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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Meet Mike Francis, new chief meteorologist at 11Alive (WXIA-TV)

mike-francis-kark

A thunderstorm was raging in Mission Viejo, CA in 1973. At age four, Mike Francis stood on his porch, mesmerized as lightning bursts criss-crossed the night sky and thunder rumbled above him. His parents yelled at him to come in but he couldn’t.

He was hooked.

Weather would be his calling. The new chief meteorologist for 11Alive (WXIA-TV), Francis arrived earlier this month from a ten-year stint at the NBC affiliate in Little Rock, Ark. with a resume that includes storm chasing as a hobby and expertise in severe weather. Over his 42 years, he has seen more than 40 tornadoes live.

His first? In Denver as a 13 year old. “I was watching this cloud spin in the air,” he said, his eyes lit up by the memory. “I was just fascinated. My friends thought I was just weird.”

Viewers in Little Rock credit him with saving lives by warning people into basements when tornadoes popped up in their neighborhoods.

Georgia gets its fair share of tornado warnings. 11Alive hired him for his knowledge and passion. “Storms are part of me,” Francis said. “It’s what I live for.”

John Deushane, the 11Alive general manager, said Francis has “meteorological fire in his belly. Other than his family, nothing is more important to him. We wanted a weather champion…someone who would tell us how to improve our service in this area. Now if I can just keep up with all of his requests for capital improvements!”

While other weather people might rely on one model when a big storm is coming, Francis would scan four or five, his former news director Rob Heverling in Little Rock said: “Then he’d use his own intuition and experience in the market. Mike really made a name for himself here.”

Francis said he’s always been an adrenaline junkie. While living in California, he surfed. He joined the Army at age 18 and became an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper. He fought in Panama in 1989 and Desert Shield in Iraq in 1991. “After two tours of combat, I was ready to move on,” he said.

In Dallas, at age 22, he joined a community college, where he met his future wife Deanna. At that point, he decided he wanted to be a meteorologist. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma. Its School of Meteorology had a good reputation.

His wife at the time sought babysitting jobs. She found one coincidentally at the home of Erik Rasmussen, a tornado researcher. Francis became an intern at the National Severe Storms Laboratory studying radar data and like the storm chasers in the movie “Twister,” drove around the Midwest studying tornadoes.

Deanna even came along for the ride on occasion in the backseat with a video camera in tow. “She wanted to see what it was like,” he said.  “One time, we saw a mile-wide wedge. It was incredible. She called her dad that night to tell him about it. He said, ‘Oh, God! Couldn’t you have married a doctor?’ ”

But in a separate interview, Deanna said she had “total faith in Mike. He has this weird understanding of the weather. He’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met.”

Francis learned TV broadcasting skills at the local college station and interned at an Oklahoma City NBC station. He then nabbed a weekend job at a Lawton, OK/Wichita Falls, TX TV station 110 miles away. “Every year, one part of the city would get wiped out by a tornado or a downburst wind storm,” he said. “I was right there.”

In 2001, he landed a job at Little Rock, becoming chief meteorologist in 2007 at KARK. By then, he and his wife had three children: Camryn (8), Garrett (6) and Kane (4). He said with the frequent tornado warnings, he always kept this in his head: “What would I be thinking if my family was there?” If it was literally near his home, he’d address his wife on camera and say, “Baby, it’s time to go in the basement. It’s time to take them downstairs.”

Francis arrived in Atlanta in July and at 11Alive, before he got on the air, quickly rebuilt the station’s entire graphics system, which happened to use the same software as the system in Little Rock. “They now have a sharper look,” he said, “a more streamlined presentation. I take pride in my graphics.” (His predecessor, Paul Ossmann, said in an earlier interview that during his last evaluation in December, 2010, management felt he didn’t do enough of his own graphics)

Francis is also big with social media and is on Facebook frequently. And he works the 11Alive weather blog.

