Meteorologist Bob Ryan to retire from WJLA

May 8, 2013

Weather forecaster Bob Ryan, a fixture on Washington’s TV airwaves for decades, said Wednesday that he intends to retire next month from WJLA (Channel 7).

Ryan has been forecasting sun, rain and snow for more than 30 years, spending most of his TV career at WRC (Channel 4) before moving to rival WJLA in 2010. He was briefly a forecaster on NBC’s “Today” show before his move to WRC in 1980.

With a friendly but no-nonsense style, Ryan, a certified meteorologist, has guided Washington area viewers through blizzards, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes. His presence helped make NBC-owned WRC the leading news station in the region. At WJLA, an ABC affiliate, he has teamed with another local weather forecasting veteran, Doug Hill.

Ryan, 70, said he would stay with the station through the May “sweeps” period and into the latter part of June. He called his parting with the station “amicable.”

“He’s not just an on-air personality, he’s a scientist,” said Fred Ryan, the president and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications, WJLA’s parent company. “He’s an iconic figure in weather circles.” (Fred Ryan is not related to Bob Ryan.)


Bob Ryan (ABC7/WJLA)

At WJLA, Ryan was frustrated with the quick demise of TBD.com, a digital-TV partnership owned by Allbritton. He joined WJLA just as Allbritton was ramping up the venture, which was supposed to feature weather news prominently online. Ryan is a pioneer in digital weather forecasting, having started one of the first local weather sites, WeatherNet4, in 1996.

Allbritton ended TBD in mid-2011, less than a year after it began, citing financial losses.

“Everyone said we were committed to it for at least two to three years,” Ryan said Wednesday in an interview. “It became two to three months. But that’s the way it goes, I guess.”

Meanwhile, a transition is afoot for Allbritton, which announced last week that it intends to sell its string of TV outlets, including WJLA and NewsChannel 8, its all-local news cable venture. The move has put the station “in a holding pattern,” leading to some frustration, Ryan said.

“I made the decision [to retire] before the new owner gets here,” he said.

Ryan said he plans to remain active, writing and blogging about the weather, possibly in conjunction with The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. He may also appear on WJLA as a “fill-in” forecaster, but details have not been determined. He ruled out joining another local station.

“I’m definitely not moving to Florida anytime soon,” he said.

In addition, Ryan said he intends to spend more time with his grandson.

Jason Samenow, chief meteorologist for the Capital Weather Gang, said he has discussed working with Ryan “in some capacity” but nothing has been formalized. Samenow, who worked as an intern for Ryan while attending high school, called him “a wonderful mentor” and “a giant in the world of broadcast meteorology.”

The loss of Ryan was a blow to WRC and a coup for WJLA.

Ryan, along with co-anchors Doreen Gentzler and Jim Vance and the late sportscaster George Michael, had been part of the team that has made WRC a ratings powerhouse for the past two decades. But since Ryan’s departure, WJLA has not been able to overtake WRC in audience ratings.

WJLA has not made a decision on who will replace Ryan as the forecaster on its 11 p.m. newscasts, Fred Ryan said.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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