'Doppler Tim' Hedrick Was More Than Our 'Weather Authority'

Apr 23, 2016

Tim Hedrick in the 2011 Opening Day parade.
Credit John Kiesewetter

Updated 4/25/16: Meteorologist Tim Hedrick "died of complications from prostate cancer," WKRC-TV has announced.  He was 55, the station said.

When Hedrick died Saturday, Channel 12 did not reveal a cause of death, only saying that he had lost "a very long battle against a devastating illness."

Hedrick, a Green Township resident, is survived by his wife, Cindy, and three children. No details have been announced for any services.

In 2008, at age 47, Hedrick had surgery to remove his prostate gland after cancer was detected during a routine physical, his first in about 15 years.

"I hadn't had a physical because everything was good," Hedrick told me in 2008 after returning to work. In that conversation he urged all men over 40 to get a physical and blood tests to measure their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) indicating prostate health.

"I've received many emails from guys my age – in their mid and upper 40s – who also had this disease. If someone hasn't had a physical in 10 years, and they're over 40, they could be taking a real big chance," he said in 2008.  

Updated 4/24/16: WKRC-TV called meteorologist Tim Hedrick "The Weather Authority." And he was.

When severe weather threatened Greater Cincinnati, most of us turned to "Doppler Tim" Hedrick for information. Channel 12's ratings jumped more than other stations during bad weather, because we trusted "Doppler Tim," who died too young Saturday.

Hedrick, in his 50s, lost "a very long battle against a devastating illness," Channel 12 anchor Rob Braun told viewers Saturday night.

"Doppler Tim" had an amazing gift: Being able to communicate complex weather science to us in plain English.  He was not just the best known local weatherman, he arguably was the most popular TV personality in my 30+ years covering TV. He was a huge factor why Channel 12 news has been No. 1 for more than a decade.

"Doppler Tim" didn't incite us, he informed us. He wasn't an alarmist like some TV meteorologists – until weather conditions were so terrible that he told viewers in specific communities to turn off the TV and go to the basement or elsewhere for maximum protection from the storm.

He wasn't on TV to entertain us – although that was the trend when Channel 12 hired him in 1988 from WHO-TV in Des Moines. Instead of meteorologists, TV stations in the 1980s here had "personalities" presenting the forecast, like Bob Alan, former DJ Pat Barry and the loveable backwards writing Ira Joe Fisher. Hedrick was part of a new breed of TV weathermen: trained meteorologists who created their own forecasts and not always agreed with the official National Weather Service predictions.

He took great pride in developing and delivering his forecasts. As I recall, he resisted doing a 7-day forecast (recommended by TV consultants, so the weekend would always be included in every weather segment) because he knew that he couldn't reliably forecast that many days out. He displayed his disdain for gimmicks in a 2005 email to me after Channel 5 started promoting its "Power of 5" radar network. Hedrick closed the email by re-affirming his faith in his Doppler radar by exclaiming: "The Power of One!"

We connected with "Doppler Tim" unlike many out-of-towners hired by Cincinnati TV stations. The Illinois native quickly transcended being just "a weather guy" into the face of the station. Channel 12's "Weather Authority" branding was enhanced by Hedrick's Friday Night Football Forecasts live from a high school field, and Grilling With Tim parties from Florence to Fairfield. He became one of us -- so much so that he told me people asked him if we went to Oak Hills, Elder, St X or Western Hills. (Is there a higher compliment than that?)

We knew Tim because we'd see him at football games, at his huge grill-outs and in the Opening Day parade – in addition to being in our homes every night for 28 years. And we worried when we hadn't seen him on TV since Feb. 23, when he emailed me (below) to explain that he was "easing back into" his job after surgery earlier in the month. (His last post on his "Doppler Tim Hedrick" Facebook page was Feb. 24.)

As I noted in February, Hedrick did not explain the nature of his surgery, just as Braun didn't specify the "devastating illness" which took his life. Most Hedrick fans know he was off the air for five weeks in 2008 recovering from prostate cancer, and took a six-week leave in 2012 for never disclosed "personal matters."

Although he was a big Cincinnati TV star, Hedrick was a very private person. That's why there aren't any photos of him on this blog. Over the years, Hedrick politely declined several of my requests to do a story about the need for men to have their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels checked. (His prostate cancer was detected in 2008 after a staffer in his doctor's office suggested he was overdue for a routine physical.)

WKRC-TV coworkers honored his privacy too. They were truly shocked to learn of his death Saturday. He had not been to the station since he left the airwaves in February, said Jon Lawhead, Channel 12 general manager.

"We just really respected the family's privacy for the last few months. We were just waiting, and praying, and hoping for his return. It's just heart-breaking. It just doesn't seem real," Lawhead told me. 

At the Opening Day parade three weeks ago, I was hoping to see Doppler Tim sitting on top the Local 12 truck waving to fans. I wasn't the only one.

"We all were," Lawhead said Saturday night. "He loved going out in the community, his Grilling with Tim,  and going out on the streets in the Opening Day parade."

"Doppler Tim" was much more than an authoritative TV meteorologist. He was a friend to thousands of us. The Power of One! 

Channel 12 plans to broadcast "a celebration of Tim's life and career," Lawhead said. "I don't know when it will be on."

Original post 02/23/2016: What’s up with Tim Hedrick? Why has WKRC-TV’s chief meteorologist been absent from the airwaves so often during February sweeps, when TV stations rarely let their anchor talent take a day off?

Hedrick tells me he’s “easing back into” his job after surgery earlier this month. That’s why he was seen only on Local 12’s 6 p.m. newscasts last week, after being off the air completely earlier in the month.

Here’s his email:

“I am coming off a bit of surgery from earlier this month.  The procedure was not conducive to me running back and getting in front of the cameras for 4 or 5 shows a day.  So I am easing back into it.  If you don't see me on TV, I am usually behind the scenes.

“General Manager Jon Lawhead and News Director Tim Geraghty understand my position and have been wonderful.  And the team has been great! 

(John) Gumm is a mainstay in the morning and my three young meteorologists, (Erica Collura, Scott Dimmich and Brandon Orr), have been outstanding.  They understand our vision and work hard each day so that we see continued success.

“Unfortunately, I am old enough to know that life doesn't always occur according to Nielsen Sweeps.  Our viewers get it, they know I am around, easing back in, and getting ready to go.”  – Tim Hedrick

As you can see, Hedrick did not explain the nature of his surgery. He was off the air for five weeks in 2008 recovering from prostate cancer. In 2012, he took a six-week leave “to handle personal matters.”

Hedrick, in his early 50s, has become one of the city's most popular TV personalities since joining WKRC-TV in 1988. Local 12 remains No. 1 in the local overnight household ratings for February sweeps, which end March 2.