“It’s the most incredible opportunity to come to a place like Atlanta and be the chief,” he said. “It’s something you dream about. So many times, I drive into the city [from his home in Alpharetta] and look at the skyline and say, ‘I’m in Atlanta! It’s incredible!’ ”

His bald pate stands out in a market where nobody else on TV is bald. Just a week on the air,  we had lunch at Taqueria Del Sol last week and someone actually recognized him.

He said his hair thinned and receded through his 30s. He started cutting his hair tighter and tighter. With his wife’s encouragement, during a vacation in 2008, he shaved it completely. And it looked good. “The only other bald meteorologist is Jim Cantore” of the Atlanta-based Weather Channel, he noted.

And no, he won’t diss 11Alive’s year-old Wiz-ometer, a frequent source of mockery on this blog. “It’s a unique and interesting way to put a spin on the weather in a simple way,” Francis said.

On TV

11Alive News, Mike Francis does weather weekdays at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

113 comments Add your comment

Mr Fernwell

August 24th, 2011
8:12 am

Of course he won’t diss the wizometer, Ellen Crooke might read this. He seems like a nice guy and I wish him all the best, but I want Paul and Jim Basile back!!! I have switched to Channel 2. Glenn Burns, David Chandley and Brad Nitz are the best these days when it comes to severe weather and Mark Arum is the best on traffic.

Dave cohen

August 24th, 2011
8:28 am

Rodney:
TV weather people have become the
John Madden’s and Dick Vitales of local news.
They have all the new toys and the on-air time
to entertain viewers — warn viewers and graphically
show viewers the force of Mother Nature.
A large percentage of their time is actually wasted
with useless babble and predictions that never
materialize. They cause many people to stay away
from events that ultimately hurts businesses.
Often they totally miss “pop-up” weather
events using that very excuse! Local TV
news now has robotic anchors who don’t
really cover news; they’ve outsourced sports
in many markets or eliminated it entirely; and they hang their
hats on weather people who have little
accountability overall but on occasion act as
conscientious public servants. It’s a great gig
if you can get it!

Woodstock Reader

August 24th, 2011
8:48 am

Likewise, I have also switched my local TV news viewing from WXIA-TV and I try not to support their sponsors. However, welcome to Mr. Francis and his family.

Bill Anderson

August 24th, 2011
9:13 am

I no longer watch WXIA-TV since they let Paul go. I am sure Mr. Francis has a great resume and I wish him the best but recent personality moves by the station management have turned me ‘off’.

Coach Cool

August 24th, 2011
9:29 am

Welcome to the ATL.

BOOMER!

Moe

August 24th, 2011
9:32 am

Hmmmm….the Curly Howard look for a TV presenter…I don’t think so….

Former viewer

August 24th, 2011
9:34 am

They’ve lost me too – the spinning graphics make me dizzy. I too miss Jim Basile in the AM and will miss Jill when she retires.

Brett Martin

August 24th, 2011
9:40 am

Give the guy a chance. He was given an opportunity and he took it. Now he is the head weather “Wiz” at ‘xia’. Embrace it, or move on.
Paul is gone, no need to dwell on the past.
*note to management at ‘xia’:
Since Mike is bald, you should play on that with a segment called “Under the dome with Mike Francis”

DCF

August 24th, 2011
9:41 am

Bring back Bruce Asbury!

Lifelong Atlanta

August 24th, 2011
9:50 am

I’m sorry – but I do’t have to give this guy a chance. I’m on to WSB!

Homer

August 24th, 2011
10:01 am

We want Johnny Beckman!!

Rip n' Read

August 24th, 2011
10:11 am

I hear Russ Minshew is available.

Diddles

August 24th, 2011
10:29 am

Guy Sharpe – now he was a real weather forecaster with real hair!!

mike scott

August 24th, 2011
11:06 am

looks like a used car salesman to me

indiansummer

August 24th, 2011
11:21 am

I left when Paul was let go…bye bye 11 Alive. You arent alive to me anymore.

