wildfire smoke, and them completely ignore that it’s currently 35 degrees outside.

    This is absolutely surreal, and quite frankly,
    I don’t like it.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I don’t like it either. I can’t remember having so many times in a year with having smoke in the air from wildfires. I don’t like the new norm 😦

    • boydo3 says:

      I moved to the south coast in July and I can tell you the weather has been absolutely perfect! BUT…rivers are still at summertime lows and the woods are DRY. Crispy dry!
      There has been maybe 2″ of rain since May and despite how nice it has been, it’s just weird.

    • Paul D says:

      It’s just adding to this years weather weirdness.

  7. K says:

    Models look atrocious, again. Just wonderful.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I know what you mean K. I did like the end of the 00Z GFS but that’s so far out that I know it won’t happen. If only we went with the 12Z CFS. Around the 552 hour to the end of the run was awesome. It gave us a artic outbreak and like 10″ of snow…lol. If only that could happen…lol.

  8. Mark says:

    Well done Mark – very blessed.

  9. High Desert Mat says:

    Doogie Nelsen.

  10. Roland Derksen says:

    Congratulations on your 25th anniversary, Mark! Yes, indeed you did look very young, but as time goes along, you’ve matured. I also looked young for my age for a long time, so i had a mustache for a years.. (don’t need it now, as it’s turning grey). Anyway, we’re in for a good dump of rain here tonight (about an inch) and some more for the following 2 days. Had frost for the last 2 nights, but that’s over with until the weekend.

  11. Brandon says:

    What a great read! Congratulations on 25 years and thank you Mark for everything you’ve done! Being a weather nerd, you’re the only person I look to when it comes to forecasting(besides my meteorologist uncle who is now 35yrs retired). Keep doing what you’re doing, we all love you!

  12. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Wow, the 12Z GFS just did an about-face from all the other runs it has done for the past day or two. If this could keep up, I would love it but until it does keep this trend up I would call it just eye candy. It’s just amazing.

    • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

      Hi, Ken. What do you like about it? It is becoming increasingly likely that this will be the driest November ever. I’m sure Mark will post about it soon. There is no cold weather in sight either.

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        If you look at the past few runs of the GFS, you will see a High that is either over us or just North of us and when you think it will go away, it comes back. It’s there at the beginning of the run but goes away and allows a low to form off the West Coast. I’m hoping this will happen because not only we need the rain but California needs it bad. I don’t normally pray but I have been just for the people of California. It’s just so sad seeing what I have been seeing on TV. They really need the rain as much as we do.

        I enjoyed the winds yesterday. I met Matt Sloan yesterday. He had his own anemometer and it had a wind gust of 114mph. It was intense…lol.

        • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

          Most of western California will likely end up with more rain than us in the next 10 days or so. Yes, they need it. I will be there for Thanksgiving. My parents’ house survived the Woolsey fire unscathed, but others in their neighborhood were burnt to the ground. Scary stuff.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          Sorry to hear that Joshua. It is scary stuff. When we had the Eagle Creek fire I thought it was bad but seeing the fires down in California just makes me feel sad. All the work they have put into their lives with their houses and memory’s. I’m glad your parents are ok. I hope when they do get rain, it’s not all at once were they get landslides. One thing you may want to tell your parents is to watch out for landslides. That could be more deadly than the fires. Let’s hope we get some rain too 🙂

  13. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Ok, I have short term memory loss. I was looking at Facebook when I came up to my niece’s memory. It showed her daughter sliding down the driveway on snow. Yes, SNOW!!! I guess on November 13th, 2014 we had snow out my way. It wasn’t much but it did snow. I just don’t remember it…lmao. I can’t believe we actually had snow on this date. I don’t know if that would be the earliest snow fall we ever had in this area? I know we had snow in late November but the 13th? Sorry, it just amazes me that we had snow on this date…lol.

    • Mountain Man says:

      Yeah we had early snow east side and especially here in the gorge where 5-10 inches fell that November depending on elevation, but then winter was mostly uneventful thereafter. I think November 2012 also was similar with a mid November 5-10 inches in about the same areas far east metro into the gorge.

