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DeNardo, Kudzma downplay their forecasting roles

| Monday, Sept. 19, 2011

When they retired, Joe DeNardo and Bob Kudzma had logged a combined almost 80 years on the air.

DeNardo, who retired in 2004, was with WTAE for 35 years, after having been at KDKA for 10; Kudzma was with KDKA for 33 1/2 years before retiring in 2002.

During that time, they were the weather for many Pittsburghers.

Today, the two meteorologists downplay their icon status.

"It seems like the smaller the market area, the more significant the weather person seems to be," Kudzma says. "We became more significant as people relied on the weather (forecast) more and more in the '70s, '80s and '90s."

In retirement, he has been driving a bus for the Bethel Park School District for several years. "It's mostly just for fun. I enjoy the kids and driving," he says. Some of the students have learned of his former life "fixing the weather" (as KDKA's light-hearted promotional advertisement once touted). "Sometimes, their parents or grandparents tell them," he says.

When Kudzma first stepped in front of the camera in 1968, he says, "Weather was almost like a throw-away. It never seemed very important. It was, 'Do two minutes and get out of it,' " Now, he says, "TV is saturated with it."

He admits to missing forecasting "to some extent. I miss getting all the information and coming up with the forecast. The pressure of the job, though, was getting to be more and more difficult."

The field has changed significantly in the past 10 years for television meteorologists with more pressure to do well, DeNardo says.

"I am grateful for what WTAE made available to me. I had one of the best relationships an individual could have with its employer in this particular field," he says.

The Moon resident kept his home phone number in the local directory while he was on the air. "Never did I get a crank or complaint call. I'd get a few complaints through the station." he says. "You couldn't be 100 percent right, but I always tried to give it my best shot."

He insisted on a professional approach for himself and his staff when delivering the weather. "I worked hard to do it the right way, and didn't appreciate any clowning during the forecast," he says.

He says if he still were on television, he would use the newer popular models generated by the National Weather Service, which project and forecast conditions, "with a great deal of restraint."

"I still can't be convinced that a model, even though they continue to improve, can routinely give me a snow storm five to seven days in advance," he says. "For a major snowstorm in excess of 6 inches of snow, I cannot, in all good conscious, put that out on the air right now, because it can change tomorrow. Maybe one of these days."

He also wonders whether relying on the models too extensively can lead to a similar forecast by everyone who uses them.

DeNardo believes that his striving for accuracy and his longevity helped him develop a certain credibility with his audience. His 22 years of visiting 30 schools per year for weather assemblies, and his involvement in community projects also played roles in the manner in which he has been embraced by the public, he says.

"I had my period, and these people on the air now have theirs," he says. "I wish them the very best. All the television and radio stations do a credible job."

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