Mar 8, 2024 - News

Weatherman Garrett Lewis makes online comeback in Northwest Arkansas

A screenshot of meteorologist Garrett Lewis giving a weather forecast from a home studio.

Screenshot courtesy Garrett Lewis/Oz Weather

Meteorologist Garrett Lewis is back.

  • On his terms.

Why it matters: After a career change and hiatus from broadcasting, Lewis is using a home studio, social media and his custom OZ Weather app to forecast local weather for Northwest Arkansans.

  • It's fair to call him a local celebrity and one of the most recognized TV personalities in NWA.

Driving the news: OZ Weather launched during halftime of the Super Bowl on Feb. 11.

How it works: Each morning, Lewis posts a five-minute (or so) video with a current forecast and pushes alerts through the app sparingly as conditions change or become severe.

  • There were about 3,000 downloads of the app by last week.
  • "I've been kind of surprised people still remember me," he said.

Backstory: Lewis was chief meteorologist at CBS affiliate KFSM-TV for 20 years. He let viewers know he would step away from the position in March 2021 and was off the air on July 30 that year.

  • TV ratings are a bit squishy, but KFSM traditionally edged out its competitors in Neilsen ratings because of its longevity in Fort Smith as a VHF (no cable required) broadcaster.
  • That and Lewis' native Alma status meant he had a dedicated following.

He joined First National Bank of NWA that September.

  • Now an assistant vice president of commercial finance, Lewis works a lot with real estate investors on financing construction projects, he said.
A screenshot of a weatherman giving a forecast of severe weather for Friday, March 8, 2024 showing a map of Arkansas.
Screenshot courtesy Garrett Lewis/Oz Weather

Behind the scenes: OZ Weather is "gonna be scaled back to where it's not 24/7 constant coverage," he said.

  • "But at the same time, if there's like a big tornado going somewhere, I don't have to wait for an NFL halftime break or … for 'Survivor' to end," Lewis said.

The bank is supportive of his passion project, he said.

  • "What if there's a tornado?" he asked his bosses.
  • "They said: 'Why don't you just go cover it and come back?'"

Between the lines: The app is free and his posts are available on Facebook and YouTube. Potential advertisers have already reached out and Lewis said it'd be nice to cover his costs, but he's in wait-and-see mode.

  • "I don't want to over-promise something that under-delivers, so I'm trying to get some analytics and some metrics in line before I start doing anything like that," he said.

The bottom line: "I'm not gonna leave banking and go into it or anything like that," Lewis said.

  • "I just kind of wanted to do something that was more community minded, community focused and really help … the everyday person that just wants to know if it's gonna rain."
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