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Caiano’s long climb to WNYT Chief Meteorologist began with fill-in WAMC forecast

Paul Caiano
Paul Caiano

Listeners to this station count on hearing the regional weather forecast each day at 6:52am and during Midday Magazine. Trust me, they really count on it. But meteorologist Paul Caiano got some big news at his home station the other day. As he nears 30 years at NewsChannel13 WNYT, Caiano was named Chief Meteorologist.

Congratulations on the promotion. What does it entail exactly?

Well, I'll be taking over more of the let's say, overseeing of the weather department to make sure that we have the appropriate equipment that we need every day, because that's always changing with technology and making sure that our staff is fully equipped with the best tools to do the job. That's primarily what it is, of course, the weather doesn't change. So, I don't you know, I'm not blessed with any additional forecasting talents, which I wish I was. But as far as my day to day, what you see on the air, it's not that much of a change.

So, tell us about your path to this position as Chief Meteorologist. You've really been at 13 since you were right out of college.

Yeah, I graduated UAlbany in May of '93 and I started here at WNYT in July of '93 as a fill-in meteorologist and by November of that year, they gave me the weekend position and I did that for seven years. I think what most everyone will remember, and really it was what made me I guess more well known throughout the region is the role when I took over for Norm Sebastian, who passed away in late 2000 as the station's morning meteorologist, and I did that from 2000 until 2017.

What interested you about the weather and being a meteorologist?

Oh boy, there's so many things. I mean, first of all, I always loved math and science. But I think more than anything as far as weather goes when I was a kid, I mean, elementary school, junior high school, it always fascinated me why certain things happen. You look up in the sky, and you wonder why are these clouds are the way they are and why is it storming today and the next day was sunny? I always want to answer those questions. And like any other kid, I wanted to know if we're going to have a snow day the next day. So those are my initial reasons. But I think prominent weather events, ones that go down in history like Hurricane Gloria. I grew up down in New Rochelle in Westchester County, so it was close to Long Island Sound. So, we got some pretty good storms. We got hurricanes. Hurricane David, or what was left of it anyway, in the late 70’s. We had a couple of Blizzards in the late 70’s. And then when I was in ninth grade, I was in an Earth Science class and I just absolutely loved it. The teacher was phenomenal. I was the Chief Meteorologist in that class for our weather unit and Hurricane Gloria came through and it basically ravaged Southern New York, Long Island and New England. That was in 1985 and I think that's what really cemented in me that this is what I wanted to do.

And at UAlbany, you were a Mike Landin protégé, right?

Yeah, I have a funny story about that because obviously, our listeners will know Mike Landin and know that I took over after he finished his tenure here during the weather report. What was interesting to me is that there was a note on the wall that said that they needed people to do the radio for the afternoon drive for WAMC. This was my freshman year in 1989 and I remember bugging Mike Landin that whole fall semester, September, October and he's like, 'You're a freshman. You're not going to do the radio. This is for seniors and for graduate students to get some experience doing this stuff.' So, I pleaded with him and then finally, there was a day, it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and nobody was around. It was going to be a ghost town at the university. So, Mike said 'Hey, do you want to do the radio?' that day, and I remember how happy I was and thrilled and it turned out that there was a snowstorm down near New York City and New Jersey and Long Island and Southern New England for my first day, but I was working on that forecast from 9 o’clock in the morning until 3:45 in the afternoon. But that was actually the first time I was ever on the air, whether it be radio or television, ever.

Wow. Well, earlier you mentioned that part of your job as Chief Meteorologist now at the TV station is going to be staying up on the latest technology and that kind of thing. Has forecasting the weather gotten easier or more accurate since you started?

Absolutely. I mean, I wouldn't say easier but I certainly would say more accurate and that's because of the technology, mainly. The way I like to look at it is, back when I first started in television 30 years ago, or when I was at UAlbany right before that, you could take a look at a five-day forecast and you know, it wasn't very accurate. And nowadays, a seven-day forecast is more accurate than the five-day forecasts were back then, and a three-day forecast is more accurate than the next day's forecast. It's just by leaps and bounds and it has everything to do with our computer processing speeds and the computer models that we use.

How do you approach doing it for the radio versus TV? With your job at Channel 13, there's obviously a lot of graphics and radar screens and things you can show. On the radio, it's all down to what you're saying.

Yeah, that's a great question. I'll tell you this, I do look at some satellites and radars and so forth while I am doing the radio feed and it helps me sort of, paint the picture, if you will. I'm a big sports fan and I used to listen to Yankee games on the radio, and as well as TV, but sometimes they just weren't on. And I realized what doing the radio, what the difference was. You actually have to be the eyes of the listener and I feel like, what I'm trying to do when I'm giving the weather report is explain a map that's in front of me and yes, it takes some knowledge of geography, and so forth. But I'm sure our listeners are aware of that and I tried to put things in a little more detail about where things are, where things are going and who's going to get what.

What's been the key to your longevity as a broadcaster? I mean, even in our market there is a ton of turnover, people are leaving for other markets, they get fired. I mean, this stuff is just part of it. How have you lasted this long?

It's just a passion. I mean, not that others don't have passion. It's just that, well, first of all, I love the area. And I got married here, I raised my family here, we built the house here. So, the Capital Region became home for me, and I love it. It's a great location and as far as the weather aspect of it goes, you cannot get any more challenging weather forecasts than you can here in the Northeast and as a result, it keeps the juices flowing. It keeps that passion going. As we get into the different seasons, it always has something new to offer and it's kind of refreshing from season to season to get that revival of the type of weather that comes with that season and that keeps me going.

I don't mind because I do not like winter, but is it bizarre to you to look around as we speak here in mid-January and not see any snow on the ground?

Well, if you asked me 15-20 years ago, I would say yes, but nowadays with climate change, and I'm not saying that's the only reason why it's like this, but patterns are changing and last year was similar to this year. And with the El Nino pattern and the La Nina pattern that we have this year, it does not surprise me that we've had an overall lack of snow. But sure, I mean, we're going through the middle of, the heart of winter, when we typically have our biggest snowstorms here and in the early to mid-stages of January with no snow on the ground, it's certainly unusual, but I don't think anything surprises me anymore when it comes to what we see weather wise from season to season.

OK, last thing, Paul, have you ever been to Nunavut territory?

I have not. Do you have tickets for me? I'd love to go.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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