By John L. Byrwa
Regardless of what the weather is like outside, it’s always warm and sunny in Chris Holcomb’s world.
That’s because Holcomb, the Chief Meteorologist at 11Alive/WATL, the popular NBC television affiliate in Atlanta, is living a life even he sometimes can’t believe.
“I definitely do have to pinch myself sometimes,” said Holcomb, a native of Doraville who now resides in Lawrenceville. “I knew that in the news business, the chances were not that great that I would get the opportunity to work in my hometown. Usually, you start working in smaller markets, which I did in Macon, and you move around a lot.
“My wife and I always hoped that we would end up in Atlanta. It just happened a lot sooner than we thought.”
“It” happened in 1991, shortly after Holcomb graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, and just four months after he and his wife of 23 years, Angie, were married. Then a news reporter and weekend weatherman for WMAZ-TV in Macon, Holcomb got the opportunity to join the news team at WXIA. That he also would be working with his idol, longtime Atlanta anchorman Chuck Moore, made this a real-life dream-come-true job.
“It’s really amazing,” Holcomb said. “When I was in the sixth grade, we were given a project for Career Day to write a story about our dream job. Our teacher challenged us to come up with something that really interested us, something that we would dream about doing, and imagine getting paid to do it.
“Well, I had always been intrigued by television and how it worked. So I actually interviewed Chuck Moore, who at the time was the anchor at Channel 5, and I made an A. Who would have ever thought that after doing that sixth-grade project, I would actually get to work with Chuck Moore? It was the fulfillment of another dream.”
While growing up Doraville -- memorialized by the famous rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section as a “touch of country in the city” -- Holcomb, who graduated from Sequoya High School, watched Atlanta evolve from a quaint Southern city into the major international metropolis it is today. That he is charged with letting folks know if the weather for their picnic or outdoor wedding will be sunny or not so much so, is a responsibility Holcomb does not take lightly.
Even if some of his fellow citizens sometimes like to make a sport of holding him to account.
“Of course there is some occasional ribbing,” Holcomb says with a chuckle. “People will say, ‘Hey, you said it was going to do this and it did that.’ But I like to joke around with them and say, ‘Thank you very much. I’m glad it’s so beautiful, and I take full credit for that. Just don’t blame me when it’s not beautiful.’”
Holcomb actually started his television career thinking he would be the next big-time news reporter. But covering stories that were not always the most positive soon began to wear on him. He had taken a few weather-related classes while at UGA, and during his stint with WMAZ-TV in Macon found himself working as a reporter during the week and handling the weather segments during the weekend.
It didn’t take long for him to find his true calling.
“I was reporting three days a week and doing the weather on the weekends,” Holcomb said. “Through that experience, I found myself looking more and more forward to the weekends when I got to do the weather. I enjoyed that a lot more than reporting on murders, stabbings, city council meetings and those kinds of stories. And I got more response doing the weather. I discovered that was my passion.”
So Holcomb continued his meteorological education at Mississippi State University. In 1997, he earned the American Meteorological Society’s Seal of Approval, then 10 years later received the upgraded "Certified Broadcast Meteorologist" designation.
In 1998, Holcomb and his wife, also a native of DeKalb County, decided to move their young family to Gwinnett County. It was a move that Holcomb said turned out to be ideal for him, Angie, son Griffin, now 19 and a sophomore at the University of North Georgia in Oconee County, and daughter Claire, 15, a sophomore at Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross.
Add the fact that both his and his wife’s families still reside in nearby DeKalb, and one would assume that the Holcomb’s will stay right where they are for at least the near future.
“We love it here,” Holcomb said. “We’ve wondered sometimes that maybe we could move closer to the city to make it more convenient for work. If we lived closer to the city, I’d get to come home for my dinner break -- since I work the night shift, I don’t see my daughter much because I go to work at 2:30 and she’s not usually home from school yet.
“But we are just rooted here in Gwinnett and right now we would not want to leave. Maybe when kids are gone and we decide to downsize, we might consider it. But I think that would be hard. This is home for us.”
Of course, having the unique opportunity to talk to a real-live meteorologist, we could not resist the temptation to ask him for his forecast for our upcoming winter. And while it’s true what Mark Twain once said – “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it” – we made sure Holcomb knew that we would not hold him accountable should his prognostication miss the mark.
“A lot of things go into long-range forecasting,” he warned. “In fact, I’m just finishing up our long-range forecast, which should air in the next couple of weeks. One of the bigger things that we’ve been watching is to see if an el Nino is developing. That will determine a lot. We were expecting it to be strong, but it still looks to be neutral. We still think it’s going to be developing, so right now we’re leaning toward a wetter-than-normal and also a colder-than-normal winter.
“If you put two and two together, you would think there would be some good chances for snow or ice.”
Whatever happens outside with the weather, you can be sure life will be beautiful wherever Holcomb is.