Mr. Hill was so devoted to the job — and so enamored with the weather, even if he never really loved the cold — that despite having the flu during the Snowzilla blizzard of 2016, when one to three feet fell across the region, “he was on for like 12 hours straight,” said Alex Liggitt, the weekend morning meteorologist at ABC7.
“Doug was passionate about getting people prepared for even average weather,” his former colleague, meteorologist Bob Ryan, said in a statement, “but especially when any weather was dangerous, he was at the top of his game.”
Mr. Hill was 71 when he died Nov. 22 at his home in Leland, N.C. His daughter, Maggie Hill, confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.
An Air Force veteran who served for six years in the Prince George’s County Police Department, Mr. Hill took a winding path to meteorology. But he had tracked the weather ever since he was a boy, getting an early introduction to the power of thunderstorms on his seventh birthday, when a backyard celebration at his family’s rowhouse in the Baltimore suburbs was forced inside by the sound of thunder.
Barred from going into an inflatable pool that his parents had acquired for the occasion, Mr. Hill said he raised his fist to the heavens and said, “God, let lightning strike this house.” Moments later, a thunderbolt struck the spot where power lines entered the home. Mr. Hill was chastened but uninjured.
“That changed my life forever,” he told the Calvert Recorder of Southern Maryland. “There are those that will say that is an odd coincidence. In my world, where I come from, that is not a coincidence.”
Mr. Hill developed a profound interest in both meteorology and Christianity — “I got fed science from my father and the Bible from my mother,” he said — and worked in recent years at a Christian radio station, WGTS-FM. Decades earlier, its music had offered him solace after the death of his 3-year-old son, Michael, from a heart attack, which Mr. Hill called “the worst” moment of his life.
For some viewers, his own broadcasts were a balm of sorts, even if they were usually limited to discussions of precipitation totals or high and low temperatures. He said that he fielded calls from viewers each day, including parents who asked him to help their children with science homework, and at least one woman who wanted to ask about a mysterious object she saw in the night sky. (It was probably Venus, he told her.)
Others, including a few elderly women who followed him across the dial from Channel 9 to Channel 7, just seemed interested in saying hello to the familiar face on their television screen. “They’re shut-ins,” Mr. Hill told the Washington Times in 2001. “I come into their home every night and they feel like I’m part of the family. They don’t have a lot of people to talk to.”
He said they were his favorite callers.
Lawrence Douglas Hill was born in Towson, Md., on July 29, 1950. His father was an engineer for Martin Marietta, and his mother was a homemaker. An older brother, Dennis, became a DJ — piquing Doug’s interest in radio — and later served as a longtime spokesman for Baltimore police.
When Mr. Hill couldn’t find a radio job after high school, he studied communications at Towson State College (now Towson University). He dropped out after a year, then joined the Air Force in 1969 when a recruiter promised that he would be trained in broadcasting.
Instead, he was assigned to security forces and spent much of the next four years at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County. He joined the county police in 1973, became a public information officer and was encouraged to work in television by a pair of local crime reporters.
His cover letters emphasized that he wanted to be a police reporter. But he also mentioned weather forecasting as a hobby, and in 1978 was hired as a weekend weathercaster at WWBT in Richmond.
Mr. Hill worked in Detroit before coming to Washington in 1984. For 16 years, he was a meteorologist at WUSA Channel 9, where he worked alongside weather broadcasters such as Gordon Barnes and Topper Shutt, who became the station’s chief meteorologist.
He joined WJLA as its chief meteorologist in 2000, and quickly acquired a reputation as a thoughtful, encouraging mentor to younger forecasters and producers.
“He was always mentoring,” said Liggitt, who described Mr. Hill as his “second dad.” “People would send him tapes from across the country, and he would always take the time to look at them and give feedback.”
“When he was teaching me, I never wanted to be on TV,” Liggitt added in a phone interview. “He was like, ‘It’s you and the camera, if you mess up, just make a joke about it.’ He would drop the clicker every now and then — and would make fun of himself and move on. That was the way to endear yourself to people. Just laugh it off.”
Mr. Hill’s first marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 28 years, the former Mary-Ann Vranken; a son from his earlier marriage, Brian Hill; a stepson, Andrew Bedard; two children from his second marriage, Peter and Maggie Hill; a brother; and three grandchildren.
Announcing his retirement from WJLA, Mr. Hill said he wanted to focus on his family and on Christian ministry, including by teaching Sunday school at Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown, Md., and volunteering with End Hunger in Calvert County, a nonprofit organization.
He had also grown tired of certain aspects of weather forecasting. Retiring meant a whole new lifestyle, he told the Calvert Record: “I have been wearing a suit my whole life for five days a week. It’s time to move on.”