Meteorologist Kevin Gregory Talks 30-year Career & Ever-changing Landscape of Weather Technology
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
For meteorologist Bob Gregory, every Friday night was “take your child to work day” as he brought his 7-year-old son Kevin with him to Channel 13 to watch him deliver his weather reports. Kevin sat, mesmerized, as his dad referenced the national, state and Midwestern maps using “meteorology weather critters” to mark areas of sunshine, precipitation and clouds.
“Since I didn’t have school the next day, I got to stay up for the late news,” Kevin says. “Of course, that doesn’t mean I stayed awake for the ride home.”
In the early 70s, it was a different generation of broadcasting.
“Weather maps were real,” Kevin says. “I’d watch film be developed, edited, cut and the extra film would fall to the floor.”
Today, however, the staff uses chroma key, a blank green wall.
“I point to things that don’t exist. I talk to a camera with no one behind it. I carry on a conversation with people at home I can’t see,” Kevin says. “It’s definitely a different world.”
And an ever-changing world at that. Now there are 27 monitors covering the back wall of the studio. Kevin uses nine of them for weather maps. Though he was attracted to meteorology early on, he was terrified of storms as a child.
“In elementary school, I’d ask the teacher to lower the blinds when the skies darkened,” Gregory recalls.
He now knows that most storms never produce severe weather. Of those that do, damaging winds and large hail are the main threats. Only one percent of storms ever produce a tornado. Though he’s well informed, viewers occasionally insist that forecasts were more accurate when his dad was on air.
“They forget that back then forecasts weren’t as specific,” Kevin says. “They simply said, ‘Precipitation today,’ whereas now we say, ‘Chance of rain, mainly between 8 and 11 a.m.’”
The fact that technology is always changing is precisely what makes Gregory’s job interesting. For example, the station now uses GeoBeats, an online creative network that leverages its global network of local photographers and videographers to highlight local stories.
Viewers not only like being tuned in at the local level, but they also enjoy being able to interact with their local meteorologist.
“You’d be amazed at how many people call in to report what they’re seeing,” Kevin says. “They’ll say, ‘I’m in Putnam County, and we just had 50 mph winds and hail roll through here.’”
Though computer models seem to rule the day, the human element of the weather equation is still a critical component to safe forecasting.
“My job is the Bermuda triangle of meteorological knowledge. I say that because I get lost in there often,” Kevin says. “Some days I can’t figure out what’s going on with the weather. Other days the computer isn’t working. And then there are times when my mind and mouth aren’t connected, and I get tongue-tied.”
The most difficult days are when severe weather looms and Kevin must spend hours on-air, describing a weather event as it unfolds.
“I have to multi-task—reporting to the viewer and at the same time manipulating the radar and reading information from storm spotters,” he says. “That’s the challenge being a one-man band, running the computers while warning out ahead of the storms, yet still keeping track of the storm reports that come in.”
“If I post a straight weather graphic, it generates moderate interest, but if I post a picture of Rory, soaking wet from a downpour, people love that,” he says.
As a result, Rory has developed quite the following on Gregory’s Facebook page.
“I’ll put her in a sweater and caption it, ‘Rory Gregory knows that you need to layer up for the weekend,’” Kevin says. “If I simply posted, ‘Highs today will be 56 with winds out of the Southwest,’ people don’t respond the way they do if I include a picture of Rory pointing her nose into the wind as it lifts her 8-pound body off the ground. Because that creates a weather experience rather than a straight-up weather report.”
A typical day starts with Kevin getting to the station by 1 p.m. and updating TheIndyChannel.com. Then he has six radio forecasts — four for WIBC and two for stations in Seymour, Columbus and Southeast Indiana. Next, he starts preparing graphics for the 5, 6, 7 and 11 p.m. broadcasts.
Because Kevin spends a good portion of his day in front of a green screen, he enjoys when he’s able to report live like he did the year Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl. In addition, he also broadcasts live at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year prior to the Indy 500 race for Breakfast at the Brickyard.
“Those are always fun events because I get to mix with people,” Kevin says. “I don’t get that immediate feedback when I’m at the studio.”
Well, unless he interrupts “The Bachelor.” Then he hears about it.
When Kevin does get a chance to mingle with his viewers, the No. 1 comment he gets is, “I didn’t know you were so tall!” (He stands 6′ 5″.)
“Yes, I’m taller than you think, and I’ve got grey hair just like a cumulus cloud,” says Kevin, a graduate of Ben Davis High School who moved to Brownsburg in 1992 and then to Avon in 1997. He and his wife Susan own 31 acres.
“I’m constantly clearing brush, cutting down tree limbs, and mowing the lawn,” says Kevin, who appreciates the deer, coyote, skunk, fox, hawks, heron and one lone turkey that pass through the property.
“People always say that turkeys don’t live by themselves, but this guy does!” Kevin says.
When he’s not in his yard battling leaves, blowing grass, or collecting fallen tree limbs, Kevin is often walking Rory at Avon Town Hall Park, Washington Township Park or McCloud Nature Park. Over the past several years, however, Kevin and Susan have traveled to watch their son Matt (now a senior) play basketball at Notre Dame Their daughter Annie is also a junior there.
“We’ve been to Georgia Tech, the University of Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh,” says Kevin, who sometimes brings his dad along to games. Bob, a retiree for the past 17 years, also enjoys reading, traveling and relaxing on his pontoon boat.
Down the road when Kevin retires, he doesn’t plan to reminisce about the crazy storms from days of yore. Instead, he’s going to remember the people — like Tom Carnegie and the late Howard Caldwell, both legendary television broadcasters and journalists.
“That’s been the true joy for me — all the people I’ve worked with for nearly 30 years at RTV6,” he says. “I’m doing what I love to do.”