SEATTLE - It's bittersweet for the Q13 News team to say goodbye to Chief Meteorologist Walter Kelley. He's been at Q13 longer than any other member of our on-air staff – 23 years!
And he’s given us so many memories. To reflect, Matt Lorch wanted to join Walter on something he does every day – going on a walk through the city.
“You know Matt, I love to walk all over Seattle.”
Step out in Seattle with Walter Kelley and it’s immediately clear how much he’s loved living here.
“Seattle’s got it going on with the culture, the people the food," Walter said.
The stories come storming back like all of the weather events Walter has warned us about over the years.
“I got to tell you about the storm of 2008! Big wind came through here," he said. "All of western Washington could see wind gusts tonight of up to 68 miles an hour.”
“I mean, I really am like a weather nerd," Walter said laughing. "I grew up, I told you the story about Mt. St. Helens blowing up, that got me into earth sciences. I was way more of a scientist than the TV part.”
His thirst to understand the weather began when Walter was just a boy, the youngest of four kids. One of the most curious in his class in Portland, Oregon.
By the time he got to college – his desire to become a meteorologist – almost as impressive -- as that flowing head of hair.
After short stints in smaller markets, in 1997, Q13 launched a news operation and Seattle came calling.
“We had not done news, so we brought everybody in at the same time we became like a family -- right off the bat.”
His brother in forecasting, chief meteorologist at the time, Jim Castillo.
“Jimmy just took me under his wings. So we’ve talked monthly for 23 years.”
“I met you in December of 1997 and the thing I appreciate most about you is our decades-long friendship and you truly feel like my brother,” Jim said.
You couldn't keep him down – Walter took risks – rarely seen in traditional TV news. What we like to call Walter being Walter.
He never seemed like a stuffy scientist. Instead, Walter's been like a good buddy -- bouncing and boosting our spirits.
“I learned my lesson the hard way on live television. It’s like weather, then bounce. Ha, ha, ha. Hey guys, that’s what kicked my butt.”
Peter Alexander, now co-anchor of NBC's weekend Today show, had a front-row seat to the Walter show.
“Hey Walter, it’s your friend Peter Alexander. I cannot believe it’s been 16 years since we did mornings on Q together. So many good memories. All the Mariners’ games and hanging off the Space Needle in harnesses. Remember that?"
So many memories during Walter's time here.
“For about a year we did ‘Where’s Walter?’ and I’d go to every town in western Washington. And we would give away clues until people would call in. In the old days. They’d call in and say, 'Walter’s in Snohomish!’”
He also had big personal milestones here.
“A lot of your biggest life moments happened here in Seattle. Your kids were born here, right? Both of them up at Swedish on ‘Pill Hill’, up on Cap Hill," said Matt.
He can hardly count the family adventures throughout the Pacific Northwest that Walter and his wife Michelle cherished.
Through the bright blue eyes of their two boys who have grown up exploring jagged coastlines and dark caves.
"My whole family was raised here, 23 years is a long time in one place!" Walter said.
As the city changed, Walter was there to share it with us. Like the day the iconic Kingdome came down.
“I was right there. I was right on top of Beacon right there on that building," he said. “I will never forget the day the Kingdome imploded. The sound. The smell. The ground shook. That was really cool”
But not nearly as cool as the memories he’d make in the new stadium that replaced it.
“Their first 15 years of their life was essentially at this stadium”
As Watler and his sons became die-hard Seattle Sounders fans.
“I have pictures of my kids dancing to the Sounders victories. I’ll just never forget some fun times in there with the family.”
His favorite sounders player of all time is Brad Evans.
“Hey Walter, Brad Evans of Sounders FC I just want to say a massive thank you for all the support through all the years. I know you’re a big Sounders fan as well as your kids. I also want to say thank you for providing us the best weather reports in all of Seattle. You will now be moving on to my hometown Phoenix, where, I’ll give you a hint, it’s sunny and hot. So, there’s your homework. Brush up on it. And best of luck!”
Also, a life-long Seahawks fan, Walter will never forget being right in the middle of *=this moment.
"Go Hawks! Super Bowl Champions. And to be down here with all the people -- I mean who gets that in their city.”
His favorite Seahawks player ever, former hall of famer Walter Jones.
“From one Walter to another. Thanks for making sure I was weather-ready on game days," Jones said. "Could we get a final Walter and Walter weather report. Let’s make this happen, man. The city needs this man.”
And Q13 has needed Walter Kelley. As long the station has been doing news, Walter has been there for us.
We will miss his passion for weather patterns and we’ll miss his bow ties every New Year's Eve.
But mostly we’ll miss that one-of-a-kind Walter Kelley personality.
“We have been blessed to have Walter for 23 years in the Pacific Northwest.”
"There’s only one Walter Kelley," said Q13 News anchor David Rose. "There are other meteorologists and other weather people, there will never be another Walter Kelley.”
Q13 News viewers wanted to share their appreciation too -- thanking Walter on a Zoom call for all he's done.
“It’s just been fun and just being part of this city, you know," he said. "I’ve been welcomed here. It’s nice.”
Always the weatherman, and during this -- his final walk through Seattle -- we saw some sprinkles just as Walter predicted and has done so with pride for 23 years.
“Q13 has been my family and, you know, I feel blessed. It's awesome.”
Week of Walter
We're both happy and sad to declare this the Week of Walter on Q13 News -- as we salute our friend as he gets ready to embark on a new adventure.
Make sure to tune in every night at 10:00 p.m. -- as we salute Walter after nearly a quarter-century at Q13 FOX.
And then on Thursday night -- join us for the ultimate Walter Kelley blowout celebration.
We're going to share memories and stories about Walter's 23-years here -- and there just might be a couple surprises in the mix. That's Thursday, June 25 on Q13 News at 10:00 p.m.