Mark Eubank wants to talk about the weather. He wants to talk about it as long as you'll listen or tune in. He talks about the weather on vacation. He talks about it at home. He talks about it with TV viewers.
No one in America wants to talk about the weather really talk about the weather more than Eubank, the gung-ho, gee-whiz TV weatherman. He talks about the weather the way most men talk about football. It's not chitchat; It's split jet streams and microbursts and cold fronts and the lake effect, delivered with the passion and intensity of a coach making his pre-game speech.
But what would you expect from a man who put a rain alarm on his roof so he wouldn't sleep through a rainstorm and miss it all? He has moved his family home twice to live where there was more rain. He has recorded the daily weather in a notebook every day for 50 years.
He has started two weather-consulting businesses. He turned his house and yard into a weather station (cost: $5,000 out of his own pocket). He's written two books about weather. He gives firesides and speeches about weather.
He studies and reads about weather. His greatest ambition in life his Holy Grail is to discover a means to predict the weather every day a year or more ahead a project that turned into an obsession for two years.
"He truly has a passion for it," says Kevin Eubank, Mark's son and a former TV weatherman himself. "He eats it, sleeps it, drinks it, breathes it. Every day he's thinking about what is going on and what causes it. Even when we go on vacations, he'll talk about it."
He was a city surveyor in Los Angeles when he traded his work boots for suits because he believed he could do a better job than the local TV weatherman. Forty years later he's still telling us the weather on KSL-TV and radio and having more fun doing it than any man seems capable of.
Sometimes in his excitement he runs out of words to tell us about the weather, so he makes up new ones. He punctuates his 3 1/2-minute broadcasts with more sound effects than a Tom and Jerry cartoon. One of KSL's techs compiled them on a highlight tape that consisted entirely of Eubank's ad libs: "Bing, bowg, boink, boing, boiiiiing, bowk, hah, haaah!, (tearing sound), (squashed sound), ohhhh, goooomph, ziiiing, zoooom, (sound of car stopping suddenly), phhhht, eeerrrrrrumble-rumble-rumble, (slurping sound), sheeewhhhh, oh-oh, vooomph, voom, wonk, vooop, whhktw, waawaa, waaaa, waaam, zeeek.""I don't even know I do it," he says. "I looove my job."
There are two signs on Eubank's office wall: "Never trust a split jet stream," and "There is no bad weather, only different types of good weather."
He loves all weather, but he has a special weakness for rain. At 63, he still savors the rain the same way he did as a boy, when he would pull up a chair to the living room window to watch. These days he settles in the sun room of his house because its three walls of floor-to-ceiling glass windows and metal roof allow him to see and hear the rain.
"I looove rain," he says. "I get almost euphoric. There's something comforting about it, a sense of well-being."
While living in Los Angeles in his pre-weatherman days he installed a rain alarm on the roof of his home. On the rare occasions it rained, the alarm sounded in his bedroom, waking him and his young wife, Jean. Mark would jump out of bed and run to the door to watch it rain and listen to the music of the drops as they struck the roof.
"It was the loudest alarm you can imagine, and it would wake me out of a dead sleep," says Jean. "I grumbled about it a little. I was going to college and working."
Weary of the smog and dry, dull weather of Los Angeles L.A. must be for weathermen what Omaha is for skiers he did extensive research to find the rainiest place he could live in California that was near a town big enough to allow him to earn a living. He moved to Redding because of its 40 inches of annual rain.
Later, while living on Salt Lake's west side, he searched for the wettest, most weather-happening place on the Wasatch Front and bought 5 acres on the bench above Bountiful. As soon as he saved enough money, he built his home on the property and has lived there 30 years now.
Storms converge there because of the slope of the bench and the cove formed by the mountains, combined with the lake effect. He gets 128 inches of annual snowfall and couldn't be happier about it. At times he has gotten more than he bargained for. In 1983, 120 mph winds blew the roof off his pool house and deposited parts of it all over Bountiful. (Eubank mentioned it on the newscast, and soon people were bringing pieces of his roof to him from miles away.) Five years later, a huge snowstorm collapsed the roof again.
