Meteorologist learned to respect Mother Nature growing up in PB
By SARABETH WALLER
Growing up witnessing flash floods and storm clouds develop in Poplar Bluff, Jeremy Goodwin never imagined one day he would be an award-winning TV meteorologist.
The CBS affiliate WIBW chief meteorologist's story begins on the south side of Poplar Bluff, in an apartment in the Karen West apartments.
"I went to Eugene Field Elementary and grew up on the south side of town along Ditch Road," he said. "I still drive by and can't believe I lived there."
His own encounters with weather gave him an appreciation for Mother Nature. He remembers being evacuated from his home around Christmas time in 1982 due to flooding.
"Besides that, I remember standing outside in July and August and watching these storm clouds that would develop like mountains," Goodwin said.
"The flood, seeing severe storms in Southeast Missouri, the flood of 1993, seeing the Mississippi River and what it did to Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri, those real world experiences in seeing how powerful Mother Nature was" all contributed to his interest, according to Goodwin.
Meteorology appealed to Goodwin from a young age, but he thought a career in it was out of his reach.
"My father worked in broadcast and was at KSDK as a photographer," he explained. "I went in with him when I was 12 years old to the television station, and the weather guys allowed me to hang out with them in the weather department for awhile. I thought, 'This looks like fun,' but I didn't think it was something I'd ever be able to do."
Although he struggled with believing in himself, Goodwin said his third grade teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, encouraged him.
"She was the first teacher to make me feel like I could accomplish anything," he added. "The rest of the staff at Eugene Field, I think they just missed the ball with me. She was awesome."
Goodwin explains some "missed the ball" by not recognizing his strengths and encouraging them.
"There was a point (in high school) where I was 60 assignments ahead of the class in math," he said. "Why somebody wouldn't have looked over and thought, 'Hey, that kid needs to be in the next level,' I don't know."
Goodwin graduated from Poplar Bluff High School in 1991 and earned an associate of arts in business from Three Rivers College.
"While I was in school, I was also working for Advanced Office Supplies, my uncle's store," he explained. "I really didn't know what I was going to do with my life."
After graduation from Three Rivers, he decided to transfer to the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he earned a Bachelor's of Science in Soil and Atmospheric Science. A student internship at KRCG in Jefferson City, Mo., later turned into a full-time job.
In 2001, Goodwin was hired at WIBW. Since joining the station, Goodwin's accolades include being named Best Weathercaster by the Kansas Association of Broadcasters three times, being named one of the Top 20 Under 40 for 2012 in Topeka, becoming the 98th person in the nation to be certified in broadcast meteorology by the American Meteorological Society and joining the 2013 class of Leadership Greater Topeka, an organization of 30 individuals chosen from among 800 applicants.
Goodwin has also chased tornados, including an F4 tornado in 2003 in the Kansas City area. Footage of him in the studio during severe weather has been featured on Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers," and his weather updates are broadcast on several AM and FM stations.
While his focus now is on weather in the Topeka area, Goodwin still keeps an eye on Poplar Bluff weather, and personally witnessed the flooding in 2011. He and his wife, Nicole, stopped by his uncle John Goodwin's home near Dudley, Mo., to make sure it was safe from flood waters on the St. Francis River.
"We drove up to the house to see if it was under water or not, with the water flowing out of the spillway at Wappapello Lake," he said. "We walked through knee deep water for about a quarter of a mile."
Goodwin was relieved to find the home, which has been in his family about 70 years, was above water.
His experience growing up "struggling" gives Goodwin and his wife Nicole a passion for helping the less fortunate. In 2011, they organized a drive that brought in $90,000 worth of toys to the Topeka Rescue Mission. In 2012, despite a rough economy, another $86,000 was given to the mission through their efforts.
"We weren't starving," Goodwin explains. "We were probably right at the poverty line. We were just going through a bit of a rough spell. Now when I think back, it inspires me to try to help out."
"I'm not rich, but I don't miss meals, and I'm so thankful to feel like I'm secure in this terrible economy," he said. "You make the world a better place one corner at a time."
Goodwin also hopes his tale of perseverance encourages other youth who are shy or poor or struggle in school.
"If you look at my grades, I can just say God and persistence got me where I am, with some good influences along the way," Goodwin said. "There's nothing you can't do, once you convince yourself there's nothing you can't do."
Goodwin's father, Wesley, is a Twin Rivers High School graduate, but now lives in Orlando, Fla. His mother, Leona Ober, lives in Dexter, Mo., and his best friend, Rob Caudel, still resides in Poplar Bluff.
For more information on Goodwin, visit his Facebook page by searching "WIBW Jeremy Goodwin." With 14,000 followers, Goodwin updates the page regularly and interacts with fans.