BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – For 44 years, Don Guthrie has been forecasting the weather and bringing it to viewers’ living rooms.
He was originally hired at WKBN in 1970 as an afternoon disc jockey. But six months in, he started doing the weather and he has been doing it ever since.
WKBN’s chief meteorologist has seen a lot of changes in his time here, especially with the technology he uses to give viewers an up-to-date forecast. The biggest changes have been in radar and satellite technology.
“I used to have to dial a telephone number and wait anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to get a radar picture in. By the time you got it, it was old,” Guthrie said during an interview last week.
He keeps his forecasting simple so everyone can understand it, even kids.
“Kids in class send me cartoons of tornadoes and their dogs run under the bed when it thunders and things like that,” Guthrie said.
And while many people in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys are used to seeing Don Guthrie give them their weather forecast, he looks much different these days.
He has lost a lot of weight from chemotherapy and the late-stage pancreatic cancer he has battled for several months has taken its toll.
But there’s one thing about Guthrie that has not changed is his recognizable voice.
“Always got to maintain a little bit of an edge when the red light is on, but that is easy enough to do,” he said.
From his days on radio to his guaranteed forecast, he is a fixture in Youngstown. He is solid at his job, a true professional, but he admits he was nervous for his very first forecast.
“Everything was shaking, my shirt was shaking, everything. I kind of settled in. The rest is history,” Guthrie said.
He reflected on his early days in the business.
“I had little red semi-circles for warm fronts, little blue triangles for cold fronts. They were stuck on green velvet,” Guthrie said.
He also talked about the story he will never forget, the tornado of 1985, and how it changed the outlook on severe weather and taking watches and warnings seriously.
“It’s the only time in broadcasting that we do anything that can be a matter of life and death, you know. And it’s nice to be there when people expect us to be there,” Guthrie said.
He has been paying attention to our station’s severe weather coverage this summer too.
“It’s tough to sit home and not be part of it,” Guthrie said.
He has gone through radiation treatment and has had five doses of chemotherapy. There are good and bad days.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy and it isn’t. But I am hanging in there,” Guthrie said.
Dr. Ayla Kessler is a medical oncologist at St. Elizabeth Health Center. She is not involved in Guthrie’s treatment.
“It is intrinsically a very aggressive tumor compared to other tumors we deal with every day,” Dr. Kessler said.
She said clinical trials are often let downs, but there are success stories.
“I have a few patients in my clinic that are surviving now with Stage 4 for a year and 10 months and this has surpassed my initial expectation,” Dr. Kessler said.
From the start, Guthrie has not let his diagnosis rule his life. The hundreds of cards, letters and Facebook messages from viewers are motivation.
“My wife and I sit here and read them and cry a lot, say ‘oh, we got to answer that one’ a lot. It’s really something,” he said.
Guthrie wants to come back to work. He simply loves what he does.
“Hope I get to keep doing it,” he said.
That positive attitude is just one thing about Guthrie we all know and love. So is his sense of humor, which was so clear when he talked about losing his hair to chemo.
“Viewer discretion involved. This is the way I really look now,” he said as he took off his hat.
While Gutrhie isn’t able to forecast in the weather center, he has his personal forecast: He is fighting this cancer 100 percent.
“You got to fight until the end and keep on going,” he said.