Veteran weather forecaster retires after decades in El Paso
Whatever the weather, John Fausett sings.
The longtime meteorologist has composed songs about heat waves, blizzards, storm spotters and “one team working together” at the El Paso National Weather Service forecast office in Santa Teresa. He’s been inspired by works from the early Eagles, Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelburg and, “of course my band the Beatles.”
He said they may be lighthearted, but the messages behind the songs are serious.
“I want the public to know we’re not kidding about weather safety,” he said. “We love what we’re doing, but it can be bittersweet. There’s the excitement of ‘maybe there’ll be a tornado’ but then immediate concern for the effects it has on the people around us.”
The man who writes goodbye ditties and ballads for coworkers will sing his own tribute on Thursday, as he and wife Kathy plan to retire to Prescott, Arizona.
Fausett is a well-known face in El Paso; he was a weatherman for KVIA from 1982 to 1990. He then bounced between Arizona and Texas National Weather Service stations until resettling in El Paso right before 2000, where he stayed for two decades.
Greg Lundeen has worked in the El Paso office since 1994 as the science and operations officer and counterpart to Fausett, the warning coordination meteorologist.
Lundeen said Fausett’s position requires gathering volunteer “spotters” who can help tell the weather service what’s happening in storms, and also briefing the media and government officials during severe weather.
“You really need to be an extroverted person to really excel at that kind of job,” Lundeen said. “You have to build relationships, you have to get the information out there, you have to work with the media, government officials in the city, county and state all at the same time.”
Lundeen described Fausett as easy-going and uplifting, often making weather puns to lighten the mood. But Lundeen said Fausett’s kindness stretches beyond work.
“He really means well for everybody,” Lundeen said. “He cares about you from the moment you first meet him.”
Looking back on time spent in El Paso, Fausett said the events that stick out were the extreme flooding in 2006 and the winter freeze in 2011. He said a lot of his daily work has been to follow the weather in snapshots of seven to 14 days, and outside of studying the long-term impacts of climate change. However, those impacts are being felt now.
“I know it can get very political, but the bottom line is, let’s just do what we can to take care of the place that we live,” he said.
Born in Long Beach, California, Fausett graduated high school in Indiana. He said that’s where his love for weather really sparked. He said a childhood fear of thunder and a push to understand it came together during a lightning storm when he was 16 years old. He said he first had to talk himself out of quaking under the covers, but after watching the lightning fork across the sky, felt drawn to it.
“I walked outside and stepped into the driveway and beheld cloud to ground bolts, thinking ‘This is awesome,’” he said. “I went from fear to stupidity in five minutes.”
He studied meteorology at University of Utah, but found no opportunities in the area after he graduated. He stayed with some mutual friends in El Paso, and wound up the weekend weatherman for KVIA.
In songs over the years, Fausett’s extolled his love for the sunsets, mountains and deserts and the “critters” that inhabit them. He’s got a soft spot for a roadrunner outside the office nicknamed “Stanley,” and checks in on the nest and brood daily.
He said he’d likely return a couple times a year to visit his coworkers.
“They won’t miss the puns and the song rehearsals,” Fausett joked.
Dave Hefner started at the National Weather Service in 1999, just before Fausett. They share a love of music and weather, he said.
“His weather trivia and knowledge of our climate is huge. His mind is like a database that we’ll be losing,” Hefner said.
Cover photo: John Fausett is retiring from the National Weather Service after decades of providing forecasts for the El Paso region. (Danielle Prokop/El Paso Matters)