Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Van Denton is America’s Favorite Weathercaster

Read more

Van Denton is America’s Favorite Weathercaster

Van Denton of WGHP/FOX 8 in Greensboro, North Carolina was recently voted America's Favorite Weathercaster. With nearly 20,000 votes, Van Denton beat out 15 other weathercaster's in our final round.

We had a chance to catch up with Van to learn more about him, his career, and why he loves North Carolina so much.

What do you like best about what you do?

I get paid to talk about the weather and draw maps.   I did this for my friends back when I was in middle and high school and it is just what I do.  I find the weather curious and enjoy the challenge of making a forecast.  I know it is an important job that people rely on.   Especially for severe weather coverage.

If you weren’t a TV meteorologist, what would you be doing?

I would be in sales.  I grew up in a sales background (my dad was in the top 5% in sales for more than 40 years in the insurance industry) and understand how that works and would enjoy that too.  During my college years, I interned in TV two days a week and sold Kirby Vacuum Cleaners two days a week door to door.  I enjoyed the contests that I was able to try and win.  My first summer, I was the top new salesman in the Southeastern US when I sold 21 vacuum cleaners in 3 months.   These things sold for $1000 back in 1985, of course that was when we were able to sell all the attachments which I tried to do on each demo.   I tried to sell everything available.  :-).   My biggest success however was when the families would invite me to come back for dinner.   That was a big deal for college kid to get a home cooked meal.

When did you first get interested in weather?

When I was 7 after we had a snowstorm.  I had gotten a camera for Christmas and took many pictures.   I then started paying closer attention to the weather reports.

What would viewers be surprised to know about you?

Our viewers know me pretty well.   I have been working in this job for 26 years and share a lot with my viewers.   They might be surprised to learn that I am a Candy Crush addict.   I am on level 1343.  :-)

How has the role of a television meteorologist changed over your years in the business?

Technology has improved greatly.   Radars are much better and can see details in storms like never before.   Model data is better and we can make a more accurate forecast.  There are new challenges too.   With more newscasts and therefore more weather hits, it is a challenge to get shows ready on a day when the weather is active.   More weather hits means less time to study the actual weather and less time to work on graphics.   Everything has to be produced more quickly and it is a real challenge to maintain the quality that I expect.

How has social media changed your job?

It has made it easier to reach out to our viewers.  At the same time, I have make sure I don't let it take too much of my time as my #1 priority is still the television news broadcasts.   I actually spend more time with Social Media when I am not working on the news.  When I have a chance, I try to post important information when I'm on vacation so long as it does not interfere with family time.

Why do you think weather is so closely followed in your area?

North Carolina has exciting weather.   We experience all 4 seasons.   That means we get some winter weather and we get severe weather too.   Our viewers are impacted by this and they want to be informed and ready.

What are some of the most memorable storms you can recall?

In 1989 I was working in Myrtle Beach, SC when Hurricane Hugo struck and 3 months later the biggest snow in Myrtle Beach history hit with 15.5 inches.   
I came to WGHP-TV in 1990 and we had the Super Storm in March 1993, during the ACC Tourney which was played in Charlotte that year. Our mountains had more than 4 feet of snow.

1996 Hurricane Fran hit NC and moved into the eastern Piedmont. I worked 36 hours straight with no naps and only a 30 minute break. I had never been that tired.

In 1998 we had a tornado outbreak and fortunately we had just upgraded our weather system which allowed me to cover it the way it needed to be covered.

In 2000 we had 2 feet of snow in our southern and eastern counties on January 25. I remember staying up all night to cover that event.

2004 on Feb 26 & 27 we had 20 inches of snow in Archdale and 12-18" over the southern and southwest counties of our coverage area.

In 2008, 10 years to the day of the tornado outbreak in 1998 we had tornadoes hit the same areas again. Clemmons, NC was hit hard.

In 2010 a tornado hit Davidson County and High Point on a Sunday afternoon. I was covering this storm and read a special statement from the NWS that a large tornado was seen near Green Street Baptist Church. I ready this on the air knowing that my wife, daughter and son were there at that moment. I handed off briefly to our weekend meteorologist and called my wife to make sure they were ok. She said yes and that she had everyone in a safe place in the stairwell. She had a weather radio with her and knew what to do. They were ok and I got back on the air and continued to track the storm. I was later told by a Ms. Morand that she heard me call out her street and she rushed downstairs to safety. Once she got on the 1st floor, her top floor was ripped off the house. An EF3 tornado hit a densely populated part of High Point. Miraculously no one was killed. Jeff Orrock with the NWS told me that was amazing.

How important is forecast accuracy?

Very important. If you are not accurate, you are of no value to your viewers. That is where we stand out from today's weather apps. They only give you a headline. On TV, we give the details and paint the picture.

People see an app with a rain icon on it and often assume it will be a rainy day. On TV, we explain that there is a 30% chance of rain along with our icon and that most of that day is going to be fine and only 7 out of 10 people will even get wet. We try and tell them when it will start and move out and how much. People still need TV to be fully informed and we must strive to be accurate and informative to keep them watching.

How were you able to rally so many supporters and votes?

North Carolina is a special state. We are loyal to one another. I have met many of my viewers over the years and the relationship that I have with many is unique. Most any restaurant I go into the conversations that I have with viewers is like chatting with an old friend. They know of my interests outside of weather and I can usually find a common ground to chat with them about their interest. We also have a very successful web team that knows how to get information out to our coverage area. When our web team shared the information about this contest, our viewers jumped all over it and they shared it with their friends. Seeing this play out and their support makes me want to serve the people even more.

Can you tell us about the charity you chose and why it is important to you?

The Salvation Army is a great organization and we have worked with them my entire time at WGHP. We have a coat program, Give a Kid a Coat where we collect 20,000 coats per year, Holiday Concerts where we collect over a half million cans of food and our Gifts for Kids program where we collect toys for more than 25,000 children every year at Christmas. We do all of this to benefit the Salvation Army. This is an organization that we are confident does it right and one that I support.

You can follow Van on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.