Photo by David Uhrin
Don Slater’s catalyst for becoming a meteorologist was pretty simple. As a kid, he saw a local weather forecaster and proclaimed, “I can do that. That’s easy.” Apparently he was right because we went to college to learn the trade and got his first job without posting a single resume. One of his professors, who recognized Slater’s potential as an on-air personality, knew someone in television and told him, “You need to get this guy in and do an audition with him.”
That was all it took. Slater started his first television gig in Fargo, N.D., then moved a year and a half later to Lincoln, Neb. “I wanted to move up, and that’s the problem when you work in television,” says Slater. “There are usually only three jobs that you want in any given broadcast area, so you can’t just move across town to get a better job. You need to move to a different city.” So, on August 1, 1981, he began at WAVY TV 10, and he’s been here ever since.
With such a long tenure in a local market like Coastal Virginia, Slater has become an easily recognizable celebrity in his own right. But it might interest you to know that as much as he loves his fans and is grateful for their support, he’s a bit of an introvert. “Generally, I’m pretty low key,” he admits. “Being recognized in public goes with the territory, but it’s still a strange thing to me even after all these years. It’s flattering and gratifying, but it’s also somewhat embarrassing because I am rather shy about being recognized.”
Nonetheless, Slater is one of those lucky people who truly enjoys what he does. “The meteorology part is kind of tough because every thunderstorm situation is unique,” he explains. “Certainly every snowstorm is unique, every hurricane is unique. Even to this day I see similar situations in all storms, but each event is truly different. But as far as getting up there every day and doing my broadcast, that’s probably my favorite time of day.”
However, he does recall one major event that challenged him to go above and beyond his usual call of duty. “During Hurricane Isabel, we were on the air, and the TV station had the foresight to realize that our visual broadcast might not stay up if the electricity went out,” he says. “So, we contracted with a couple of local radio stations, and those ended up being the lifeline that people had during the storm. People had battery-operated radios on and were listening to me try to describe what the radar looked like and where everything was. So, I had to be extremely descriptive because the vast majority of our audience didn’t have electricity and couldn’t watch what was happening on TV.”
Photo by David Uhrin
When he’s not forecasting the weather for his viewers, Slater spends his free time rolling around town. “Somehow, I’m a throwback of the 80s or something, and I like to rollerblade,” he says. “And I think I look terribly cool doing so. At least I’d like to think so,” he laughs.
Speaking of the 80s, Slater was spotted at a Huey Lewis and the News concert at the Portsmouth Pavilion back in 2015. But as big a fan is he is of the 80s, he was actually there to support his son. “My son’s band—Major and the Monbacks—was the opening act that night,” he says. “They’re out touring right now, so that seems to be working really well for him. It’s not exactly every father’s dream to have a son who says, ‘I’m going to be in a rock and roll band. That’s going to be my job.’ But it seems to be working out.” Another interesting point of interest—the band has changed their name to Super Doppler.
When it comes to providing advice for others who are trying to get into the business, Slater realizes that times are changing and technological advances have influenced the way people receive their weather forecasts. “Advice is somewhat hard to give these days because of the fact that media is changing very rapidly due to the Internet,” he says. “But television news is still very practical and useful for local events. So, I would tell future meteorologists to get the science part down, but also get a background in performance, so you are comfortable on the air or on an Internet basis.”
As for his own future, Slater is just keeping his eye on the horizon for now. “I can predict the weather, but I can’t predict my own life out in advance.”