There are countless jokes about being a weatherman in Seattle. How hard can it be to tell us that it just stopped raining, is raining right now or that the rain is coming? What more is there to say?
Plenty, says Steve Pool. And that’s probably why he’s lasted for 40 years at KOMO-TV — and why it will be so hard to leave when he does his last weather report Tuesday at 6 p.m.
For four decades, Pool has talked about the weather, but in a way that was never scripted or stilted.
“The thing I wanted to do when I got into this was to demystify the weather and take all the jargon out of it,” Pool said Thursday. “Let’s take on the science, but only in a way to explain it to someone. And to talk to the average person.”
That a TV meteorologist has spent his entire career in one place is far from average, and he knows it.
In 40 years, he has won seven Emmys; raised two daughters with his wife, Michelle; and made history as one of the first African American weather forecasters in the country.
In September 2018, Pool announced he had prostate cancer, then underwent proton therapy at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s Proton Therapy Center at Northwest Hospital for a year. The cancer is in remission (“My PSA readings went down to next to nothing”), but he must be checked every six months.
The experience has left Pool with less stamina, he said, for multiple daily newscasts.
“When you get something like cancer, it grounds you,” said Pool, who lives in Bellevue. “At first, it’s ‘Woe is me,’ and as that settled down, it’s a realization that you’re doing fine.”
And that, maybe, you want to do other things.
“I have mixed feelings,” Pool, 66, said. “I have done this for so long, and to see the imminent end of it all brings up a number of different emotions. And I’m thinking about some of the stuff I’ve done that I’m proud of.”
He remembered an Emmy award-winning show he hosted called “Front Runners,” about young people doing “fantastic things in their lives,” Pool said. In 1992, Pool and his crew flew to Hawaii, where they interviewed a 6-year-old Elvis impersonator.
“Years later, we realized that kid was Bruno Mars,” Pool said with a laugh. “It was just crazy! I think it’s on YouTube somewhere. Me and him, and he’s on his tricycle.”
Pool credits his parents, John and Barbara, who were big on schooling. Teachers who encouraged him to join the Tyee High School debate team, where he won his first debate; and a friend at the University of Washington who introduced him to the joy of the overnight shift on the college radio station.
He had been planning to attend law school, but once behind the microphone, “I loved it.”
Pool started at KOMO as an intern on a show called “Action Inner City.” When the moderator quit, Pool got the job. He was then hired as a on-air reporter on KOMO, “and that was it.”
He knew well that as an African American weathercaster, he was in a small club.
“There were a couple of guys, once you go to the Rust Belt and the Atlantic coast,” he said. “But I was the only one from the plains to the Pacific Ocean, and I was very much aware of it. I was hoping it would open doors. I give a lot of props to KOMO. They were as proud of it as I was, that they were able to do that.”
In the newsroom, he has always strived to be an optimist, to keep his signature smile lit while the news drew clouds from all corners.
“I never wanted to be the person who is a downer, who is always looking at what’s wrong,” Pool said. “I always think, ‘You’re lucky to be doing this job. It’s not easy to get in here.’
“I always felt like, ‘do the right thing and treat everyone the same and don’t cop an attitude,'” he said, “and believe me, I’ve seen it. ‘I’m the head man here on the desk’ and all that crap. I just laugh at that. It’s sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
He said his retirement has nothing to do with the station’s ownership by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has drawn criticism for mandating conservative stories and commentaries that lean to the right.
“Not at all,” Pool said. “I am aware of some of the background that is going on in terms of KOMO’s ownership, but I was pretty much sequestered from that. I didn’t see anything that was really different from what we had to do on a daily basis.”
There will be tributes, an on-air conversation at 11 p.m. Monday with KOMO anchor Molly Shen and his final broadcast on Tuesday.
And then? For now, Pool plans to spend some time in Southern California with his wife and their daughters, Lindsey, 21, and Marissa, 19. Lindsey is an accomplished ballet dancer, majoring in art at a California college. Marissa is a freshman at the University of Washington, doing general studies for now.
“We’re going to hang out and soak up some sun, see friends and then do some stuff outside of the country,” Pool said.
He is friends with Holland America CEO Stein Kruse, who has inspired him to travel. And there will be golf at the Seattle Golf Club, where in 2003 he made some headlines as the first African American member. (“I just wanted to play golf,” he said. “But I can understand why that would be news.”)
Pool’s retirement also marks the end of a era, with the departures of longtime Seattle broadcasters Lori Matsukawa, Jean Enersen, Dennis Bounds, Dan Lewis and the late Kathi Goertzen. Pool feels that shift.
“I am melancholy,” he said. “But on the other end, I am kind of amazed and kind of proud that a little kid from South Seattle could end up doing that sort of thing. I had no dreams of all of that. I was kind of lucky and in the right place at the right time.”