Ron Hilliard on joining Local 4 weather team: Detroit, look up!

Ron Hilliard. (WDIV)

4Warn Weather – Walking down the street or shopping in the mall, there are fewer opportunities to look someone in the eye and acknowledge them.

As we become increasingly attached to our smartphones, are we making it a habit to look down? It was by looking up that I realized my passion.

As a young child, I began to look up at the sky–nature’s ever-changing artwork. Most impressive to me were Michigan’s extremes. From bitter cold air to sweltering heat and winter storms to severe thunderstorms, it seemed like we got a taste of everything.

Soon enough, while watching the news, I discovered that some people made a living out of talking about the current conditions and forecasting approaching weather. I was hooked.

Growing up in a not-so-quiet neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side, bordered by 8 Mile and the Southfield Freeway, I would hear the outdoor warning sirens from both Wayne and Oakland counties as my own NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio blared indoors.

July 2, 1997

One such time that happened was July 2, 1997. On this hot, humid summer day, my respect for the power of nature would reach new heights. Around 6 p.m., while under a tornado warning, I looked out the window en route to the basement. The skies had gone from daylight to black in minutes. The swirling clouds were illuminated only by the nearly constant lightning.

Later that night and in the coming days, the extent of the damage became clearer. On July 2, a record 13 tornadoes had swept through Southeast Michigan, including an F2 that went through Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. The tornadoes killed two people and 100-mph-straight-line winds claimed another five lives.

More than ever before, I understood the importance of warnings and the need to heed them. I also gained a greater appreciation for the responsibilities of meteorologists.

Survivors told harrowing stories from that day and night.

Telling your story

Just as broadcast meteorologists tell the weather story, reporters share your story. While growing up in the inner-city, I would sometimes see my neighborhood or even loved ones on the news after being impacted by crime. Sons, daughters, mothers and fathers were sometimes talked about as just another statistic. What was their story?

I became interested in ways to share stories and amplify voices.

While attending Detroit’s Communication and Media Arts (CMA) High School, I joined Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. This afforded me the chance to tell stories from the stage.

Weather and journalism

After working out of state, I made my way back to Michigan in 2018. I reported and forecast at WEYI and WSMH in the Flint and Saginaw areas. Now, I am back home, but it is not the city that I left for school and work.

Ron Hilliard (WDIV)

Detroit continues to look up.

I am eager to snap photos around town. Smartphones let us easily capture moments. It is also with these devices that we can receive weather and other emergency alerts when seconds count the most.

However, whether feeling down, hoping to catch a smile or nod, or seeking to find your passion, take a moment to look up.

About the Author:

Ron is a Detroiter and MSU grad who has a tremendous passion for meteorology. He joined the 4Warn Weather Team in March 2023.