70th ANNIVERSARY: Andy Wallace remembers his time at KSWO
LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - As we continue our look back at the past 70 years, we are visiting with some of our more familiar faces to find out where they are now.
Tonight, we turn our focus to the weather team and one of KSWO’s most famous meteorologist, Andy Wallace.
“There’s a lot of fond memories, we did a lot down there,” Wallace said. “It was very demanding. It is a very meteorologically challenging part of the country. In a lot of cases the storms originate there. Working in Tulsa, we just waited on them, working in Lawton we had to figure out there they were going up and that was the biggest difference between the two.”
If you have been in Lawton for any amount of time, the name Andy Wallace is one you are familiar with when talking about the history of KSWO and weather in Southwest Oklahoma.
Like most meteorologist, Andy grew up being interested by weather which pushed him to want to learn more about how it develops and how it affects communities.
“The early tornado events that you remember,” Wallace said. “I think for me it was actually Terrible Tuesday. I was a second grader at Grand Avenue in Chickasha when all of that was going on and I just knew it was going on. It still sticks to my mind and it would be what I would call tremendous fate that it was like ‘no, you are going to work down there one day.’”
In his 20s, while working on a degree from the University of Oklahoma, Andy had a conversation with a friend who already worked in the industry which ultimately led him to Lawton and another twist of fate which brought that conversation full circle.
“The very next day he calls and leaves a message on my answering machine,” Wallace said. “He goes ‘the Lawton station has a weekend weather opening and I think it would be good for you.’ So I contacted them and went down and did a demo. I was going down there two days a week solely on weekends. About a month and a half into it the morning meteologist, Darrel Reed, got a job in Oklahoma City, actually replacing my friend who had gotten me the job. So they looked at me and asked if I wanted to be mornings.”
After getting his start in Texoma he says it wasn’t long until he was introduced to the stresses of the job when he got the chance to fill in for another KSWO legend.
“In fact my first night on the air was in late May or early June of ‘92,” Wallace said. “Tom Charles was sick, and he never got sick, so they had me do the 10 and there was baseball sized hail and a tornado warning in Duncan. Thats my first show and that was my introduction to Texoma, and that is pretty much how the next 10 years went.”
The 90s were a technological revolution for broadcast meteorologist and KSWO was a leader, not only here in Southwest Oklahoma, but across the country.
“KSWO was getting ready to put the first computer on the air that ran Windows,” Wallace said. “I think it was serial number three. We were the first ones to put it on the air. Everyone used it eventually, but we were the first. To get to walk in at that time to all of this new technology, that didn’t even have a book, there was no book because it was so new. We just had to sit there and get trained on it then just use it and piece it all together.”
When asked about his most memorable moments at KSWO, Andy mentioned three things -- the May 1996 downburst which caused massive damage across the Lawton area, the May 3, ‘99 tornado outbreak which started here in Southwest Oklahoma and the Fifth Season tours which gave him a chance to meet viewers in person.
“To get to go to the schools and the communities and get to meet everybody, and see the crowds and all of the energy,” Wallace said. “My whole year revolved around that. I know a lot of people looked forward to coming to them but I looked even more forward to presenting them.”
So what advice does he have for someone who wants to break into the world of broadcast meteorology?
“I think its to understand your local area and really be that expert,” Wallace said. “As long as you do that you are always in demand. Here is the one thing about weather it is the one touch point that hits everyone. It doesn’t matter your age or anything, it impacts everybody.”
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