Today is not only the last day of 1990, it's also the final day of Mark Eubank's self-imposed, yearlong television exile.

One of Utah's most popular television figures returns to the air on New Year's Day to start weathercasting again, but there's been one small change. Instead of appearing on KUTV-Ch. 2 - his home for more than 22 years - he'll be seen on KSL-Ch. 5."I can hardly wait," Eubank said. "I missed (being on TV) even more than I thought I would. Being off in the evening is nice, but I have missed doing those reports like an avid golfer misses the golf course after a year."

Eubank shocked the local television community back in 1988 when he decided to change horses in midstream. Under the terms of his contract with KUTV, he couldn't directly compete with Ch. 2 for a year after his contract with that station expired.

That year is up Tuesday.

"Mark will be a tremendous asset to our news team," said William Murdoch, KSL's executive vice president and general manager. "His love of weather and his unique ability to explain its complexities in a clear, simple way has won Mark a legion of followers through the years."

KSL, which was willing to pay Eubank to stay off the air for a year, is betting that his return will beef up Ch. 5's ratings. And, while they may not want to go on the record, KSL's competitors are frankly worried that Ch. 5's gains will be their losses.

Eubank will appear Monday-Friday on KSL's 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. broadcasts. For a time, it may appear that Ch. 5 is bringing us gang weather - in addition to Eubank there's Bob Welti, Len Randolph and Kent Norton.

But Welti is planning to retire later this year, bringing the on-air crew back to a more manageable number.

"We want to make sure Bob gets a proper retirement sendoff," Eubank said. "And, for now, I'm just thrilled to be working with all the people at Ch. 5."

One of the things that has made Eubank so popular is his unbridled enthusiasm for the weather. It's difficult to imagine anyone anywhere being more excited about the subject than he is.

He not only talks to the audience, he talks with his hands. And his arms. He provides sound effects and generally treats everyday weather happenings with the same excitement a news anchor would treat . . . oh, maybe . . . World War III.

"I was born with a love for weather and a desire to study it," Eubank said. "It's a hobby and avocation - I just really enjoy it. To think that I can make a living out of doing something I so thoroughly enjoy is just great."

He got caught up in weather watching early.

"When I was a kid, one of my neighbors had a cloud chart describing the different types - cumulus, nimbus. I thought it was fascinating," Eubank said. "I started memorizing the clouds, and that focused my attention up.

"And when you start looking up you see a lot of things."

By the time he was 15, he was writing a weekly weather column for the Torrance Free Press in California. His first TV weathercasting job came in 1963 (in Redding, Calif.) and he moved to Utah and KUTV in 1967.

In 1972, Eubank formed WeatherBank Inc., a weather consulting company. From its humble beginnings - Eubank was the only employee 18 years ago - it's grown to a 25-person operation that serves more than 150 radio stations and about 50 television stations as well as government agencies and commercial clients.

And it was WeatherBank that led him from Ch. 2 to Ch. 5.

"Bonneville (KSL's parent company) approached us and offered to help carry our company onto a national platform," Eubank said. "It's a whole new horizon for us.

"I loved my time at KUTV, but they're a purely local company. Bonneville offers so much more."

In addition to KSL-TV and KSL radio, Bonneville owns a number of radio stations across the country and a TV station in Seattle.

"But the work I do here (at WeatherBank) is work. The TV part - that's my relaxation," Eubank said. "I love the chance to get up there and talk to people and be creative."