  14. K says:

    Wow, I think on a scale of 1-10 I’ll have to rate this season a 1 so far. Maybe a 2 because of this East wind, but every other fall in recent memory has had one significant weather event. Can you name one this year?

  15. boydo3 says:

    Things are getting hot all over..

  16. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Either the Vista House lost power or the sensor blew off. The last posting is at 6:56pm!!

  17. Tanis Leach says:

    Any advuce for a college student in addition to this?

    Great history BTW, and happy anniversary.

  18. GTS1Kft says:

    Hey, what can I say – Best in the West!!!

  19. Barbara Smoody says:

    Congratulations on your silver anniversary, Mark! a co-worker recently asked me “Who’s your weather guy again? I think I oughta get up to speed on current conditions”. I guess I was bragging on you….I also appreciate your advice to the youth (and the rest of us) among your readership re: how to get along in life and the way to enjoy success in your hobby/career.

  20. K says:

    Things are not looking good on the models. Maybe next month.

  21. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I went up to Crown Point today. Man, the winds were intense. They were much stronger than I thought they would be. I met a guy (forgot his name) from the AMS (if I remember, he knows Mark and helps with the Vista House anemometer). He brought his own anemometer and it got a wind gust of 114mph at 11:16am.

    I and another guy were also interviewed from someone (sorry, forgot her name) from Channel 12. I’m guessing Channel 12 will show the interview on the 5 o’clock news. 🙂

  22. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    What is the longest dry streak in Portland’s history for November? I can’t imagine that we’re not going to break it. We’re on day 6. The two days before that had a trace and .01’’. I bet we get at least 8 more days. We might get ‘’lucky’’ and wring out a hundredth of an inch or two to ruin the streak. Shockingly, the focus of the rain has shifted north of here.

  23. W7ENK says:

    Mark, you look like Doogie Howser in that photo! 😆 😆 😆

  24. pappoose in scappoose says:

    The main reason you’ve survived is because you’re smart.

    NO PLANS TO LEAVE. I really like this part the most!

    Let me back in, Mark. Hard drive failed a while back, it’s time to get back on the winter train before it leaves the station!

  25. oregondean says:

    Congratulations Mark on 25 years! We both enjoy and learn from your daily shared time in our bonus room from the KOIN days until the present. There have been a lot of weathermen (no offense, but weather-people just doesn’t sound right) at KPDX on your nights off – some that we were less than thrilled with, but we always knew Sunday night was coming soon! Thanks for sharing your weather journey, and a bit of your family life over the years mainly here on the blog and even occasionally on the air.

  26. pablo says:

    Thank you for all of your hard work Mark. Thanks for paying attention to the windsurfing conditions!!

  27. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Wow, I just looked at the weather gauge up at Crown Point and at 6:16am it hit 80mph. I hope it stays that way later today when I want to go up there 😉🤗

  28. Paul D says:

    Where’s my frosty morning? This 45 degree stuff is boring! 😦

  29. Mariel Walters says:

    I love your blogs and weather reports. You are wonderful at what you do and I hope you keep at it for a long time to come!

  30. Jake in Gresham says:

    Mark! You are the man! Congrats.

    Looks like the El Nino is calming down in time for Winter:

    Source: http://www.city-data.com/forum/weather/2922712-la-nina-fading-out-here-comes-8.html

    The question is will it stay that way? The GFS is trying to bring in cooler air from the North and a low along with from BC around the 17th. But both the Euro and GFS show a real strong high pressure over the Rockies beforehand. We’ll see. One thing is for sure. Alaska and all the West is having really abnormal warm weather.

    • K says:

      You live in Gresham, right? How is the East Wind right now? Gradient is a bit more than anticipated.

      • Jake in Gresham says:

        If I’m not mistaken you’re on the East side too right? Really slow start. Steady wind of 5 mph and gusts to 8 and 9. Meh.

    • W7ENK says:

      RE: From previous

      Who put that out? That doesn’t even remotely come close to matching the official Australia BOM graph.

      FWIW, Australia BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) is the leading authority on all things ENSO.

