ROANOKE, Va. — 30 years ago this spring First Alert Chief Meteorologist Robin Reed first appeared on WDBJ7.
Since then, he's delivered thousands of forecasts and developed a close connection with viewers in central and western Virginia, but there's more to the story.
Baseball was Robin's passion in high school. He was the Sports Director at Harrisonburg's WHSV, before his career turned toward meteorology, and he moved his family to Roanoke.
An early test, on the job and at home, came in November 1985 with the remnants of Hurricane Juan. "That was the biggest crisis, our first crisis as a young couple," said Teresa Reed.
Like many other families in western Virginia, they will never forget the Flood of '85.
"I saw the water coming up the street," Teresa said, "and it covered my elderly neighbor's car. and he's at home and I'm calling him and I said is the water supposed to come up this high when it's raining this hard and he said, Oh honey, don't worry about it, you know."
"The phone would ring and it would be Teresa," Robin explained, "and she would say here's how deep the water is, what should I do. It was so unreal that the water could be that deep I mean the Roanoke River on a good day is two feet and it was 20-some odd feet at this point, and I suspect that my advice to her was pretty lame. Go up to the next floor honey and take the insurance papers with you. She said thanks. Way to go."
They can laugh about it now, but the experience still brings strong emotions, empathy for others affected by severe weather, and gratitude for their friends and neighbors, and complete strangers, who reached out when the family was flooded out of their home.
"And just about the time I was feeling a little sorry for myself," Robin told us, "that's when the community came out and said how can we help?"
Robin's career has carried him to the White House for a conference on climate change, and put him on the trail of severe weather. And who can forget the pages of the Roanoker Magazine, where he became a regular in the Best of Roanoke annual reader's poll.
"I get that sexiest man in Roanoke question quite a bit," Teresa told us recently. "You know I just look at 'em and say he eats peanut butter crackers in bed sometimes, and I pick up his dirty socks, but I love him and he's great."
The moments that have been most satisfying, Robin says, are the visits he has made to classrooms throughout the WDBJ7 viewing area.
In the years since Robin first arrived at WDBJ7, the technology has changed. " When I first started it was felt on sticky material, and then we advanced to magic markers," Robin said recently. "That was a big improvement."
And the weather has changed.
"I know I'll never say to a school group again, we don't get tornadoes around here. We do."
What hasn't changed is the special connection he shares with viewers, including many he doesn't even know. "Here's the one that gets me," Robin said, "You came to my school when I was in kindergarten and now she's the mother of four. That's a long time."
Robin and Teresa's two sons, Patrick and Daniel, are grown.
Today, the couple enjoys the view from their Botetourt County home with a basset hound named Maggie Mae. And 30 years after they first arrived in the Roanoke Valley, they marvel at how quickly the years have passed.
"I feel like I just came to Roanoke and just got to know the folks and I blinked and 30 years passed. That is absolutely astounding to me," Robin said, "so the only thing I can attribute that to is being in a great community, loving every minute of it and when you find good people and good places, you want to stay."