Max Mayfield was just a government weather forecaster, but he -- somewhat reluctantly -- posed for pictures, signed autographs, shook countless hands.
His frequent media appearances during hurricane crises made him something of a television star. Now, it's official.
Mayfield, who retired as director of the National Hurricane Center in January, signed a three-year contract Thursday with WPLG-ABC 10. He will serve as its full-time hurricane specialist.
What he will do: interpret tropical weather forecasts and help viewers prepare.
What he won't do: issue his own forecasts or wave his arms this way and that in front of those fancy TV graphics.
''I will not expend any effort ever on the forecast,'' Mayfield, 58, said. ``I don't think anyone can beat the quality of the forecasts of the hurricane center.
''I'll just try to make it understandable . . . ,'' he said. ``I will most likely be doing what I've done in the past, sitting at a monitor and interacting with the anchors and the weather people there at WPLG and keeping that close connection with local emergency managers.''
Competition for Mayfield's services has been keen since he retired after a 34-year career. He said he rejected flattering offers from the Weather Channel and several television networks.
Joining a South Florida operation will allow him to spend more time at his Kendall home with his wife and, when they're not at school, their three children. He begins at WPLG on April 1.
''I just had to decide on something, and I just felt like it was a good fit with the local station,'' he said. ``South Florida, as far as the number of people, is one of the most vulnerable areas anywhere, and I hope I will be able to contribute.''
The contract gives WPLG exclusive media rights to Mayfield's expertise, though he still plans to speak at conferences and accept other duties related to hurricane preparedness.
Bill Pohovey, WPLG's vice president of news, said Mayfield will work closely with the station's chief meteorologist, Don Noe, and the rest of the staff. He called the signing of Mayfield ``a coup.''
''He brings such credibility to the weather,'' Pohovey said. ``He's the guy that this community and this country has gotten to know and trust.''
In a note to employees, Pohovey put it more bluntly:
``Just imagine the coverage the next time a storm is heading this way. . . . I'd hate to be sitting in a competing newsroom in this market!''