Well-wishers deluge Fletcher

The Channel 10 meteorologist suffered a stroke Monday afternoon.

By Eric Deggans, Times TV/Media Critic
Published February 20, 2008

For nearly 30 years, Dick Fletcher has guided Tampa Bay area viewers through all manner of weather emergencies as chief meteorologist for WTSP-Ch. 10.

But on Tuesday, officials from the station were hoping a deluge of good wishes from fans would buoy Fletcher's spirits as he recovers from a stroke.

Fletcher, 66, was discovered by his wife Cindy at their home early Monday afternoon. Citing confidentiality laws and concerns for the family, officials at the CBS affiliate declined to release many details, saying doctors would know more in a few days.

Within a day of announcing his health problems, WTSP saw more than 350 comments pile up on its Web site, along with a comparable number of supportive e-mails, which officials brought to Fletcher's hospital bedside.

The meteorologist, who has worked at WTSP since March 1980, also had a stroke in November 2003. According to a St. Petersburg Times story from that year, the malady struck while Fletcher was sitting at his computer, preparing the graphics for his forecast on the 4 p.m. program.

Back then, Fletcher told the Times: "I turned my head fairly quickly to the right and literally lost control of my eyes. It felt like they were rolling. I couldn't stop to make them focus on anything. And I felt dizzy. I told myself, 'Calm down, just open one eye and control it.' But I couldn't."

After that incident, Fletcher spent time speaking to community groups about the early warning signs of stroke.

"Obviously, he'd had a stroke before, so you always knew this might be a possibility," said WTSP news director Darren Richards. "But there were few guys in the business as excited about doing their jobs as Dick Fletcher. It feels very odd not having him here."

Since WTSP is not revealing which hospital is treating Fletcher, officials have encouraged fans to send cards or messages to the station at 11450 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33702.

Eric Deggans can be reached at deggans@sptimes.com or 727 893-8521. See his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.