Eubank has shaped his life by his passion for weather his career, his homes, his side businesses, his spare time. "I don't golf, fish or hunt," he says. "Weather is my hobby and vocation. I never get enough of the weather. I love what I do. I would do it anyway. And people are willing to pay me a wonderful living to do what I think is playing. I was born that way. I've been fascinated with the weather since I was 13."
The first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning and gets home late at night after a newscast is report to his home weather station, recording the information in three-ring notebooks. His yard is equipped with an anemometer posted on a pole taller than his house, two snow sticks, a rain gauge and a thermometer that records highs, lows and current temperatures.
Some of the equipment feeds directly into his home computer, which delivers the information every 15 minutes to computers at the University of Utah, which provide weather information for people and businesses around the Intermountain area. A monitor in his kitchen displays the vital weather statistics. Even when he is traveling or on vacation, Eubank uses a laptop computer to tap into his home computer to check weather conditions at home each day.
He got his first rain gauge as a Christmas present when he was 14. He placed it in his back yard and began recording daily temperatures and continued to do so for the next five decades and counting. As a boy, he read everything he could about the weather. He tried to visit weather stations but was rebuffed. When he was 15, he wrote a weekly weather column for a local newspaper."All I did all through high school was talk about the weather," he says.
Eubank grew up in L.A., one of two children. His father was a car salesman, his mother a housewife. He enrolled at UCLA at 17 and studied math, science and meteorology but dropped out a year later and went to work as a surveyor in Los Angeles and then packed up and made the move to Redding. It was there he noticed that the local TV station didn't have a weatherman a newsman did the job.
"He was, frankly, terrible," says Eubank. "I thought, 'I can do better than that.' "
He applied for the job, with no degree and no TV experience, and they turned him down cold. A year later he tried again, and they gave him an audition. A few days later he landed the job.
"I was extremely nervous," he recalls. "I just had to tell myself that there was no one out there but my wife and mother, and they both love me. I'll just talk to them."
A year later, he decided he needed a degree. With a wife and two children to support, he turned his life upside down: He quit his surveying job, enrolled at Shasta College, did his part-time TV job for $10 a night, as well as a weather gig on a local radio station, and, as luck would have it, was offered a position teaching night classes in weather at the college even though he had no degree.
"It all worked out," he says. "I was making as much money as I did surveying."
Shasta didn't offer a degree in meteorology, so a year later Eubank packed up his family again and moved to Salt Lake City in 1967 to enroll at the University of Utah. (His mother is from Utah.) He applied for a job at the three local TV stations. Two of them turned him down; Channel 2, whose weatherman had just quit, hired him. Eubank, who completed his degree in 1972, has been on the air in Salt Lake City since then, except for 1990, when a non-compete clause forced him to sit out a year after leaving Channel 2 for Channel 5.
Along the way, he has had job offers to do the weather for "Good Morning, America," in New York and to manage The Weather Channel in Atlanta, but he turned them down, partly because he wanted to raise his family here and partly because he didn't want his weather skills to be restricted to 10-second sound bytes about the national weather. The weather purist in him wanted to deliver detailed forecasts and surround himself with the wild weather of Utah.
"I looooove my life," Eubank says, standing in the sun room of his home. "Life has been sooooo good to me. I looooove my wife. I've got a faaaaantastic wife. Best thing I did was marry her. I have a great family. And I do what I love best for a living."
It turns out that Eubank is exactly the same fresh-scrubbed, pleasant fellow you see on TV. Dressed in a freshly ironed shirt, jeans and white sneakers, there's hardly a wrinkle on him, on his clothes or his face. "He's got that Dick Clark thing going," says Jean.
At 5-foot-10 1/2, he is as energetic and slender as a teenager. He still weighs in at his high school weight of 165 pounds and never exercises or watches what he eats. He was once co-owner of a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store and used to stop by every night after work to help himself to dessert.
