Paul Barys discusses weather with Cleveland Kiwanians

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 7/14/19

Paul Barys, longtime weatherman for Channel 3 in Chattanooga, shared his expertise with members of the Cleveland Kiwanis Club Thursday.Barys has been a member of the station's Storm Alert Team since …

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Paul Barys discusses weather with Cleveland Kiwanians

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Paul Barys, longtime weatherman for Channel 3 in Chattanooga, shared his expertise with members of the Cleveland Kiwanis Club Thursday.

Barys has been a member of the station's Storm Alert Team since 1985, all 34 years in the Southeast Tennessee area.

He discussed some of the worst weather conditions he has witnessed, including the 2011 tornadoes which swept through South Cleveland with a tremendous loss of life. He also mentioned the tornado that hit here the following year, and devastated nearby Apison.

Barys  began his career in private weather forecasting in 1974, before moving to television broadcasting in 1975. He said when he told co-workers he was going to television, they laughed at him.

He joined Channel 3 after working at stations in Washington , North Carolina, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Cleveland, Ohio.

He received his bachelor of science in meteorology from Northern Illinois University  and the American Meteorological Society's Television Seal of Approval in 1975. He and wife Sarah live in Red Bank.

Barys has become a well-known, on-air, personality, and several members of his Kiwanis audience were quick to praise his professionalism.

He opened his talk like a true weatherman, saying, "I'm 80 glad to be here."

"I usually talk about storm systems, because they're more interesting," Barys continued. "But, today I want to talk about television and weather forecasting, and how it is changing, and has changed."

Barys said during his early days in television, "I was the show. I was a storyteller. But that has changed."

"Today, the graphics tell the story, and people no longer view me. It's much different than what it used to be."

In reflecting on changes, Barys said, "Slowly the computers got involved, and they and the graphics tell the story."

Barys said when he was growing up, "I knew I was going to be a meteorologist. But, I never planned for television. I thought I'd work with the weather service."

The idea of being a weatherman on television came up when one of his clients hired a model to provide the weather, and he was asked to give her a briefing.

"She knew nothing about the weather, but she went on to say everything I told her," Barys related. "I thought to my self, I can do that!" 

But, with some drama coaching and practice, he improved his skills, prepared a rather expensive resume, and mailed it to television stations across the nation.

Responses were limited, and even Channel 9 in Chattanooga apparently lost the resume (since they never gave him a cal)l. His only offer was from Eastern North Carolina, although they cut the salary offer from $150 to $125 per week.

The rest is history. Barys went on to work in multiple states, and eventually wound up in Chattanooga in 1985. Thirty-four years later he's still here, which he says is very rare in the weather forecasting profession. He admitted he is now an "old man" in the business.

Barys  again emphasized the business is continually changing, but added he enjoys goingto small community groups, like Thursday's Kiwanis luncheon.

During his discussion, Barys mentioned the 1993 blizzard which smothered most of East Tennessee.

"I told my wife a blizzard was coming, and she didn't know what a blizzard was," he said.

"I made a name for myself during that storm, because I hyped it," the meteorologist said. "I predicted it would be the worst storm in Chattanooga's history, and my director said, 'It better be!"

Barys said the storm reminded him of Chicago, where he grew up, and it included thunder snow. He said the snow was coming down in several inches each hour. One woman called Barys and said "Jesus is coming!"

After discussing the major storms he has experience, Barys said it's the little one you miss, in forecasting.

"That remains true, but the computer predictions are getting better and better."

Barys ended his presentation with a short question-and-answer session with Kiwanis members.

In closing, the well-known meteorologist said he is often asked why the weather today is so wacky?

"It's not," he said. "It's the same thing that has happened many, many times before.  In the past, there was no cable news and no internet, just those short newscasts. We had no (instant) way of knowing about severe weather happenings, like we do today. And, we hype it!" 

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