CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ray Boylan, whose folksy forecasts on Charlotte TV belied a meteorology background grounded in scouting hurricanes for the U.S. Navy, died Thursday in Palm Coast, Fla.

Boylan, who celebrated his 76th birthday two weeks ago, had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and had been on liquid oxygen.

Boylan worked at WCNC for 18 months before retiring in 2000.

Boylan spent 11 years at WSOC and was perhaps best known for his work during Hurricane Hugo, which smashed into Charlotte in September 1989.

Boylan knew hurricanes inside out -- for four years in the Navy in the 1970s, he was part of the famed Hurricane Hunters team, whose planes fly at low levels into hurricanes to gather information.

When Boylan got out of the Navy in 1975, he was hired by a Jacksonville, Fla., station, then moved to WSOC, starting Dec. 1, 1986 as the first TV forecaster in Charlotte with formal meteorology credentials.

Ray was like a dad to me and many people in the audience actually mistakenly believed we were related, said Terri Bennett, who worked beside Boylan at WSOC before moving to WCNC in 1997.

Boylan retired in 2000 and left for Florida to be closer to family.

It is a very sad day, Bennett said.

Boylan chafed against research-driven coaching. On WSOC, he liked to dedicate a portion of his forecast to national weather, but was told to discontinue it because research showed viewers didn t care. Boylan argued that Charlotte was full of newcomers who would care about the weather where they came from, but lost the battle.

I m an analog man in a digital age, he joked.

He also refused to give out percentages of likelihood for rain.

If you live in Matthews and it pours, it was 100 percent. If you live in Mooresville and the sun shone all day, it was zero percent, he once said in a Charlotte Observer interview. So what do you care if there was a 20 percent chance of showers that day?

Instead, Boylan said, he liked to go with description.

I'd rather say, It s going to be scattered like fleas on a bulldog s back and if you re close, you ll get bitten. Or like freckles scattered across a pretty girl s face.

Boylan ended every broadcast with a three-fingered gesture little noticed by viewers until the old PTL Club reported nationally it appeared to be Satanist.

Controversy quickly evaporated when Boylan, who volunteered with the hearing impaired, explained the fingerwork: American sign language for love.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Boylan is survived by his wife, Gail, five children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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