News75th Anniversary


A look back at 75 years of News 5 weather personalities, weather events, and forecasting technology

Posted at 12:25 PM, Dec 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 15:58:07-05

CLEVELAND — Since News 5 first went on the air in December of 1947, we've kept community top of mind, bringing you the stories you need to know about. Over the decades, we’ve put community first with some of the best meteorological talent in Northeast Ohio television history here at News 5.

As part of our 75th anniversary celebration, we take a look back at some of our notable personalities and weather events and examined how forecasting technology has evolved over the years.

It was just a month after WEWS first hit the airwaves that we became the first TV station in Cleveland to bring our audience extended severe weather coverage, staying on the air for hours during a blizzard in January 1948.

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The blizzard of 1948.

Our first meteorologist, Tom Field, made sure everyone in Northeast Ohio had the information they needed to stay safe.

But when you think of blizzards, it's likely the blizzard of '78 that comes to mind.

“The wind is so strong I can't even catch my breath,” said a News 5 meteorologist reporting from Public Square at the time.

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Image from the blizzard of 1978.

Even 44 years ago, people had the same thought when they saw a blizzard was ready to strike — milk and bread.

"At Milbrook Bakery today, about 30,000 loaves of bread were sold off the shipping docks as fast as the bakery could produce them. Normally, Milbrook doesn't sell any bread on Sundays,” a News 5 anchor reported in 1978.

While we're no stranger to major snow events here in Northeast Ohio, our weather really runs the gamut.

Twenty years ago, we actually saw back-to-back years with fall tornado outbreaks, including massive damage to homes in Solon in 2002.

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A look at radar during an outbreak of tornadoes in 2002.

“And then all a sudden it sounded like a bunch of marbles hitting the top of the roof,” said one resident.

A magnitude 4.96 earthquake hit Lake County in 1986, and its effects could be felt in 11 states, parts of Canada and Washington DC.

“All of a sudden the building started to shake and the tile started to fall out of the ceilings,” one witness told News 5.

While Tom Field was our station's first meteorologist, Don Webster may be the most well-known, and he did a lot more than the weather; notably, he hosted “Upbeat,” News 5’s musical and variety program that attracted a number of big-name musical artists.

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Don Webster, one of News 5's most well-known personalities.

This self-described "Kid from Canada" even turned down an offer to host “American Bandstand” because he loved it here in Cleveland so much.

Technology has come a long way since that first blizzard we covered back in 1948.

Longtime viewers might remember the days when our meteorologists used magnets and slides to share their forecasts.

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"Advanced" weather graphics from decades past used sliding panels and magnets.

Of course, we didn't always have radar. It came on the scene when Webster was our meteorologist, and it looked like what you'd expect to see on a submarine.

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The original weather radar looks a little different than it does today.

While we have much more advanced tools now to tell you information like temperature, precipitation, and wind velocity, we used to have all those meters hanging right on the wall of the weather center.

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Those aren't clocks on the right — those are meters showing various weather conditions, such as temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.

Now Chief Meteorologist Mark Johnson and the First Alert Weather Team have banks of computers ingesting gigabytes of weather data that they use to come up with a forecast for our viewers every single day. Plus, the latest Doppler radar lets us take a look inside a thunderstorm and show exactly where danger lurks.

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Nowadays, the weather center looks much different, employing the latest technology to provide the most accurate forecast. But what will it look like 75 years from now?

No matter what Mother Nature throws our direction, and you know she throws everything at us here in Northeast Ohio, WEWS has been here when you need us for 75 years now, and we look forward to keeping you safe and informed for the next 75.

RELATED: More of our 75th-anniversary coverage can be found here

WEWS Celebrates 75 Years as a Trailblazing Station

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Read and watch the latest Power of 5 forecast here.

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Phil Sakal: Facebook & Twitter