April 27, 1981—Ronald Reagan was just over three months into his term as president (having escaped an assassination attempt four weeks prior) and we were still three months away from that generation’s Royal Wedding of Prince William’s parents Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
April 27, 1981 was also the date that a young meteorologist from Long Island made his debut at WCBS 880.
Thus began a remarkable run for Craig Allen, doing virtually the same shift (5-10a; 4-7p) ever since. (In February, Allen signed a three-year extension with WCBS).
However, early on Allen had no illusions that he was destined for a 30-year career at a radio powerhouse.
“I was working with a small but growing private weather service at the time and was just thrilled to get the job as a local meteorologist for such a big station,” Allen recalls.
Anyone who has heard Allen obviously can give their reasons for his longevity—he’s personable and engaging on the air with an attention to accuracy.
For Allen, though, of paramount concern has always been the ability to build trust with the listeners.
“My mantra is to never hype a situation,” Allen tells FishbowlNY. “Call them as you see them [and] gain the public’s trust.”
Allen admits that over the last three decades, not every forecast was precise but, “I was honest about it. If you know [me], I’m not going to cause panic unless it’s warranted. I hope that brings about a sense of safety and comfort.”
However, Allen is vocal toward those meteorologists who used the opposite strategy on many occasions, calling for a “snowmageddon” or “snowpocolypse” days before the potential event.
“If it doesn’t happen, they move on as if no credibility has been destroyed,” Allen admits. “But it has– for all of us … It is detrimental to the whole profession because the public outcry is usually ‘you guys are always wrong [and it’s the] only job where you don’t get fired for being wrong.’ That really bothers me.”
Having a 30-year career means you can easily use the term “Dean of New York Meteorologists” to describe this popular forecaster. But Allen is nothing, if he isn’t humble.
“To me, the deans of meteorology are the people I followed; the people I try to emulate,” Allen says. “Sure, a few of them weren’t perfect but they sure knew how to forecast and how to present it, [with] no antics, buffoonery or in-your-face attitude.”
Some of his broadcasting disciples were Gordon Barnes, Tex Antoine, Frank Field, Bob Harris, Alan Kasper, and current News 12 Long Island meteorologist Bill Korbel, while keeping a special spot for his mentor Pat Pagano.
Allen also recognizes his contemporaries who include Chris Cimino (WNBC), Todd Glickman (weekend WCBS-AM meteorologist), Lee Goldberg (WABC-TV), and Nick Gregory (WNYW).
It’s not just about the familiar forecasters for “Allen the Great.”
“I have tremendous respect for the NWS [National Weather Service] meteorologists who do so much of the grunt work in having to issue the actual watches and warnings,” Allen says.
Of course, Allen has had a nice secondary career in TV, dating back 20 years.
“I overdid it though, especially the last three years of 24/7/365 with 880 and Fox 5 [WNYW].” Allen admits. “I had to slow down. I loved it when I was 34, or even 44 but you can’t keep up that pace at 54.”
That led to Allen relinquishing his steady weekend Fox 5 shifts in August 2010 (which Shay Ryan took over), although he still does fill-in work.
While easing his work load slightly, Allen is paying it forward to the next crop of meteorologists. He lectures at his alma mater Stony Brook University, or goes to AMS (American Metrological Society) meetings at Nassau Community College. They are some of his proudest moments in the business.
“The students—or kids—as I like to call them and even their parents will come up to me and say ‘I’ve been listening to you forever’… That’s exactly what I said when I first met Tex or Frank or Gordon,” Allen admits. “When driving home from the Stony Brook meeting, I couldn’t keep my mind on the road. I just keep feeling all this emotion of how I was in the position of one of my heroes; now I’m theirs. It’s an incredible feeling of honor and gratitude.”
Grateful for the support, Allen knows there was never any doubt as to what his career path would be.
“I always wanted to forecast weather, especially on radio or TV,” Allen recalls. “I was doing it on a chalkboard for my family every evening at dinnertime when I was just 12 years old.”