Watching the Weather

Native turns childhood interest into watchful eye WEATHER on the sky

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

If some people follow whichever way the wind blows, it might not be a compliment.

But it was a strong wind that pushed Regina Bird into her career, a job where she spends her days warning friends about changing winds.

“I saw a tornado when I was in fifth grade,” says Bird, who grew up north of Belleville. She is the daughter of Rhonda and Rex Bird.

“I wanted to know why that happened and how it happened.”

Today she is a meteorologist for NTV, the ABC/Fox affi liate based in Kearney, Nebr. She counts herself fortunate to practice her craft in her home region, in a place where the weather matters to the livelihoods of her neighbors.

“In bigger markets, weather doesn’t get as much time in the newscast,” she says. “Here, it’s an important part of our culture, and an important part of the newscast.”

Improved technology

Bird knew she would be a meteorologist when she graduated from Republic County High School in 2009. When retired middle school teacher Jean Jensby saw how interested Bird was in the weather, she encouraged her to take part in outside activities, like attending Republic County storm spotter meetings.

“Regina was always interested in the weather,” says Jensby.

Bird also says her experiences in public speaking in 4-H, forensics, speech, journalism and physic classes at Republic County High School combined for a perfect storm to point her to broadcasting. She earned degrees in meteorology and math at the University of Kansas.

“No matter what you do in life, you need to be able to speak,” she says. “Teachers and my club leaders helped me flourish.”

On air, news broadcasters use teleprompters to report the day’s events. But the meteorologists ad lib in front of a green screen while watching graphics on a monitor, Bird says.

“It takes some getting used to,” she admits of her minutes on air.

The few minutes behind the camera is a small part of her work day, Bird says. She and other NTV meteorologists, which includes Linn native Tim Reith, spend their days studying weather models and creating graphics for the broadcasts. She often gets to report on the weather live from events like Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island.

“I really enjoy the meteorology, but (television) is a way to get to interact with the people,” she says. “In a job like a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, you don’t get to be around people as much.”

Changing weather

Bird says technology continues to develop that makes forecasts more accurate and communication more immediate to listeners. Her forecasts are not just broadcast on television, but she makes regular updates on social media.

“Social media has completely changed the way we broadcast, and will be more and more important as time goes on. It’s just another way to get the information out.”

The same could be said about the changes in weather forecasting in just the few short years since she graduated