Longtime WCVB chief meteorologist Harvey Leonard announced Wednesday that he will retire later this month, capping a full-time career that spanned five decades, including more than 45 years forecasting weather in fickle New England.
In a statement, WCVB said Leonard will step away from his daily role on May 25 but will continue as chief meteorologist emeritus beginning in the fall where he will contribute to “severe weather and climate coverage important to our community.”
“After five wonderful decades doing a job that I love, and after having received so many distinguished honors from dear colleagues and professional organizations, I’ve decided it’s time to step back from my day-to-day role at WCVB and transition to contributing in a new way,” Leonard, who has been with Channel 5 for 20 years, said in the statement.
Leonard’s legendary career included many highlights, starting with the infamous Blizzard of ‘78, when Leonard made his name by delivering an accurate and detailed forecast of the storm’s intensity and impact a few days before it hit. Decades and many snowstorms later, Leonard and his team of meteorologists guided viewers through the relentless snow of 2015, when four storms each dropped more than a foot of the white stuff on Boston in short succession.
In a brief interview with the Globe between broadcasting segments Wednesday night, Leonard thanked his viewers, many of whom were already congratulating him through messages and posts on social media.
He said he tried to give his best effort every night he went on the air, whether the forecast called for a light evening shower or a hurricane closing in on the region.
“I’ve loved weather since I was a little kid, and to get a chance to be forecasting and become a meteorologist in a market that, to me, is the No.1 weather market in the country … it was a dream all along,” he said. “I feel very appreciative of everything and everyone — the viewers, my family — they combined to make this happen for me.”
Leonard served as chief meteorologist at WHDH in Boston and WPRI in Providence before joining WCVB in 2002 as StormTeam 5′s co-chief meteorologist with Dick Albert, his longtime friend who retired in 2009, the statement said.
Leonard said he will miss the trust and camaraderie he shares with the channel’s various anchors, particularly Ed Harding and Maria Stephanos on the nightside broadcasts.
“We can say anything to each other on the air because we know each other and legitimately enjoy each other,” he said.
Leonard grew up in the Bronx and attended City College of New York before earning a master’s degree in meteorology from New York University.
A four-time New England Emmy winner for outstanding achievement in weather forecasting, Leonard was named Broadcaster of the Year in 2019 by the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association and was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2018, the statement said.
Leonard, 73, said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his family -- he and his wife, Lorraine, have two daughters and five grandchildren.
“I have such a loving and supportive family, and you have to have that to have a chance to do what I did for as long as I did,” he said.
In his emeritus role at Channel 5, Leonard said he will be ready to lend his expertise whenever it’s needed.
“I’m still going to kick into gear like I always did,” he said. “It might be chatting on the air with the weather team ... almost like a weather expert, but I won’t be making specific forecasts and all that stuff.
“I might be able to enjoy those storms again like I did as a kid,” he added. “I liked the challenge, but it won’t have that pressure.”