WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – As we say goodbye to KSN Chief Meteorologist Dave Freeman, he will always be remembered in Wichita as the guy who kept us safe during severe weather.
But his career actually started more than 40 years ago.
In 1976, he worked as a part-time disc jockey at his hometown radio station in Ohio. That job soon led to television and his first audition tape.
“I’m sure it was awful, but the guy was desperate. He asked me if I knew much about sports. I said, ‘As much as the next guy!’ Which nothing could have been further from the truth!” said Dave, with a smile.
But he got the job, covering sports and news.
The turning point in Dave’s career came when he had to fill in for a co-worker at WSAZ-TV, a weathercaster who got sick.
“I have no idea what I put on that map, but I got in front of it and talked twice as long as I was supposed to because I was having so much fun. Our producers would say, ‘So what’s changed?'”
From that point on, weather was his true love. Other than his soon-to-be wife, Tracy, of course! He worked in Champaign, Illinois with another familiar face to Wichita television viewers– Cindy Klose, who came to Wichita not long before Dave.
As Chief Meteorologist at KSN, Dave quickly learned firsthand why Kansas is considered the Super Bowl of weather.
“In Dayton, I had 19 counties in my viewing area, and they were small Ohio counties. Here I’ve had 77 counties in three states and two time zones in one of the most active severe weather places in the world and a place where no winter storm is simple.”
It’s a responsibility Dave takes so seriously, he remembers the first fatality during his watch which came in 1999 with the Haysville tornado. He also remembers meeting grateful viewers.
“This man says, ‘You saved my mom’s life.’ She was in Haysville, and he was watching that night. He saw me give the warning,” Dave recalled. “He called his mom who was not watching and got her to shelter and her apartment was destroyed. When you have that experience, again, you become very conscious that this is about taking care of people.”
That includes his own family. A tornado once headed right for Dave’s neighborhood when his 10-year-old son was home alone.
“So, I turned to my intern, a wonderful young lady who’d been with us a couple of years, and I said, live on TV, ‘Lisa, call my house.’ She looked at me, and she knew. Even now when I think about that, in that moment, I lost my game face, like I’m doing now, and I was just a dad, for just a fraction of a second, and then I just, like I’m going to do right now, I said I can’t do this right now. I have a job to do so I just shook it off and turned around and kept going.”
“Ever since that time, including the night of Greensburg, I would think about latchkey kids, but before I would say on the air, ‘Okay kids, if you’re home alone..’ I would have to take a deep breath and say, ‘Okay, we’re not going to cry.'”
That vigilance convinced many people to take shelter during the Greensburg tornado and won Dave his second Broadcaster of the Year award in 2008 from the National Weather Association.
“That was the greatest test of our abilities, and I just know, it could have been so much worse.”
But for all the tough moments of his career, there’s also been plenty of fun, like the Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve, and bloopers, like when Dave’s microphone cord got hooked on the desk.
“So, I put the clicker up on the desk. I went under the desk to fish this out and untangle it. In the meantime, Melissa and others on the set are just howling because every once in a while, you’d see my hand come up and hit the clicker to go on to the next weather graphic.”
Now, the man we’ve turned to for 24 years at KSN to keep Kansans safe from the weather is taking on an even bigger mission.
“Tracy and I have always harbored a dream to be able to go and serve and give back, and we were particularly interested in going to Haifa, Israel, to serve at the Bahai World Center. All three of our kids went there and served a year of volunteer service, and we saw what it meant to them.”
It’s a leap of faith requiring them to sell most of their belongings and leave family and friends behind, but for this weatherman, the outlook is always sunny.
“It’s not so much I’m leaving KSN which right now is a very happy place and a good place, as it is we’re going to pursue this desire we’ve had to serve.”
Dave’s Final Weather Forecast for Kansas
Dave Freeman over the years
WEB EXTRA | Behind the scenes with Dave
WEB EXTRA | Dave tracking storms promotion
WEB EXTRA | Dave tracking the Greensburg tornado
WEB EXTRA | Dave visits schools promotion
WEB EXTRA | Dave tracks Santa