Want a bit of personality with your weather report? Meet news 12’s Joe Rao, a man who gets really excited about precipitation.
When the first local tornado in recent memory tore through central Westchester last July, Joe Rao, the popular News 12 Westchester meteorologist, was miffed. Although there were no serious injuries and, though Rao, who lives in Putnam Valley, incurred no personal property damage, the prematurely gray-haired father of two was virtually inconsolable when he heard the news.
Why? Because he missed it. “I heard about the tornado while my family and I were on vacation,” Rao, 50, explains. After a fun day at DisneyWorld with his wife of 22 years and their two teenage children, Rao returned to their room to find a voicemail from his mother. It started out innocuously enough with a “Hi, everyone! Hope you’re having a good time,” and ended with a bombshell: “Oh, Joe, did you hear about the tornado that swept across Westchester today?”
“It pretty much ruined the rest of my vacation,” Rao says. “I scheduled my vacation around a time when there was a low probability of active weather. Sometimes you just can’t win.”
To say that Joe Rao is passionate about weather is like saying Donald Trump is passionate about money. The affable meteorologist, who is also an avid astronomy buff and a longtime lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, gives forecasts that are so precise, they may pinpoint subtle differences in the weather near, say, “the Bronx border” as opposed to “the northern valleys.”
Rao, who studied Earth and Planetary Science at Manhattan’s City College (he seriously considered becoming an astronomer but couldn’t hack the math) has been with the cable news station since its inception in 1995. Previously, he served as fill-in weather anchor at its sister station, News 12 Long Island. “His enthusiasm for weather and astronomy is downright contagious,” says Rao’s colleague, News 12 Westchester anchor Juri Tatsuuma.
Rao can’t recall a time when he wasn’t fascinated with weather and astronomy. “As a child, I began saving the weather maps from the New York Times and making my own weather forecasts. I’d post my predictions on the blackboard in homeroom at school.”
Rao remembers the day—Friday, February 7, 1969—when, not quite 13 years old, he knew that he was destined to be a meteorologist. “I announced at school that we were going to have a big snowstorm over the weekend and that there might not be school on Monday. Nobody believed me, especially since the official forecasts had predicted rain.” That Sunday, a huge snowstorm blanketed the region with nearly two feet of snow. “It was sheer dumb luck, but, after that friends would say, â€˜Joe, you ought to become a weatherman.’”
He’s glad he did. “Every night I get to tell my weather story to thousands of viewers. What more can you want?”