The latest forecast from the KVUE Storm Center calls for some really big changes late next week.
Chief meteorologist Mark Murray, a 26-year veteran of the city’s ABC affiliate, will soon depart. His final day on the air will be April 21.
Murray, 57, is taking an early retirement package offered by Tegna, the station’s owner. Others at the station who’ve taken the voluntary buyouts include executive news director Frank Volpicella, who has led the KVUE news team for 16 years.
Murray says he plans to take a year to relax and do some traveling with his wife, Crystal. After that, he’s open to whichever opportunities come his way.
“I’ll have plenty of time to think about it,” he said. “Right now, though, I’m really looking forward to stepping back from broadcasting and donating all my ties to Goodwill and trading in my suits for obnoxious Hawaiian shirts.”
Murray started as KVUE’s weekend meteorologist, before being bumped up to chief meteorologist in 1993, replacing Troy Kimmel.
He arrived in Austin after spending time in Colorado. Back when he first got his start, Murray said, the forecasts were still done on marker boards with magnetic suns that never seemed to stay in the right spot. There were no computers.
Kimmel, a fixture on Austin TV for decades, said Murray immediately stood out from other applicants.
“There’s a lot of things I’m proud of from my time at KVUE, but I’m most proud of the fact we hired Mark,” Kimmel said. “Mark’s been amazing since the minute we brought him on board. He’s become such a close friend. It’s been great to watch him grow over the years. He really knows Austin and the people of Austin absolutely love him.”
In addition to the departures of Volpicella and Murray, two other high-profile KVUE employees also recently announced their impending departures, though for unrelated reasons. Evening news anchor Tyler Sieswerda is heading to Dallas after 11 years and president and general manager Patti Smith, a 17-year veteran, will soon step down.
Combined, the four have spent about 70 years at KVUE.
“There’s a wealth of wisdom and experience walking out the door at KVUE this spring,” said former KVUE and KEYE news anchor Judy Maggio, who worked alongside Murray for about a decade. “Mark Murray is a first-class meteorologist who truly cares about accurate forecasting and keeping viewers informed. He’s part of the fabric of Austin and will continue to be through his involvement and love of the music scene here. He’s been a dear friend both on and off the anchor desk. I’ll certainly miss him on the air, but now he and Crystal will be able to join us for weeknight concerts.”
Longtime viewers know music is one of Murray’s passions. He’s delivered forecasts on 93.3 KGSR-FM for years and is a regular at music events around town. He’s even been known to give personalized forecasts to some of his pals, like the time he helped talk Lyle Lovett through a hurricane.
“I really have enjoyed my time here,” Murray said. “There’s so many people who watch every night. They’re not just viewers. They’re my friends. It’ll be sad to lose that bond, but I know I’ll still see them around town.”
Leaving behind the current KVUE anchor team – newscasters Sieswerda, Terri Gruca and Quita Culpepper, plus sports director Mike Barnes – will be hard, as well, Murray said.
“Everything you see on air is genuine,” he said. “We enjoy each other’s company, each other’s bad jokes. It truly is fun to go to work every day.”
Throughout Murray’s time at KVUE, the station has consistently ranked at or near the top of the local Nielsen ratings. That means thousands of Central Texans have counted on him over the years to navigate severe weather.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with Mark Murray for so long,” Volpicella said. “He dedicated more than 25 years of his life to KVUE and the Austin community. His contributions can’t be measured. I recall all the times he was on the air for hours at a time during ice storms, floods and tornadoes. He dedicated his life to helping to save lives and property during severe weather. He is an icon in our industry. Mark Murray simply cannot be replaced.”
Morning meteorologist Albert Ramon will shift to evenings while the station searches for its next chief meteorologist. Ramon joined KVUE in 2009, but he’d formed a bond with Murray long before then.
When Ramon was 12 years old, spending part of his summer with family in Bastrop, he wrote Murray a letter, asking for an autographed picture. Twenty years later, he’s still got that photo.
“I don’t know if Mark realizes just how much I’ve learned from him,” Ramon said. “I owe him a lot of thanks. He’s my friend, my mentor, someone I’ve looked up to since I was a kid.”
Ramon says Murray taught him, among other things, how to stay “calm, cool and collected” when severe weather hits.
“Mark’s a cool guy, but he’s very serious about his job,” Ramon said. “It’s a perfect balance. He’ll get you through the rough spots without using scare tactics, without being over the top. He just talks you through it. Viewers respect that and appreciate that.”