  31. Rlpixley says:

    Thanks for 25 great weather years lets do another15or 20 years if u got it in u thanks again its been fun

  32. Dottie Belknap says:

    Mark, you have always been the most dependable and dedicated to providing needed information. You are the most credible, always. Thank you.

    Dottie Belknap

  33. Ron Goodwin says:

    You are our guy to represent East County just like Sharon Nesbit with the Gresham Outlook. The first thing I look at is the weather as s retired geography teacher and 28 year volunteer at Multnomah Falls. Keep up the good work.

  34. J. Patrick Moore says:

    Congratulations on jobs well done and great forecasts. My wife knows that I am a weather nerd, but doesn’t realize that you are turning her into one, too. She also likes your ties.

  35. Leeateea says:

    Congratulations Mark,I follow this blog quite a bit in the winter and I’m always interested in what you have to say during some of the trickier forecasts!You are a true “Weatherman” so keep doing what your doing and thanks for all the years of great forecasting!

  36. boydo3 says:

    My brother and I jokingly referred to you as Doogie (aka Doogie Howser) in the early years because of your resemblance to the TV character. BUT we always checked out your forecasts and still do because you were and are the most informative and accurate meteorologist in the PNW viewing area. I’m sure most weather nerds will heartily agree.
    Right up there with Bob Lynott and Jack Capell.
    Keep up the good work!

  37. Muxpux (Castle Rock) says:

    If it wasn’t for the math, I’d have pursued a meteorology degree of some sort. Math, at least the math required, doesn’t come to easy for me. Which is frustrating, having a pretty firm grasp of overall concepts and whatnot. Kind of the difference between book smart and street smart.

    It’s too bad there’s not a way to pursue that without the math being such a huge factor.

    I find myself watching YouTube videos of demonstrations of atmospheric processes and they make complete sense, then they show an equation and my brain basically gets scrambled. I’m very visual.

  38. Jim says:

    Been watching and following the blog all these years. You have no idea how much we appreciate you. One of my favorite people

  39. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Congrats, Mark. You’re the best in the biz. People know I’m a weather nerd and ask me where to get their info from. I tell them to listen to you and only you.

  40. Mokihana says:

    Congratulations on a job well done. I always trust your forecasts and enjoy your blog posts. I appreciate this one in particular!

  41. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Congrats Mark. It’s always a fun and interesting weather segment when I see you on TV 😉 I think the one thing that makes you a interesting person is your since of humor. You make people laugh, like at the Weather Conference. It kept people entertained and made them want to watch your presentation. 😉 So Congratulations again 🤗🌧🌬

  42. Amber G says:

    I love reading this! My mom tells me that the first time I saw you on the air in 1993, I yelled “Mom! Come here! A 12-year-old is doing the weather!” (I was 11 at the time). I wanted nothing more than to be a meteorologist and have held you in high esteem for what feels like my entire life. I ended up taking more of a social sciences path, and now have a geography degree from UC Berkeley. I still am so excited by weather, meteorology, climate — all of it — and your posts and forecasts are still the best in the biz up here. Your “institutional knowledge” of Portland weather at this point cannot be rivaled. Thanks for always inspiring me and for making me feel like I am not crazy for being so obsessed with weather!

  43. Marlene Bickar says:

    Mark, Thank you for letting us in, on your whirl wind ride, When you were talking about Chehalis I was so surprised you had spent time in MY area. Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate you on 25 years of AWESOME service to our community’s. You are a great meteorologist. Marlene Bickar

  44. JERAT416 says:

    Good for you Mark!

  45. K says:

    Congratulations on 25 years, Mr. Nelsen. Still the most accurate met on air IMO.

    On another note, I missed the cold east wind, and its currently raging outside. Gusts to 40 possible up here in the hills tomorrow.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I went up to Crown Point between 2 and 4pm. It was fun trying to keep myself up in the wind. The winds were in the 60+ mph range. I went to the store a few minutes ago. I walked out the door and bam, the cold and windy weather hit me. It actually felt like fall/winter outside…lol. If the winds keep it up tomorrow, I’ll head back up to Crown Point again…lol 😉

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