He was introduced by Rotarian Becky Skinner when the club met Tuesday at the Gilmer Civic Center.
Scirto related how he spent his earliest years in a small town near Buffalo, N.Y., then the family moved to McAllen, Texas, where he finished high school in 1978. It was in the 9th grade that an earth science teacher inspired his interest in meteorology.
In 1982 Scirto received a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in Houston; he noted that he was the first in his family to attend college.
His first job was as a weather forecaster for a company that had clients in the off-shore oil industry, with wells from the Seycelles Islands in the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
By the mid-1980s, the company was losing clients, Scirto said, and he began casting around for another career path. (By this time he was married and the father of three.)
He had done some radio broadcasts and as he was considering that field somebody suggested that he try television, he recalled. He recorded and distributed a tape, and in December, 1986, he got a call from Tyler.
“Why do I know Tyler?” he wondered to himself, and immediately realized it was because of “the Tyler Rose,” football star Earl Campbell.
Scirto said he went to Tyler for an interview with the KLTV general manager, and he found it to be a nerve-wracking experience. The manager asked, “why should I hire you?” and Scirto said he sent up an urgent prayer, “God, give me guidance.”
He must have said something right, he told the Rotarians, because 20 minutes later he was signing a contract to go to work for the station.
Today Scirto heads the KLTV 3-man Storm Tracker Weather Team, and he said he really enjoys what he does.
“Two plus two rarely equals four in weather,” he commented. A 15- or 20-degree shift in wind direction can move a storm out,he said.
There are a lot of variables, he said, but he tries to be right.
His first major project, called Project Tornado, was begn in 1987 and is ongoing. Scirto distributed leaflets summarizing what is known about tornadoes and giving information on the station’s StormTracker 1st Warning Weather System, which takes effect when severe weather approaches.
In addition to tornado safety tips and quizzes, the leaflet includes a list of the number of tornadoes that have been reported in each of the 24 counties from 1950 through 2007. Harrison leads with 55, followed by Smith and Hunt with 54 each. Upshur County has reported 17, while much smaller Gregg County has experienced 30 and Wood county has reported 35.
Scirto gives talks to third- to fifth-grade students in area schools each spring. Van was the first one he visited, and now he is getting into a second generation of youngsters. He said the students’ responses have not changed much over the years, but “kids are a little sharper now.”