LG

August 24th, 2011
11:52 am

I miss Paul. Welcome to the new guy, but too much bald head for my eye’s comfort (tho’ ANYTHING looks better than Monica’s crazy @$$ head/hair). To all: Kill the wizometer. SO STUPID.

Bye, bye, Jill; nice lady, but…it’s time; and go back to the old block and take Monica K with you. A sunset awaits. Karen G–stop the extra wide grinning. so over the top fake.

How is it that the new guy becomes “chief”? What a diss to the others who have been there. Kinda’ like the US Supreme Court, when Roberts was appointed.

Me Likey

August 24th, 2011
12:02 pm

Mike Francis seems very passionate about this love for meterology! I say Bravo sir! He’s served our country and now is continuing to keep us safe via weather reports! Warm Welcome to You Mr. Francis!!

Rob

August 24th, 2011
12:03 pm

Sorry, but count me as one of those who switched to Channel 2 as soon as the Wiz-O-Meter popped up. Lame. A new meteorologist isn’t going to change that.

DL

August 24th, 2011
12:04 pm

I miss Paul – gettum back
1st week with the new guy – this is not an improvement
Miss Jim Basile – there was no “traffic Jam” with Jim

Velveeta Smith

August 24th, 2011
12:07 pm

I avoid looking at anything that looks like a penis.

AL R.

August 24th, 2011
12:09 pm

WXIA – Bad move letting Paul go! You lost me and many others..

dbm

August 24th, 2011
12:12 pm

he doesn’t even live in the city of Atlanta? and I have to agree with comments on Ellen Crooke’s janky, crooked, stupid Wiz-o-meter.. It’s one of the main reasons why I won’t watch. I’d rather watch Monica’s old messy self, than 11-alive. Agreed that a change in personalities is not gonna do it.

bobby c

August 24th, 2011
12:14 pm

what was wrong with the other guy? this guys to hyped up
lets face it lewis grizzard had it down pat….from april to october it’s gonna be hot, and from october to april it’s gonna be cold.
end of story

Kevin

August 24th, 2011
12:25 pm

You people who are so passionate and opinionated about a weather forecaster must live incredibly boring lives.

Jaine

August 24th, 2011
12:29 pm

I watched Mike do an excellent job for weeks this past summer reporting on the tornadoes in Little Rock while I was there visiting my daughter (while husband was deployed to Iraq)…he was a consumate dedicated, hardworking professional and kept us very well informed and safe. However, your treatment of Paul Ossman was deplorable. I won’t be watching Mike in ATL but rather will stick with my tried, true, humane and trusted WSB TV Channel 2. I suppose they, too, could be guilty one day of kicking a man when he’s down – it is business, after all. But I doubt it. Good like to Mike. He better watch his back and start himself a big ‘ole rainy day account.

Jaine

August 24th, 2011
12:30 pm

I’ll correct my typo – Good Luck to Mike.

up north

August 24th, 2011
12:35 pm

Channel 11 is still on the air?

dork

August 24th, 2011
12:37 pm

Scary ears looks like at bat.

Escaped from Email Purgatory

August 24th, 2011
12:44 pm

Bring back Paul Ossmann.

This guy looks like ex 49′ers quarterback, Jeff Garcia.

Who needs another out-of-town import who can’t pronounce Atlanta street names and doesn’t know the difference between Morehouse and Spelman?

Ossman was a perfectly acceptable weather nerd. He was comfortable and reliable just like an old shoe.

Who wants strangers talking to them through their TV’s every night?

Nothing against Jeff, er, Mike. Best of luck. But why “fix” what wasn’t broke in the first place?

Sounds like somebody at 11-Alive was flexing their manager’s muscles.

Bryan

August 24th, 2011
12:51 pm

They should have hired Dagmar. She recently said she’s ready to do weather again.

