This story was originally published at Inside Tucson Business, a sister paper of Tucson Weekly.
He may be considered Tucson’s most popular TV personality but KOLD News 13’s Chief Meteorologist Chuck George suffers from the mood disorder of depression. And that’s why he has been off the air on a leave of absence for the past month.
In a report prepared by news anchor Barbara Grijalva to air on the station’s 4 p.m. newscast Thursday (May 2), George explained, “My family tree is full of suicide, or depression, of addiction. They’re all interrelated and my family tree is just packed with it and I never thought it would happen to me.”
George explains his parents and grandparents died at young ages due to the illness but what caused his latest absence was the suicide death of a cousin.
“When he was growing up he was like my little brother and that event and that funeral unleashed something in me,” George said in the report. “Depression is cold and it’s dark and it feels like something on top of me. Something literally on top of me.”
He said he was catatonic four weeks after his cousin's death. “I remember sitting and the sun rose and set and rose and set and rose and set and rose and set again while I stared.”
He has been under treatment since then.
KOLD General Manager Debbie Bush and News Director Michelle Germano said George would be back on the air Friday.
“We wanted to air his story before he returned to explain his situation both for the audience and to answer questions from people inside the station,” Bush said.
“And he’ll be here to do the weather in just as normal an environment as we can provide without having to answer a lot of questions,” Germano said.
George’s most recent leave of absence was his third in the last three years. He was gone for five weeks during March and April 2010 and again for six weeks in September and October 2011. The station had never before commented on the reasons for those absences, although news accounts talked of him slurring words on the air and acting strangely.
In the report that aired Thursday, George said that in his previous bouts, “I just thought, get over it. Get over it. You know you’ve got a great life. What’s wrong with you? And people in my life would tell me that too. And God, if I could I would.”
Despite the history of depression, George says he is the first in his family to get the help he needed.
In her report Grijalva says, some might wonder what to say to George or anyone suffering from depression.
“I think I would fine with somebody saying to me, ‘Hey, I hope you’re doing well.’ That to me, give me strength,” George answers.
George was a rising star in the Tucson market when he first came here in the early 1990s from Phoenix. He left in 1997 and worked in Houston before returning to KOLD in February 2003.
Soon after his return his upbeat on-air personality and live remote weather reports helped catapult him to the top-ranks of most popular TV personalities in the market, something that even competitors say is still the case.