Longtime National Weather Service Forecaster On Retirement And Making Kansas City Home

Feb 1, 2017

For his retirement, Former National Weather Service Pleasant Hill/Kansas City Lead Forecaster Mike July's coworkers gifted him Cheez-Its, which he calls the breakfast of champions.
Credit National Weather Service Pleasant Hill Kansas City/Pleasant Hill / Facebook

"For those wishing for an oak mite apocalypse, you'll get your wish Sunday morning (11/20) when lows hit the mid-20s."

This quip was posted on the National Weather Service's Facebook page last autumn by Forecaster Mike July. Some people have a knack for knowing exactly what an audience is looking for in a weather forecast. For many, July is one of those people.

Earlier this year, July retired from the National Weather Service after 24 years. Most recently, he worked as the lead forecaster for the NWS branch in Kansas City and Pleasant Hill, where he amassed a following for his witty late night posts on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

On KCUR's Central StandardJuly told host Gina Kaufmann his love of weather started at a young age.

"I was kind of geeky," July said. "When I was eight or nine I had a fascination with watching the weather guy on TV, and I would pretend I was that guy. I had an actual map of the United States and I would take a water color pen and I would draw fronts on it. I would close my door so nobody would see me, and I'd pretend I was doing the weather forecast."

Since then, July didn't just pretend to give the weather — it was his profession. But that made it all the more interesting for him.

"There’s a lot of art involved," July said. "It’s not just looking at computer output."

When July started, the technology he and the weather team had was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. Much of what is now done by computers was done by the team. They would "get information and data, we’d get weather maps, we’d plot the weather maps, analyze it, then kind of compare it to what’s happened in the past and up with a forecast the computer couldn't come up with. Brains can handle more abstract work than computers."

While most people do not show a love for forecasts and fronts so early on, July said drastic and often surprising changes day-to-day always fascinated him.

"I think a lot of people would say that their jobs are mundane, but not mine. In weather, one day it's 65, the next day it's 25, there's always a challenge."

Once his son stops playing baseball in a community league, July hopes to umpire at games.
Credit Mike July

That unpredictability makes Kansas City a fascinating spot for weather buffs. July and his family came to the city for his position with the National Weather Service in 1983.

"The original plan was to live here for three or four years," said July. "But as time went on we fell in love with the area, the people. This is home."

Since he's been in the area, he said that some of the most memorable events have been classically Midwest: the ice storm in January 2002 and the tornado in May 2003. The tornado was especially memorable, July said, as he and his family were at a baseball tournament, and July yelled for everyone to get off the field before the storm hit.  

In his position with the National Weather Service, July has been able to enjoy forecasting and share his love of weather with others in the area.

July has also gained a reputation for his witty, late night Facebook posts about topics like the "oak mite apocalypse." When the NWS first began to join social media, however, July was resistant.

"I went kicking and screaming at first, because I was an old timer, but I got talked into it and it blossomed from there," July said. "I used to talk about oak mites all the time. It's a link to others because everybody else is having the same problem."

July is looking forward to retirement, when he will have more time to spend with his family and possibly pursue his love of baseball as an umpire. However, family and neighbors do still ask him about the weather.

"You can't take your weather hat off once you retire," July said. "You're still tied into it."

Caitlin Troutman is an intern for KCUR's Central Standard.