NEW ORLEANS — Our chief meteorologist Carl Arredondo recently revealed to us that Friday will be his last day here at Channel 4.
Then he told us the surprising reason why. He is slowly losing his sight and has been on a quiet journey for the last few years preparing for his future.
Together with Carl, we have laughed as we celebrated the good, fun times, and depended on him like the captain of the ship, steering us through storms great and small. But for years now, Carl has been going through a storm of his own, one that he never broadcasted until now.
"It's tough because I love forecasting, not necessarily being on TV. I love sitting down with the computer models and trying to figure out what's going to happen, but I've noticed in the last year especially, it's not as easy to do the things that I need to do. I know right now that I can not do it at 100 percent. I can't," Carl explained.
Since his 20s, Carl has quietly been dealing with multiple genetic eye problems. His retinas tore and completely detached, requiring surgeries where he couldn't move for weeks at a time. Later he had cataracts removed and artificial lenses implanted.
And then several years ago, he got a diagnosis even he could not have forecasted: A rare genetic disorder, adult onset retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Slowly, his vision is narrowing to a small pinpoint in the center.
But Carl's vision of his future is anything but narrow.
"The way I look at this is that, I'm not dying. I'm fortunate that I don't have something where I'm dying. And the other thing I look at is that, if this came upon me as opposed to my sister, my son, my niece and nephew, then I'm fine with that," Carl said.
Carl says he's fortunate, too, because, for decades now, he has been living his childhood dream to be a meteorologist.
"I was watching the clouds in the sky, watching the shapes. I'd love staring at the cumulus clouds and watching them expand. And then in sixth grade, a TV meteorologist came to my class and he was Hispanic just like I am, and I thought, 'well if he can do it, so can I,'" Carl said.
From there, he mapped a course and goals and never wavered. That took him to three TV stations, a weather company, The Weather Channel and then here, to Channel 4. His plan was to give the Crescent City and WWL-TV just two years before moving back home to Texas.
"But I fell in love with the station, the area, everything about this area, so this is home now. I can't imagine leaving. When I retire, I can't imagine leaving this area. This is home."
RELATED: WWL-TV Chief Meteorologist Carl Arredondo to retire due to vision problems
And it is with that same childhood drive, planning, and passion, that Carl has been quietly mapping his next course in life, right here in New Orleans.
Ready to go
On his time off, Carl has been training to use a long cane, to navigate his new world in case he loses that last five percent of his center field of vision. He became a member of the board of the Lighthouse for the Blind, sponsored teams for a blind putt-putt fundraiser, and worked with visually impaired children.
"Those kids are fearless. They were so much fun. They don't know they have a disability. They don't feel that," said Carl.
And Carl is fearless too, celebrating that moment he felt ready to cross Tchoupitoulas Street in traffic, blind-folded. He uses his ears to hear traffic, feels the sun on his face for direction and a white cane to feel the curb.
He never complains, not even when a car that is illegally parked, blocking part of the sidewalk, completely throws him off course, causing him to take precious time to figure out how to get back on track.
"I'm not at the curb yet," Carl says to his Lighthouse trainer, who he calls Mr. Eric.
"No. So something changed. So did you walk down a driveway?" the trainer asks.
"I think what stands out the most with Carl is his positivity and his determination, because what he's been experiencing with his vision is a huge change in a person's life. He has embraced it and he's determined to get through it, and to just keep living life like anyone else," said Jenice Heck, Vice President of Vision Rehab Services at Lighthouse.
In this together
A while back, Carl had a private concern about his vision loss. He wondered if there was a special person who would want to enjoy her life with a visually impaired man at her side.
He hoped and got an answer, through a special person who has experienced loss of her own.
Another concern was Carl did not want to give up doing CrossFit and the tight-knit community and bond with others at the gym. But years ago, before he even knew what RP was, he just happened to read an article about an Indiana woman with RP who detailed the special adaptations she made to continue doing CrossFit.
"That was an inspiration to me, that knowing that if I'm getting this, and I like CrossFit and she's still doing it, then there's no reason that I would have to stop doing cross fit," he said.
"He's so friendly. He's an amazing human being, but yeah, we do try to help him the best we can, if that's like navigating around all the equipment, which can be kind of treacherous here," said Bradley Schneller, the owner of Roux Fitness in Metairie.
But it's Carl who is the inspiration to others, including his son, Carl, IV, who is studying at UL Monroe to be a meteorologist.
"Of course it's difficult to see my father, my dad, one of my greatest role models go through something like this, but like I said, the way he takes it and I guess how optimistic he is, is an inspiration to me to just know that there's no problem you face that you can't overcome," said Carl Arredondo, IV.
"He's an amazing trooper and to think he's done all this, all this accomplishments despite all the adversity, is just inspirational. It's inspirational," said Dr. Robert Ross, a Vitreoretinal Ophthalmologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Tulane, who is treating Carl.
Our local weather expert
Carl's trainer showed him who to use a special app for the blind. But now as Carl learns the latest technology to navigate him through life, after nearly 30 years of navigating us through wind and rain, he feels it's time to pass on the reins.
"If severe weather's happening, you've got to be on top of it. I don't want to put the station, or the viewers at risk that I can't do that at 100 percent, that it's time for me to step away and realize I've had a nice long run at Channel 4. I've loved what I've done," he said.
For that reason, he says this has never felt like a job, but moving on now, feels right.
"I'm lucky that I'm stepping away while I can, and it's my decision to do it. There are times that I am uncertain and nervous and probably a little bit scared, but I know that carefully walking and maneuvering I can find my way to where I need to be," he said.
And he feels where he needs to be is working at Lighthouse for the Blind. But with all of Carl's acceptance of and planning for this challenge, there is one long-range prediction that he knows he can't change.
"The only thing that bothers me about this is that if I'm fortunate one day to have my son have kids, I may not be able to see their faces. That's the only one things that bothers me the most about this. Everything else I can adapt. I have people around me that can help me," said Carl.
And it is all those people, including coworkers and viewers alike, that he is especially thankful for and feels an obligation to.
"My time has been wonderful, but I want the viewers to know that if I can't do this at 100 percent, I don't want to do it, and I hope that they appreciate the time that I have done it for them."
We do Carl, we do.
Wednesday night at 6 p.m., Angela Hill, Dennis Woltering and Jim Henderson will be back at Channel 4 to reminisce about old times and say goodbye to Carl.