5 things to know about NBC CT’s Ryan Hanrahan, who covered Hurricane Sandy 10 years ago

Photo of Abby Weiss

Ten years ago, in the days after Hurricane Sandy swept through Connecticut, NBC Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan traveled to Fairfield Beach to cover the damage. A few houses had been swept away and more had been destroyed. Sand piled up multiple feet high along the beach.

Hanrahan tracked the storm from his studio in West Hartford, unsure of when the biggest storm surge would hit.

“Sandy was probably one of the scarier storms that I've ever covered,” he said.

As the chief meteorologist, the Connecticut native continues to be a reliable source of information on Connecticut’s worst natural disasters, appearing on weekdays during the 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts and updating residents in his new blog, "On Ryan’s Radar."

A few weeks ago, he helped compile a 30-minute special on Hurricane Sandy to mark its 10-year anniversary and explain the lessons learned from the storm, which wasn’t a hurricane when it hit Connecticut.

Hanrahan’s weather reporting has earned him a New England Emmy Award and the opportunity to cover two Super Bowl games.

“It's just exciting to go to work every day and to be able to forecast the weather,” he said. “I still sort of laugh that someone actually pays me to make a weather forecast and talk about it on TV.”

Reflecting on his career, Hanrahan was impressed with how much weather forecasting has improved, specifically that it’s more precise and he can predict storms further in advance. However, communicating uncertainty to the public when it doesn’t have all the answers remains a challenge.

“It keeps the job interesting. But we know our viewers demand a lot of precision and a lot of heads-up ahead of time. And we try really hard to give that to them,” he said.

Here are five things to know about the NBC CT meteorologist:

1. His interest in the weather stems back to his early childhood 

Since his early childhood, Hanrahan has found the weather fascinating. Like “a kid before Christmas,” he finds it hard to sleep the night before a blizzard due to the excitement, he said.

“I don't remember a time in my life that I didn't want to be a meteorologist,” he said.

While on summer vacation in Cape Cod when he was 5 years old, he remembers watching scenes of the 1989 Hamden tornado on the news and feeling upset he wasn’t home when the storm occurred.

After graduating from Guilford High School, he studied meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and atmospheric science at the State University of New York at Albany. Before joining NBC Connecticut, he interned at the TV station in the summers while in college.

“It's very cool to be able to make a living off of something that's a hobby of yours and something that you truly love,” he said.

2. He flew into the eye of Hurricane Florence...and almost slept through it 

In 2018, Hanrahan took a C-130 plane with the crew from the TV show “Hurricane Hunters” to check out the Category 1 hurricane. Hanrahan described the experience as “incredible,” but says he would’ve missed it if another passenger hadn’t woken him up from a deep sleep.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going into the eye, I know that a meteorologist wants to see that,’” he said. “I can sleep through pretty much anything.”

Hanrahan has also chased tornadoes for his job, including the 2011 tornado that swept Springfield, Mass.

“I got there shortly after the tornado hit. And just seeing the destruction firsthand sort of took my breath away. It was really, really hard to look at. Just to see how powerful the storm was,” he said.

3. He’s an active member of the community 

Hanrahan has been involved in the Special Olympics for over a decade, hosting the opening ceremonies for the Summer Games. For two years, he was on a unified bowling team with West Hartford and competed in the Special Olympics holiday classic.

“To be able to compete alongside the athletes, that was really rewarding.”

Besides the Special Olympics, he visits schools to talk about the science behind weather and what the job of a meteorologist entails.

“I think it's important for people, especially kids, to know that there's a lot that goes into it besides just looking at your phone and seeing what the weather is going to be tomorrow,” he said. “That, to me, is really important to get it to schools, to talk about what we do and why it's important.”

4. He had a furry best friend named Doppler 

When scrolling through Hanrahan’s social media accounts, the number of pictures of his golden retriever, Doppler, is apparent. Unfortunately, Doppler passed away in the spring, but he’s open to getting another dog in the future.

Hanrahan said he was blown away by the number of viewers who wrote thoughtful and supportive comments after Doppler’s passing. He read every comment a couple of times, he said.

“People wrote the kindest, nicest things,” he said. “We hear about a lot of the acrimony on social media and how it can be a challenging place, and it certainly is. But people are also really kind and really thoughtful,” he said.

5. He uses his platform to educate people about climate change 

Ten years ago, when NBC CT began to ramp up its climate reporting, Hanrahan said the station received negative feedback and skepticism. Now, viewers are asking for more of it, and students often ask Hanrahan questions about the phenomena.  

Hanrahan said NBC Universal has been increasing time and resources towards more field reporting and longer stories on the impacts of climate change in the region. Along with forecasting temporary weather events, he also communicates long-term effects of climate change on Connecticut.

The state's average summer and autumn temperatures have been rising and winter storms have become more extreme. Weather patterns like drought and rain have also become more prolonged, he said.

“It seems like the extremes are a little bit more than they used to be. And so, we're just trying to figure out what that means for the future,” he said.