Reporting earns Hillsboro grad Ky. Colonel title

Hillsboro High School 2013 graduate and current FOX19 meteorologist Ethan Emery, who received a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Ohio University, has been awarded the distinction of Kentucky Colonel for his work as a meteorologist covering the Western Kentucky tornadoes last year for his former station, WBKO in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“The commission of Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky,” according to its website. “It is the recognition of an individual’s accomplishments and outstanding service,” whether the impact is local or affects the state or nation.

This is a significant award for the former Hillsboro student whose nascent interest in all things meteorological was notably manifested in a drawing produced by a then 6-year-old Emery at the behest of his teacher at the former Main Street Primary School, that was later published in The Times-Gazette’s weather section.

Emery said his interest in weather would not wane after that early display of interest, and continued throughout high school during which he was occasionally mocked for his supposedly “dorky” hobby.

Emery said that, “a lot of my friends would poke fun at me, because weather and science is rather dorky, but it was with love,” he said, “because they were always interested in what I had to say about weather and when it came to chances of snow, they always listened.”

Emery’s early forecasts piqued the interest of all those around him.

“Even the teachers would listen to my forecasts when there was a possibility of a snow day,” he said.

Emery was voted “Most Likely To Be On TV” by his high school classmates, engaged in a bit of eventually accurate forecasting of their own, according to his FOX19 staff biography.

Emery said that his love of weather and persistent determination were attributable to his later success. He also said he is fortunate to have, “had parents who were very encouraging when I talked about what career I wanted to get into. I’ve always loved weather. Ever since I was 6 years old, I’ve been fascinated by how the atmosphere behaves, especially in the Ohio Valley.”

Emery said the love of weather, though, wasn’t enough since he had to circumvent speech difficulties that could have otherwise impeded his endeavors.

“I grew up with a stutter,” he revealed, “and I was a fast talker.”

Emery knew he would need to tackle those challenges to make his dreams in broadcasting as well as meteorology ultimately come true.

“I had to work really hard to be not only a good forecaster and know all the science behind the weather, but also be a good presenter,” he said.

Emery said that helping to keep people informed is all part of what makes his career important to him.

“I like weather not only for the science of it, but also how impactful it is for folks every day,” he said. “Whether that is sunshine and 70, or tornado coverage, people rely on weather forecasting to know when it happens.”

The ability to communicate weather information effectively that Emery honed proved to be essential during his reporting on the devastating tornadoes that affected the region in which he worked last year.

The Western Kentucky tornadoes were an extreme weather event that occurred last December and tore through a swath of the state, including Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Emery was working at WBKO as a meteorologist.

The system, which began in northwest Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service, involved multiple EF-3 and EF-4 tornadoes that moved through multiple counties, killed dozens of people, and invoked an egregious wake of destruction.

During that time, Emery and the WBKO chief meteorologist maintained a consistent narrative of the events for 10 hours. Undeterred after the power went out, they continued to report on Facebook Live when the resources of the studio were no longer at their avail. Without the diagnostic advantages of radar, Emery reportedly, “resorted to hand-drawing warning polygons and what radar looked like,” according to his FOX19 professional biography. Emery’s ability to create improvised graphics to communicate the extent of the inclement weather event did not stay unnoticed or unappreciated, resulting in the ultimate recognition by the state of Kentucky for his decisive reaction and ability to think on his feet in challenging and stressful circumstances, wherein others might have faltered.

Following Emery’s extensive and at times improvisational reporting on the tornadoes that decimated the region, he was nominated for the Kentucky Colonel distinction by WBKO Chief Meteorologist Shane Holinde, with whom he worked covering the tornadoes.

Of the honor, Emery said, “It was an experience I will never forget.”

Now with FOX19 in Cincinnati, Emery said, “It feels great to be home. I’m roughly an hour from family and friends, and I get to forecast for a region I’ve always enjoyed.”

Emery said that being with the Cincinnati station he grew up watching is at times surreal in that he gets to work with some of his mentors.

“I also grew up watching Steve Horstmeyer and it is really cool because he mentored me in college while I was an intern at FOX19, and now I get to work with him,” Emery said. “The rest of the FOX19 First Alert Weather team and the FOX19 family is wonderful and I’m happy to be working here.”

Emery began working with FOX19 in February of this year. His previous posts include WBKO as well as KOTA-TV and KEVN in Rapid City, South Dakota as a, “weekend meteorologist and digital content producer,” according to the FOX19 website.

Emery shared words of inspiration for others, and said, “If you have a dream job or career that you really care about, don’t give up. Whether it takes extra school credit hours or work or more time or talking to professionals, it’ll be helpful.”

Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.