This is the 13th story in the Icons of Maine series. People are invited to e-mail suggestions to news@villagesoup.com

When Joe Cupo was growing up on Long Island, N.Y., he kept a journal. Instead of writing down personal thoughts, however, he wanted a record of something he felt was far more interesting.

“I used to write down [temperature] highs and lows and a description of each day. For what [purpose], I don’t know. It’s a gene, I think. You just love weather,” Cupo said.

Since 1979, Cupo has been a meteorologist at WCSH Channel 6 in Portland where his forecasts have made him a household name across the state.

After earning a master’s degree in atmospheric science from the State University of New York in Albany, Cupo planned to work for the National Weather Service. But fate stepped in when he heard about a job opening in Maine.

“I called and spoke to Fred Nutter, the news director. He asked for a resume tape. I said, ‘What’s that?’ I wasn’t even thinking about [going into] television … I drove here from Albany and did an audition. I did a mock show. After that, he interviewed me in front of the camera. I went back to Albany, and he called me a month later,” Cupo recalled.

Cupo, then 27, packed his bags and headed to Maine, not expecting the job to be permanent.

“I didn’t intend to stay here. I came here thinking I’d work and go back to Albany and try to get a job in Albany on television. I came here, and it was like, ‘This is nice, why go back?'” Cupo said. “Portland just grows on you. Maine grows on you. All those plans about going back to Albany went up in smoke. Years later, a job came along there and I was informed, but I wasn’t interested.”

In 1992, Cupo met his future wife, Debbie, when a mutual friend set them up on a blind date.

“She was told who I was, and to this day, we joke about it. She says, ‘You didn’t know what I looked like, but I knew what you looked like,’” Cupo said. “I knew that first night that she was the one for me. I was 40 when I met Debbie and had been through enough to know when the right person came along.”

The couple, married in 1993, live in Falmouth. Cupo typically works from 3 p.m. to midnight. He heads home to eat dinner with his wife after the 6 p.m. show and then returns to the studio for the 11 p.m. forecast.

“That’s the only time I get to see her. Most mornings when I wake up, she’s gone. She has a shop in Freeport and does floral arrangements, dried flowers and wreaths,” Cupo said. “A lot of times, she’ll come on [Channel 6] and give decorating ideas for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Halloween. She’s kind of a Martha Stewart.”

The two often get recognized in public, which can make running errands extra time-consuming, but Cupo doesn’t mind. He believes interacting with the public is his job.

“It’s part and parcel of this industry. Our livelihood depends on people watching us. You can’t on one hand say, ‘Please watch me,’ and then on the other hand say, ‘Don’t bother me.’ If I go out and someone recognizes me and wants to talk, I take the time. It’s not a problem,” he said.

Although he’s been on television for more than three decades, Cupo doesn’t think of himself as famous. “Some people say ‘Oh my God, it’s you!’ It’s always fun to play that game … It’s not as glamorous as it might appear. I work nights. I work holidays. I drive a 1993 Honda,” Cupo said.

“Some people think you’re larger than life because you’re on television. It’s an interesting phenomena, but I try not to buy into that. I just try to make people feel comfortable.”

When not in front of the camera, Cupo enjoys analyzing weather. Twelve monitors surround his desk at the studio on Congress Street, providing up-to-date data for him to examine and present in an easy-to-understand format for viewers.

During the 5:30 p.m. show, he gives the forecast by speaking into a camera that turns to face him automatically without the aid of human hands. The cutting-edge technology is operated by remote control so no camera operator is in sight when the lens turns from the news anchors to Cupo.

Shortly after 6 p.m., he heads for the basement, where a larger studio houses the 6 p.m. “News Center” desk, two sets for the television show “207,” and a green screen for his weather map.

Between segments, Cupo checks with various weather observers throughout the state and puts the final touches on visuals he wants to use. Timing, he said, is everything in television.

“Sometimes you have all this stuff you want to say but not enough time to say it. The show is timed out right to the second. That can be difficult. You only have 3.5 minutes. You have to squeeze all you want to say into that little bit of time,” Cupo said.

The meteorologist is the lone member of the team to speak without a script. He doesn’t rehearse. Rather, he relies on the visuals he’s created as a guide.

Cupo has a passion for the weather and is proud to be part of the “WCSH News Center 6” team.

”There aren’t any egos here. Everyone is very down to earth. I think that’s part of our success. I appreciate my coworkers. Cindy [Williams], Pat [Callahan], Bruce [Glazier] and I have been together since 1990. We called all over the country and could not find a news team that had been together 20 years. That’s almost unheard of, and the best part is, we all get along,” he said with a smile.

From his boyhood weather journal to his third decade on TV, Cupo’s interest has been the elements. “When I wake up every morning, the first thing I do is go look out the window to see how I did [with my forecast.],” Cupo said. “It’s been a great ride. I’ve been blessed to be associated with such great people and to get paid for something I’d do for free.”

Freelance writer Dan Harrington lives in Augusta.