story by LONGTIME CO-WORKER AND FRIEND STEPHANIE TROTTER | photo PROVIDED
It was a frightening moment. I was squatting beneath a frayed mattress in a cinderblock latrine, calming 12 whimpering Girl Scouts. Tornados were tap-dancing all around our camp in Greenwood County. I dialed the direct line to the WYFF News 4 Weather Center. “Where are you?” John Cessarich asked with urgency. Upon my reply, he provided a way out. “Hunker down another eight minutes. You’ll then have 30 minutes before the next line comes through. Take 246 to 25, and you’ll be fine.”
This wasn’t the first, nor last, time John’s ushered me safely through rough weather, with the same trusted assurance he’s used to guide millions of viewers. It’s hard to believe that constant voice of calm, in all storms, will grow silent after 28 plus years at WYFF 4, and 40 years in the business. “I feel at peace, I think it’s going to be good,” he shares. “I’m ready to start a new chapter. I want to get back into shape and play competitive tennis. I’m going to be able to go out West and see my family, and stay as long as I want.”
Numbers may form each forecast, but John’s career numbers are worth noting. He’s worked in almost a half dozen markets and was one of the original meteorologists to launch the Weather Channel. The eight-time Emmy winner is the longest-tenured Chief Meteorologist at WYFF 4, mentoring dozens of reporters and meteorologist.
At the end of every contract, big markets, with bigger weather, surfaced, but John stayed put. “Live Super Doppler 4?” he asks. “That was always part of my negotiating thing, to get my own radar. We’re still the only station that has our own radar. When it comes to new technology, WYFF has always budgeted to have the best of the best. It’s what kept me here.”
John shows his serious-side during weathercasts, and his fun-loving side during “John on the Road.” Riding in a Burger King Whopper balloon at Freedom Weekend Aloft, downing funnel cakes at the Upper South Carolina State Fair, ringing in Christmas with the “Pelzer light people” – this is the John we work alongside. The John we’re going to miss, in addition to the cakes he’s famous for sharing after appearances. (Estimated number of Bundt, pound, sheet and cookie cakes: 1,491.)
This November, both temperature and tears will fall at WYFF 4. We’ll sense a loss when the family gathers each weeknight. John admits he’ll feel a tug at his heart too. “When I got the call to come to WYFF almost 29 years ago, I told my wife Connie, it’s not just where I want to be and raise my family, but it’s also a great station,” he reflects. “It’s my family away from family. The people who watch are also family. I’m going to miss them all. I’m going to miss this. It’s not just a job to me, it’s my life.”
Please join me in wishing my friend a forecast with only highs.