Riff On This: How I learned my former meteorology professor really rocks

From battle of the bands to broadcast meteorology, Dr. Lou McNally has talent

Dr. Lou McNally isn't just a broadcast meteorology professor. He's also a rock demigod.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Looking back at my college years, before I became News 6 meteorologist and Riff On This podcast host Samara Cokinos, there were plenty of memorable moments, but one really stood out: Being a student of Dr. Lou McNally at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

He was fun, but meticulous, as he taught students how to deliver a forecast while on the green screen. Heck, he did everything from weather radio to TV news for over 40 years, often sharing tidbits of his life along the way, like his radio name at WBLM in Portland, Maine—Altitude Lou.

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Check out every episode of Riff On This in the media player below:

After my summer internship here at News 6 in 2012, I was off to Boston. Three classmates, Dr. McNally and myself were headed to the Broadcast Meteorology Conference where we had the opportunity to present a research project in front of a lot of professional meteorologists. Little did I know that on this trip I would learn something amazing about our favorite professor.

Group picture at the Broadcast Meteorology Conference in Boston summer 2012 presenting research. Pictured from left to right: students Stephen Shiveley, Samara Cokinos, Amber Macchia with their professor at the time Dr. Lou McNally (holding the microphone). (WKMG)

It all started when we got some downtime, which many weather conferences fill with activities to keep the attendees occupied.

One of those nights, we attended a baseball game at Fenway. Boston was Dr. McNally’s old stomping ground, so to and from the game, he showed us a lot of the sites around the city.

As we were walking down Yawkey Way after the game, headed for the subway, we saw a man was playing drums on flipped-over buckets. Our group was surprised to see our professor walk over to the man and start playing along with him. We applauded and kept walking, not really thinking much about what had just happened.

Dr. Lou McNally playing bucket drums with a street performer in Boston summer of 2012. (WKMG)

Walking down the stairs to the subway platform, there was yet another musician playing a box guitar with his guitar case open, collecting donations. At first, I thought Dr. McNally was going to drop some change into the man’s guitar case, but I was wrong. Dr. McNally actually asked the man if he could play his guitar, to which he responded, “Sure, why not?”

We stood in awe as beautiful blues and rock music flowed from the guitar. More and more people stood and listened to the awesome tunes our professor played. Even the musician was impressed with his talent, his eyes lighting up as the donations in the case started rolling in. When the set was over, the musician beamed as he told Dr. McNally, “Thank you for playing.” He said the few songs our professor played brought in more money than he had all night long.

Dr. Lou McNally playing the guitar of a musician at the entrance of the subway in Boston 2012. (WKMG)

Dr. McNally smiled with laughter in his voice as he thanked the man for letting him “sit in.” Anyone could see how much he loved music and that moment stuck with me all these years. So, I rang up my former professor to see if he would come in for an interview.

Riff On This host Meteorologist Samara Cokinos interviews her former meteorology professor Dr. Lou McNally on episode 7. (WKMG)

Be sure to listen to Episode 7 of Riff On This to hear all about Altitude Lou and his musical-weather journey in the media player above.

Until then, I felt the only way to properly end this article would be to use Dr. McNally’s signature sign-off. So, on that note, “And that’s the way it looks from here.”


About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.