"His idea of a diet is one hot fudge sundae instead of two," says Jean.
He takes stairs instead of the elevator, climbing them two at a time, and he makes a point of walking "briskly" to his car. He considers this his exercise.
"He does things fast," says Suzanne Roskelley, assistant to the news director at KSL and a longtime associate of Eubank's. "He walks down the hallway fast. He bounds everywhere he goes. He's just exactly like you see on TV all the time. He's always in a good mood."
Eubank is completely smitten by his wife of 45 years, dotes on his seven children and 13 grandchildren, has held down several leadership positions in his church and is as steady and even as a high-pressure system.
"I could count on one hand the number of times I saw him lose his temper, and it was almost always because he didn't like the way we treated our mother," says Kevin.
He is as neat and organized as a Marine. His dozen suits are lined up in the closet light, dark, light, dark, light . . . He simply grabs the one on the end, wears it, then grabs the next one in line the next day. His shirts and ties and shoes are organized according to color."He puts me to shame," says Jean.
An astute businessman who owns three homes, he has done well in real estate and weather-related businesses. He sold Weatherbank, a 20-year-old weather-consulting firm, in 1992 and started another one called Weathercycles. The irony is that a number of successful weathermen his competition got their start in Weatherbank.
Ask Eubank to explain his passion for weather and he says, "It's the power of the weather. It drives our lives. When it floods, everyone is involved. When there's a monster thunderstorm, people say, 'Did you see that?' When there's a drought, everyone talks about it."
Eubank talks about retiring from the TV weather business but only in a vague way. He wants to go out while people still want him to remain on the air and not when he is "going downhill," as he puts it. "I want them saying I hope he doesn't go."
Whenever he retires, he will continue to pursue his passion of making sense and order of the weather. More than a decade ago, he undertook the monumental task of trying to formulate rules and formulas that would allow him to predict the weather every day for more than a year in advance. This seems fairly ambitious in a profession that struggles to predict the weather for a week consistently, but Eubank believes it can be done.
A few years ago, he told the Deseret Morning News, "I'm convinced that when God put this world together, he meant for it to operate with rules, and they are complex. The weather operates with rules. I'm convinced that we will eventually be able to tell the weather a year or more ahead."
Beginning in 1990, he immersed himself in the project for two years. His search for mathematical formulas that would allow him to extract cycles in the weather data took him to university math departments and to Internet programs before he finally posted a question on the Internet asking for help. A physicist responded and presented a formula that seemed to be the answer. Eventually, Eubank took a 20-year period of known weather conditions and successfully predicted the daily weather of that time.
"I did it!!" he says. "I could take any day in that sample and be within 2 degrees."
But when he applied the same formula to a different period of known weather data, it failed. He was so crushed that he quit.
"It's there," he says emphatically. "I know it's there. There are people in the profession who laugh 'You're wasting your time.' I don't believe it. The tides go up and down twice each day, never at the same time, never at the same intensity. When it was discovered that the tides were based on the sun, the moon and the shape of the coastline, bingo, they could create tables and predict the tides years ahead very accurately. When I saw that, I thought this is the same thing. I just intuitively know it can be done.
"I will go back and try again someday. Edison knew that electricity going through a medium would light up and give light. He tried hundreds of different things before he got it. People said it wouldn't work, but he knew it would. I know this can be done."Comment on this story
Such a project, if successful, would have implications so immense that Eubank believes people would literally kill for it. "I think it's so important that people would try to assassinate you to get it," he says. "I'd give it to the public right away. It has all kinds of ramifications. You could launch wars based on droughts when other nations are preoccupied. You could take advantage of a cold snap. You could do good things. Farmers could switch crops if they knew the weather would be damaging to a crop they were growing or harvest early if they needed to."After a half-century of observing and studying the weather and trying to make sense of it, Eubank is still thrilled by the mystery and wonder of it all, like the boy who used to sit by the window on rainy days.