WGRZ Weatherman Patrick Hammer joined the station 5 months ago, but he just got his real introduction to Buffalo weather just recently.
Hammer was doing a live shot near a waterfront restaurant on Lake Erie on the windiest day in Western New York this year.
Suddenly, high waves hit him from all directions as he tried to give his report. He was drenched.
“Top to bottom, soaked,” said Hammer proudly. “I went home and my two little kids stared at me and I said, ‘This is what daddy did at work today.’ ”
No matter what, it was still better than working at Target stacking boxes.
After losing his job in KSTP in Minneapolis and sitting out a a non-compete, Hammer had to rode his bike to a $15 an hour seasonal job at a factory, shipping boxes and taking orders at Target’s online distribution center.
It was a humbling experience.
“I did it with a smile on my face,” said Hammer. “I would go into work looking up at a higher power and going, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ ”
Hammer’s co-workers at Target wondered why he was there, too. They nicknamed him “Channel 5,” the channel number of KSTP where he was the meteorologist for almost nine years.
“Day One was the lowest point,” said Hammer. “I was thinking: I’m a 44-year-old guy who always had success in this business and all of a sudden I couldn’t get a job. It was a reality check.”
Three months later, he was rescued by a telephone call from Jane Helmke, a news director at a rival station, KARE, who asked if he could work on a fill-in basis.
Hammer went into the men’s room to take Helmke’s call.
“I was curled up in a stall because you’re not allowed to bring your cellphones in there,” he said of his Target job area. “I was negotiating a fill-in gig. I said I could start today.”
He had to beg one of the Hubbards to allow him to take it because he technically remained under his non-compete clause.
“He said, ‘No,’ ” Hammer recalled. “I said ‘I’m trying to feed my family.’ I pleaded, ‘I need to stay in the game. Will you allow me to work?’ ”
He eventually was allowed to work at KARE, with a stipulation: He could work only on weekends.
“Channel 5” was off to Channel 11, the number KARE is on the dial. After three months, Helmke changed Hammer’s life again. She called Channel 2 News Director Jeff Woodard. Since KARE and Channel 2 have the same owner, TEGNA, Helmke knew that Woodard was looking for someone to replace Channel 2’s legendary weatherman, Kevin O’Connell, as O’Connell wound down his career before eventually retiring.
Woodard called Hammer – who no longer had to negotiate from a men’s room. He said he was practically hired before the call ended 30 minutes later.
Hammer has quickly grown to love Buffalo and its crazy weather. He signed a three-year deal, but he hopes to be drenched on Lake Erie much longer than that.
“My hope is this is my last job,” he said.
If not, there's always Target.
H/T Buffalo News