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Q&A: 6abc’s Karen Rogers
Karen Rogers fills us in on what exactly is going on with this crazy weather
By Elyse Notarianni

South Jersey’s weather has been nothing short of crazy lately. Tornadoes, hurricanes, historic flooding – all words we just aren’t used to hearing during a South Jersey forecast. Yet 6abc meteorologist Karen Rogers, who was recently named the official meteorologist for “Action News Mornings,” has been using these words to report on severe weather events in our communities for some time now. Rogers grew up in Washington Twp. and still lives in South Jersey with her family. After 25 years at 6abc, she knows the importance of weather in our everyday lives. Some mornings, she’s warning people to seek shelter. Other days, she’s simply letting parents know to send the kids to school with umbrellas or that tonight’s practice might be cancelled. Whatever the message, someone out there needs to hear it. And she loves being the one to share it.

Q: What’s going on with the weather right now?

We’re entering something completely new. If you feel like Hurricane Ida was the first time you’ve heard of a dozen different tornados all hitting down in South Jersey on the same night, that’s because it is the first time. We’ve had more than 50 tornado warnings this year alone in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. Last year’s record was 36. We’ve had more warnings than they did in tornado alley this year.

We’ve always had severe weather from time to time – we all remember Hurricane Sandy – but this summer woke us up to the fact that, yes, this is going to happen more often, and we have to pay attention.

Q: How seriously should we take severe weather warnings?

When we give warnings on the news, we are so, so careful. We don’t want to be alarmist unless we absolutely have to be. We never over-emphasize a storm, so if it sounds dramatic on the news, that’s because it really is. We want people to have the information they need to keep themselves safe.

Q: Do you think people do listen when they get a warning?

In a way, we’ve become completely desensitized to weather warnings. We think tornados don’t really happen here, so we shouldn’t worry. But then they happen. When I was sitting in the basement with my family as the tornados passed, I had friends who were out to dinner. If they had known the kind of damage they’d find the next day, they might have been home too.

When I’m at the beach in the summer, my kids know the drill – the moment I hear thunder I pack up and we leave immediately. And even as I’m hurrying off, I see people heading toward the beach. Those people will say, “Well nothing happened to me, so it’s fine.” A lot of times it is fine, but sometimes it isn’t. We saw that this summer when 2 teenagers died after lightning struck a lifeguard stand. It happens, it happens quickly and it can be devastating. It’s something we need to take seriously.

Q: What’s been the most shocking thing you’ve seen, weather-related?

Maybe it’s just that it was so recent, but Hurricane Ida has really stuck with me. We saw debris balls and funnel clouds swirling through Gloucester County. I saw the wreckage of people putting pieces of their homes back together. I live here, I’m from here, so I have many friends, family members and neighbors who were impacted. It brought back memories of Hurricane Sandy – working around the clock for weeks reporting on the human toll the storm took on communities across South Jersey, especially down the Shore.

Q: Do you feel like you have to live and die by every prediction?

Nobody feels good about wrong forecasts, and I’m not someone to let things go. If I say it’s going to rain but it’s sunny all afternoon, everyone in my house is happy it’s not raining outside, and I’m sitting there staring at the sky, looking at the data and beating myself up about it. I know people plan their day based on the weather, and when I’m wrong it’s very upsetting. But all we can do is interpret the data as best we can.

Q: What do you love about the weather?

The weather is so dynamic, especially living in this part of the country where we experience all 4 seasons fully – sometimes way more fully than we’d like. But it’s also always changing. There’s always something to track, always a new story to tell, always something to warn people about.

Even when it’s mundane, it’s important. Some people don’t think much about the weather, but I know as a mom myself that people rely on this. They tune in to know, “Okay, is soccer going to be canceled tonight?” “Do I need to make arrangements to get my kids picked up if there’s a thunderstorm?” They can’t just sit around and watch the sky and wait to find out.

Q: Did you always want to be a meteorologist?

I went to school for journalism and thought I would be a reporter, but when I started working for Channel 6, I was fascinated by the weather. It felt daunting to go back to school again, especially because I had 2 kids at the time. I think a lot of women, myself included, are so hard on themselves. I mean, I didn’t even exercise outside of the house when my kids were little because I thought it would be too selfish. I did everything I could to take care of them, but I felt I deserved to take the chance on myself.

It was 3 really hard years of studying meteorology. Plus, during the time I was in school, I got pregnant with my third child. There were times I thought I was crazy doing it, especially because no meteorology job was promised to me. There were a lot of hard choices, especially when it came to how much I could show up for my kids and how much I had to show up for myself. But I also wanted to show my kids the power of taking a gamble on yourself to find something that makes you happy. Hopefully, I did that.

November 2021
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