News Center meteorologist Todd Gutner gave 84 Boothbay Region Elementary School grade 3-5 students a crash course in weather forecasting May 9 during a science presentation. Gutner, the weekday morning weatherman on the WCSH-TV Channel 6 newscast, explained the capital H and L on the television screen mean more than simply high and low. Gutner explained a low pressure system precedes precipitation resulting in either rain or snow.
As Gutner continued, he asked students what words beginning with L mean bad. Students answered “lousy” and “lame.” Gutner also asked for words beginning with H meaning good. Students could only deliver one answer, “happy.” Gutner, who visits hundreds of schools each year, told students those responses were the most typical.
“So when you see the capital H on the forecast, you should be happy because that means few clouds and you will see the sun. But when you see a capital L, that tells you are in for lousy or lame weather,” he said.
This is Gutner’s second time working at the Portland television station. In 2000, Gutner, 43, started his first meteorologist job at WCSH. He worked in Portland for seven years before accepting a meteorologist job at WBZ-TV in Boston. In 2014, Gutner returned to Maine with his wife Rachel to raise his twin children who were about to enter school.
“We had the opportunity to come back, and in my opinion Maine is a great place,” he said. “There is a better quality of life with less stress. I’ve been back for five years and I absolutely love what I do.”
But forecasting the weather on television wasn’t Gutner’s original plan. Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Gutner had two favorite channels: ESPN and Weather. He also had an aptitude for math and science which led him to receive a meteorological science degree from State University of New York at Oneonta. After graduation, he attended graduate school in California, where he got paid for learning and researching weather topics.
“But it wasn’t for me. I was in an office for eight hours a day with no windows. So I decided to do something else. I had a conversation with my mom who mentioned television which was something I never considered,” Gutner said.
So Gutner approached meteorologist Leigh Glaser from KGO-TV in San Francisco about an internship. Gutner knew the science, but learned the television aspect of weather forecasting at the station. After he completed the internship, he sent his audition tapes to 40 small markets along the East Coast. The largest was Portland, but tapes were also sent to stations in Bangor, Bristol, Tennessee and Binghamton, New York among others.
“The only response came from Portland. I was lucky because I think they needed warm bodies so I received an offer for a one-year position. I had to sink or swim and somehow I floated,” Gutner said.
As a morning meteorologist, Gutner’s day starts at 2:11 a.m. when his alarm sounds. He is on air at 4:30 a.m. and ends by 10 a.m. Gutner described his work schedule as one which allows him time with family. “I spend time with my kids picking them up after school and seeing their games. Most dads get home around six and so after a dinner and homework there isn’t much time before bed. So I love spending time with the kids, but it’s tough for watching sports because I’m in bed around 8:30 p.m. and there always seems to be a game on.”
Gutner’s most memorable weather story happened in 2011 as a tornado a half mile wide hit a 40-mile portion of western Massachusetts. WBZ sent a reporter to cover the tornado, but conditions were so difficult the station received only audio. “There was no video, only audio. All we heard was her voice. It was powerful how she described the devastation as a war zone and how trees and power lines had snapped and obliterated a triple decker housing complex,” he said.
A family living on the triple decker’s first floor included a mother who sought refuge inside the residence’s bathroom. The mother put her daughter in the bathtub and covered her with pillows, then laid on her and covered herself with pillows.
“She did the right thing. I don’t know if she listened to me or someone else, but she knew what she was doing. In a natural disaster, the best place is in the basement. If you don’t have one then stay away from the interior walls. The bathroom was the best place for them,” Gutner said.
The father survived while sitting in a La-Z-Boy chair. One student asked what happened to the mother. “Sadly, she didn’t make it. Most of the time my job is full of fun stories, but there are times when it requires a lot of thoughtful information which could save a life or property,” he said.
On May 9, Gutner showed BRES students sending viewers a greeting from Boothbay Harbor on his morning forecast shown at 6:57 a.m.