WBTV celebrates 30 years with Chief Meteorologist Eric Thomas

WBTV celebrates 30 years with Chief Meteorologist Eric Thomas

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - WBTV Chief Meteorologist Eric Thomas has been alerting viewers of severe weather in the Charlotte area for 30 years. Thomas' official anniversary was Thursday, September 6. The date also marks 30 years that Thomas has been part of the WBTV family, and we couldn’t be more thankful.

Thomas, originally from Pittsburgh, PA, is passionate about what he does – and it shows. Last year, Charlotte-area residents had the chance to experience the solar eclipse.

“It’s like nothing else I’ve experienced from the lead-up,” Thomas said wide-eyed. Excitement turned to tears for a guy who is fascinated by a distant thunderstorm. “I never thought I’d see something like this. I’m 56 years old. This is unbelievable."

Choked up over the overwhelming excitement and unity, Thomas passed the microphone to a viewer.

“I honestly felt like I had a front-row seat to the universe,” Thomas said.

Longtime morning meteorologist Al Conklin says he remembers his first week of training at WBTV in 1993. What he remembers more is his conversation with Eric when they broke for dinner one night, and how it almost got him in trouble.

“Eric mentioned how progressive Charlotte was, and that drivers could actually make left turns on red lights Uptown. Dummy me, I believed him and proceeded to make ‘left on red’ turns for a week-and-a-half before I got pulled over one night,” Conklin said. “The officer and I had the biggest laugh when I told him ‘Eric Thomas told me it was legal.’”

“So started a 26-year relationship with Eric Thomas,” Conklin says, who was WBTV’s second meteorologist.

“From the very beginning, we always considered ourselves a team in our coverage of blizzards and ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes...and every kind of weather in between,” Conklin said. “I’ve learned a lot from Eric and hopefully passed on a trick or two to him as well.”

Something else Thomas is passionate about is adoption. He recently opened up about his own adoption in his first sit-down interview on the topic.

Thomas described the moment his mom told him he was adopted. He was about 7-years-old.

“She called me up to the kitchen and she said, ‘Hey I just wanted to tell you something.’ I said, ‘Sure what is it?’ She says, ‘Did you know you were adopted?’ And I said, ‘No.’

She wanted to know if Thomas even understood the word.

“She says, ‘Well it just means you didn’t come from my belly.’ I said, ‘Oh! OK. Can go back and play with my Hot Wheels now?’ And that was it. That was the end of it.”

Thomas hopes other kids waiting for families will find the kind of love he found as a child, and now shares with his family. That is why Thomas is lending his voice and his own experience with adoption to help Children’s Home Society in North Carolina.

Thomas says that no part of his life is unfulfilled as the child of adoption.

“If someone said to me, ‘Is there something that you would want your birth mother to know, what would it be?’ I would just want her to know that her dreams came true for me. That would be it,” he managed through stifled tears.

Thomas and his wife Vickie chose Charlotte to raise their family. We watched as they brought home three beautiful babies. Viewers have seen the kids grow up.

Eric and baby Victoria, 1992
Eric and baby Victoria, 1992 (Source: Eric Thomas)

Out of his passion regarding adoption, Thomas is deeply involved in "Forever Family," a segment WBTV launched in 2017 after Eric's adoption story came to light publicly.

“I’m such a big fan of these children who - through NO FAULT of their own - have no parents and family to call their own,” Thomas wrote in his most recent post.

RELATED: I’m adopted and this is my story

"I think about my life and all that I have done in 30 years and it is pretty incredible that he has been at one station for that same amount of time," said WBTV meteorologist Lyndsay Tapases. "I am not sure I would even be at WBTV if it weren't for Eric. I first emailed him about the job opening (the man responds to every. single. email.) and he responded right away. We both went to Penn State so we had that connection."

Tapases, who works side-by-side with Thomas every afternoon, says she's never seen him in a bad mood.

"I often get asked by viewers that meet me in person 'What's Eric really like?'" Tapases says. "My response is always the same: Eric Thomas is one of my favorite people on the planet. Seriously. And he's just as charismatic when the cameras are not rolling."

Tapases says her dog got really sick on a big weather day. "It was a First Alert Day with stormy weather," Tapases says, when she got a call from her friend that he was rushing Tapases' dog to the ER. "Eric did not bat an eye when I told him I had to leave. It would have been very easy for him to give me a hard time, but he didn't. It meant the absolute world to me and is something I'll always remember," Tapases says.

Thomas, sometimes mistaken for Hugh Laurie, is "a scientist at heart," WBTV News and Content Director Dennis Milligan says. “He gets into the science of meteorology."

“Eric’s important to WBTV because of his skills and because of his recognition in the community, because he’s a great forecaster – people trust him," Milligan said of Eric, who he's known for 17 years.

What's something people may not know about Eric Thomas?

“Eric’s dad was a rocket scientist," Milligan said. (Well, that partially explains Eric's clever and scientific mind).

WBTV meteorologist Leigh Brock, who works alongside Thomas, got married last year. Guess who emceed her wedding?

Lyndsay Tapases, Leigh Brock and Eric Thomas pose for a photo at Leigh's wedding.
Lyndsay Tapases, Leigh Brock and Eric Thomas pose for a photo at Leigh's wedding. (Source: Photo provided by Leigh Brock)

“While it might seem weird to ask your co-worker to emcee your wedding, as a general rule, this is the fellow I wanted to work with my whole career!” Brock said, who met Thomas years ago when she was in grad school.

“He, of course, did a fabulous job!” Brock said of Thomas. “He even brought a tip jar. (True story- much to his wife’s dismay).”

Eric Thomas emcees Leigh Brock's wedding
Eric Thomas emcees Leigh Brock's wedding (Source: Photo provided by Leigh Brock)

"I watched him from my parents’ house in Hickory, just like you!" Brock said.

Eric is entertaining all day, every day, Brock says. "There might be breaking news just a few feet away and Eric is in the weather center… shaving."

Eric is truly a unique spirit that we’re lucky to call our chief meteorologist and longtime member of our WBTV family. Thank you, Eric, for 30 years of laughter, information and dedication to our community.

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