September 24th, 2010
Student begins weather career
Sophomore airs broadcast on The Weather Channel
By DEVONTE GARDNER
Ryan Hoke, Mississippi State University sophomore professional
meteorology major, turned a childhood obsession with thunderstorms into
a career in weather forecasting.
Hoke's accomplishments include an interview on The Weather Channel,
feature weather forecasts on WAVE-TV in Louisville, Ky., and WBBJ-TV in
Jackson, Tenn., a job as a tour guide for Storm Chasing Adventure Tours
and a full scholarship from MSU.
He said his fascination with weather began at age five when he
developed an intense fear of heavy rains and lightning.
Linda Hoke, his mother, said he was more in awe of lightning than
During this time, Hoke's parents cut a hole into a cardboard box and
attached knobs to make it look like a television set. Hoke would crawl
inside and give amateur weather reports.
"I thought he had the most vivid imagination and he's going to use it
in whatever field he gets into," his mother said.
She said it was a joy to watch.
"My dad got the video camera out and started recording me doing these
ridiculous newscasts," Hoke said. "I was always the weather man. It's
that first experience that got me really interested. I got to see what
I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
By age 10, Hoke's phobia of thunderstorms developed into an intense
interest in weather and a yearning to figure out its mechanisms. Soon,
he began reading Discover magazine, which had an issue on tornadoes and
storm chasing, and weather-related children's books, he said.
"Books haven't been a huge deal for me after middle school," Hoke said.
"The Internet was huge at that time and learning about weather on the
Internet was becoming a real big deal. That's where you can find all
the real-time data and all the analyses and forecasts and products and
learn pretty much on the fly as you're looking at these real-time
In late 2006, during his sophomore year of high school, Hoke and his
family received a personal weather station as a gift from a relative.
A few months later, Hoke launched his own website, "Ryan Weather," and
began broadcasting original weather reports using data from the station.
The Weather Channel came across his website a year later and offered
him an opening in its weather forecasting contest. Hoke came in second
overall but finished first in the category of "most likely to become a
Bailey Hanson, sophomore biological engineering major and friend of
Hoke, said he is amazed with the level of attention Hoke received.
"I think it's really impressive that his work is good enough to be
featured on the national stage," he said. "I'm also impressed that he
has that level of respect."
In the midst of success and recognition, Hoke struggled with one major
obstacle - an obstacle that could have prevented him from progressing
any further in his meteorology career: math.
"Meteorology requires a lot of mathematics," he said. "Math is
something I've never been great at. As a child, I struggled with math.
Trying to get my multiplication tables memorized was definitely
something that was not easy for me."
Hoke said he had problems getting into the upper-level math classes in
high school, particularly calculus.
"It was very difficult. It was more difficult than I imagined it would
be. I was like ‘how much tougher can it get?'" he said. "It took a
little more effort than I thought it would, because my math background
is not the best. That was definitely the setback."
In 2008, Todd Thorn, owner of the tornado and severe weather chasing
organization Storm Chasing Adventure Tours, came across a broadcast of
Hoke explaining the characteristics of severe weather on his website.
Soon after, Thorn offered Hoke a job via e-mail as a tour guide and
later as a web designer.
"That was probably the best thing that came into my e-mail inbox in
2008," Hoke said.
Renny Vandewege, Hoke's mentor and broadcast meteorology instructor at
MSU, said Hoke made a name for himself by storm chasing.
"You can learn weather from a textbook, but Ryan gets to learn weather
firsthand. At his age, that's pretty incredible," he said.
In May 2010, Hoke and the storm chasers came across a tornado in
southeast Colorado and submitted the video to The Weather Channel. The
day after, The Weather Channel responded via Twitter and requested an
on-air interview with Hoke.
"They asked me a whole bunch of questions, not only about the tornado,
but who I was and about my meteorology career that I was embarking on,"
he said. "It was a lot of fun. It was my first national media
After Hoke received a full scholarship from MSU through the
Distinguished Scholar program, he decided to further his education in
"I had Mississippi State near the top of my list [of] where I wanted to
go to college. This place definitely has the best broadcast meteorology
program in the region," he said.