Moonshine Dawg

August 24th, 2011
12:54 pm

I want Nancy Loveland back! There was just something about the way she said “Frontal System” and “Upper Air Disturbance”

tennisbum

August 24th, 2011
12:59 pm

I do not like the new news woman or wether man; I have switched to channel 5 news at 10.

Tom

August 24th, 2011
1:00 pm

Kristina Abernathy! Yes!!!!

Bone

August 24th, 2011
1:00 pm

Escaped! 95% of the people in and around Atlanta are not from here, so it doesn’t matter how anyone pronounces a street, city or county name. Send all of the “imports” back to their native states and we’ll be better off here.

Long gone

August 24th, 2011
1:01 pm

Holy cow – I hadn’t thought of Nancy Loveland in years. She was awesome…

Like the others, I can’t stand the new 11Alive. Hey Rodney – how about posting their numbers? That’s the real measurement as to how the witch is doing over there. My guess is that they’ll fall off a cliff…and someone further up the chain will “promote” her to do the same thing somewhere else.

stageboss

August 24th, 2011
1:05 pm

I have been watching Chris Holcomb forecast the weather for YEARS…with that said…why isn’t he the “chief”? Dissing your own WXIA. Don’t like that…

Dagmars Cans

August 24th, 2011
1:05 pm

This guy is not a girl with great hooters and lips that could suck the chrome off a bumper so I will get my weather elsewhere.

bryan

August 24th, 2011
1:06 pm

won’t be watching wxia since they let paul go – he’s a good guy..

Dagmars Cans

August 24th, 2011
1:07 pm

I like to be aroused while getting my weather updates. No dudes please.

Fred (with a capitol "F")

August 24th, 2011
1:10 pm

How many of you remember Linda Fay, the original weather girl in Atlanta!

Paulene

August 24th, 2011
1:15 pm

How many of these negative posts are from Ossmann? The appearence on Dr. Drew a new low even for him.

Vet

August 24th, 2011
1:19 pm

Combat vet …… good enough for me!
Airborne!

Mike

August 24th, 2011
1:29 pm

I love Ossmann as much as anyone around, but have you seen the rest of the 11 Alive newscast? Ossmann and now, Mike Francis, are by far the only people worth three minutes of your life between 11:00 and 11:35. The rest of that “newscast” is junk. OK, I get it, you don’t do the apartment fires and car crashes, but do we really have to get “peaches and puppies” for the other 32 minutes? At least it wasn’t Chris Holcombe. Chris: I’m not in 2nd grade. It’s OK to use big words. I understand.

jj

August 24th, 2011
1:30 pm

The Wiz chased us away. I’m sure Mr Francis is a nice guy but he is stiff as a board and the “required” graphics make 11 difficult to watch. We were loyal watchers at 10, but with the new crew I think it is one of the worst news 1/2 hours I have ever seen. We now watch Fox at 10. Like an earlier poster, please post the ratings for the 10:00 news.

Mike

August 24th, 2011
1:33 pm

I wish him well – but if he’s the go-to person for storm preparation, who’s going to help HIM prepare for the s**tstorm of staffing changes that he’s walking into?

Heather

August 24th, 2011
1:34 pm

I too have switched to Fox since Paul left. This guy seems really nice and I welcome him to ATL, but I miss Paul. What were you thinking?

Rae

August 24th, 2011
1:44 pm

what is it with people and change? in particular, old people – anyone posting on here that is making remarks about change how much you hate it, this would be YOU. you’re making a change alone by moving on to a different station! get over it and learn how to deal with change.

The Big Mexican taking your job :)

The Rock

August 24th, 2011
1:45 pm

The Rock says if you want a real news team then put Suchita Vadlamani as the Anchor and Dagmar Midcap as the Meteorologist and you would have a very hot looking team without a bunch of jabronis!

steve

August 24th, 2011
1:52 pm

11alive has too many personnel changes and they let Paul go. I don’t watch them anymore. I now watch fox 5.

Johnnie

August 24th, 2011
1:52 pm

Where is Chesley going?