13 at 65: Relihan blended serious, silly sides of personaltiy

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The assured, matter-of-fact presentation of Dave Relihan guided northeast Kansans through many a dangerous weather situation for nearly two decades on WIBW-TV.

But many viewers are just as likely to recall Relihan's frequent fits of giggles.

"I always broke up laughing for some reason or another," Relihan recalls. "Obviously the people....I mean when you’ve got, (former sports director) Ron Paradis in the building!"

Relihan started at WIBW-TV in 1981, when forecasts were presented by putting magnets on a board. Over the years, he oversaw the shift to computer graphics and live radar. He remained part of the 13 NEWS until 2000.

Among his memorial forecasts, he recounts a time when he used his bicycle to activate the switch that advanced his graphics, gesturing to a city or temperature on each pass through the screen; he once battled a train whistle to be heard during a live report from a pumpkin patch; and he and Paradis often engaged in friendly banter with Ralph Hipp refereeing in the middle.

"There were so many people that had a great attitude. It really wasn’t work. For a long time, it really wasn’t work," he said. "You had all this latitude and they didn’t come back the next day or that evening and say, 'No more bicycles.'"

At the same time, Relihan says, everyone respected that their colleagues had a job to do, and knew when and how to focus. For him, those moments came when severe weather hit. He said a tornadic storm that passed along the south and east sides of Topeka, moving to the northeast part of the state, drove him how vital his words could be.

"Weeks later, I got a letter from a Red Cross person from either Atchison or Brown County that said our coverage of that severe thunderstorm most likely saved some lives and I thought, 'Wow!' That’s when it really struck home that you’re making a difference," he said.

Relihan said it's also gratifying to know he had a hand in launching the careers for some talented meteorologists, including Andy Weingarten, Jim Roemer, and Rob Peppers.

Relihan worked in radio after leaving television. He's now retired and enjoying life as a grandpa.

Weather, he says, still holds his interest. While he doesn't necessarily miss the day-to-day world of broadcasting, the friendships hold a special place in his heart.

"This was the best thing that could happen to my family. Not just me," Relihan said. "It was good. It was really, really good and I’m pretty grateful for that opportunity."