John Toohey-Morales, hurricane specialist, on the NBC 6 newsroom set in Miami

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By Joe Wilensky

Puerto Rico native John Toohey-Morales ’84 was a teenager in fall 1979, when Hurricane David struck the Caribbean as a category 5 storm—causing some 2,000 fatalities in the Dominican Republic and more than $1.5 billion in overall damage.

“It just missed Puerto Rico by 70 miles or so,” he recalls. “But it was such a powerful hurricane that it gave us a good shellacking from a sideswipe.”

The experience helped cement Toohey-Morales’s interest in meteorology—and four decades later, the Florida-based TV weathercaster and environmental scientist is one of the nation’s most respected hurricane forecasters.

Toohey-Morales is best known as the longtime chief meteorologist for Miami’s NBC station, WTVJ Channel 6.

John Toohey-Morales interviewing then-Cornell President David Skorton on stage as part of Sesquicentennial celebrations in 2015
Interviewing Cornell President David Skorton during a Sesquicentennial event in 2015. (Provided)

But he also has a large following on social media in Spanish and English; is a passionate voice on climate change; and has served as a mentor and inspiration to countless Latino weather aficionados.

And when Toohey-Morales first began broadcasting, he was a pioneer in his field: the first weather forecaster on Spanish-language TV news in the U.S. to have an academic degree in meteorology.

“TV stations had typically looked for certain characteristics—but knowledge of weather was not necessarily one of them,” he explains. “You had weather presenters, but they were just reading what the National Weather Service gave them.”

Toohey-Morales’s value as a trusted expert became especially apparent in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew struck Florida, Louisiana, and the Bahamas.

As he recalls: “The Spanish-speaking audience realized, ‘Oh, this is why you have to have a degree: you need to have the knowledge to carry us through an emergency, to give guidance.’”

John Toohey-Morales as a proud Cornell graduate, 1984
At his Commencement. (Provided)

An atmospheric sciences major in CALS, Toohey-Morales worked for the National Weather Service as a forecaster in San Juan after graduation, followed by similar positions in Lake Charles, LA, and Washington, DC.

His on-camera meteorology career began in 1991 in Miami, where he appeared on Univision, Telemundo, and finally NBC.

As his profile rose, it prompted other U.S. stations serving Latino audiences to recruit their own Spanish-speaking, degreed meteorologists—broadening the job market and inspiring the next generation to follow in his footsteps.

Scenes from his marathon broadcast during Hurricane Irma. (Provided)

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Harnessing his enthusiastic fan base, he and the station launched Meteorólogos de Barrio (Neighborhood Meteorologists), a program that tapped viewers to report their local weather conditions.

“The ones that would spend the most time on the phone with me were the teenagers who were thinking of weather as a passion, as something that they wanted to pursue,” he observes.

“I realized I had these young people looking up to me—many who were immigrants or who grew up in a household where they spoke Spanish.”

(Several of those teenage fans went on to earn degrees in meteorology and work in the field.)

I realized I had these young people looking up to me—many who were immigrants or who grew up in a household where they spoke Spanish.

Toohey-Morales maintains a robust presence on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook and runs a boutique weather consulting company, ClimaData.

On the Big Red front, he sits on the external advisory board of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and serves as his class president; in 2023, he won a four-year term as an alumni-elected trustee.

In January 2024, Toohey-Morales was inducted as an honorary member of the American Meteorological Society—and at the ceremony, he gave a prominent shout-out to his alma mater.

John Toohey-Morales relaxes in a Miami park near his home
In a park near his Miami home in February 2024. (Joe Wilensky / Cornell University)

“Cornell showed me what it takes to be successful: hard work, resilience, and perseverance,” he said at the event.

“At a time when institutions of higher learning are under assault, I couldn’t be prouder to be living proof that diversity, equity, and inclusion leads to great outcomes in doing the greatest good.”

Among Toohey-Morales’s aims is raising awareness of the effects of human-driven climate change.

He regularly weaves it into his broadcasts, including how it impacts weather extremes and trends, such as hurricanes growing stronger. He also serves on the board for Miami’s CLEO Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to climate crisis education and advocacy.

John Toohey-Morales on campus for Commencement with his son, John Michael Toohey ’18, MS ’21
Capturing a Commencement moment with son John Michael Toohey ’18. (Provided)

Now semi-retired, Toohey-Morales still appears on Channel 6 regularly from June to November—as the station’s hurricane specialist, advising viewers on the potential dangers of the region’s dramatic and sometimes dangerous storms.

“A ton of people have learned to put their trust in me,” he says. “So while I’m not there every day to do ‘partly cloudy with a chance of showers,’ when there’s a threat, they know I’m going to be there.”

Top: In the broadcast studio during the 2023 hurricane season. (Photo courtesy of NBC 6 South Florida)

Published March 12, 2024


  1. Janet Spencer King, Class of 1964

    I live in New York City and a number of our most prominent weather reporters are Cornell graduates. Makes me proud!

  2. Eleonora Uribe

    I live in Fort Lauderdale and have been following John’s advice since I moved to Florida in 1992. He is a beloved and admired figure in South Florida.
    Thank you John! You make us all Cornellians and South Floridians proud!

  3. Gulcin Gumus, Class of 2002

    I live in South Florida and have been a devoted viewer of John for decades. He has been discussing climate change way before anyone could even dare to utter the term on TV. He serves his community in every sense of the word and we look up to him. If there’s anything to look forward to in a hurricane season, it’s John!

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