Meet the newest addition to the WREX team, and learn how his lifelong love of weather has led him to an exciting career in broadcast news.
Alex Kirchner can thank his childhood for leading him to a career in television meteorology, although he didn’t know it at the time.
It was in his parents’ Racine, Wis., backyard that young Kirchner embraced cold winter days with his younger brother, Colin. “We loved to build snow forts and have these pretty intense snowball fights,” he says. “I enjoyed being outside so much that I think it kind of fueled my passion for weather.”
These days, Kirchner parlays that passion into broadcasting. Last summer, he joined 13WREX as the weekday evening meteorologist, coming from sister station WXOW in LaCrosse, Wis.
“There are two types of meteorologists – the scientific type and the dorky weather nerd,” former co-worker Amy DuPont, news anchor at WXOW says, laughing. “Alex is the dorky type, and I mean that in the best possible way. He’s super fun and loves to have a good time. We always joked back and forth, whether it was about Game of Thrones or the Packers/Vikings rivalry. I miss our banter and inside jokes.”
Kirchner lived a typical childhood with Colin and their parents Jon, a construction worker, and Jeanne, a special education teacher. As a child, Kirchner stayed busy with a variety of interests. LEGO sets were his favorite toy, and he devoured any books he could get his hands on, from science fiction to history. One hint of his future meteorology career was his interest in space: he dreamed of being an astronaut or an aerospace engineer.
As he grew older, the lanky, 6-foot-3 Kirchner participated in a number of sports, including cross country and track and field at Washington Park High School. “I wasn’t the fastest runner on the team, but I enjoyed the camaraderie,” he says.
It was during high school when Kirchner realized there might be something to his interest in weather. He was driving home from a track meet one evening when a nasty thunderstorm appeared from nowhere.
“Hail the size of my fist hit my car,” he says. “It scared the heck out of me, but at the same time I found it fascinating. The more I thought about it, I realized a career in meteorology might be for me.”
Another one of his hobbies was music. Kirchner played cello in his high school’s orchestra and bass guitar in the jazz band. As a freshman, he and other members of the orchestra traveled to Austria and Germany as part of a 10-day concert tour. It was an experience he’ll never forget.
“The history of the cathedrals we performed in was amazing,” he says. “They’ve been around for hundreds of years, but the acoustics sounded beautiful. And the crowds we played for were really quite moved.” The students also had a chance to take in some sightseeing. Kirchner visited castles, Mozart’s childhood home and much more.
In college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Kirchner continued his pursuit of music but with much less vigor. He played in a one-credit, one-day-a-week orchestra that performed one concert each semester. Ultimately, his music career took a backseat to a potential broadcasting career. In fact, his oversized cello sits silently in a spare bedroom of his Rockford home. “I would like to play again someday,” says Kirchner, who these days gets his music fix by listening to classical, jazz and rock tunes.
In 2008, Kirchner graduated from Wisconsin with a degree in Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences. The program was intense. “It was intimidating,” he says. “It was intended for people interested in research, who were heading to graduate school or pursuing their doctorate. It took some getting used to, but I’m grateful for the experience.”
Entering college, Kirchner didn’t have his sights set on a broadcasting career. In fact, the meteorology program didn’t even offer journalism courses. But in his senior year, Kirchner landed an internship at a Madison television station. “If I didn’t like it, my plan was to take a year off and pursue graduate school and a job with the National Weather Service,” he says. It never got to that point.
After graduation, Kirchner got his first fulltime gig as morning meteorologist at KCWY in Casper, Wyo. Spending two years out West was an eye opener for this Midwestern boy.
“It was a different world out there,” he says. “The landscape, the culture, even the elevation was different,” he says. “They had high wind warnings with gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour. There was one mountain south of the city, then it was flat for miles and miles. It was weird not to see grass or trees, but you could see antelopes running through town. Overall, I was happy to have experienced something different for a couple of years.”
Kirchner was thrilled to return home to the Midwest when he was hired at WXOW in LaCrosse. He spent four years there doing weekend and morning weather, and also news reporting. Kirchner was ready for his next challenge when the opportunity at WREX became available. For starters, it’s closer to Racine, where he can get back to visit family and friends. “I like Rockford,” he says. “It will be interesting to see the changes as the city continues to evolve.”
Kirchner is married to Jackie, his college sweetheart and a registered dietitian. During free time, the couple enjoys traveling, running and cooking. Kirchner has participated in two marathons and several half-marathons and 5Ks. He’s also a diehard Packers and Badgers fan. The Kirchners also dote on their corgi dog, Sophie.
Kirchner enjoys getting reacquainted with the unpredictable weather patterns of the Midwest. “Every day is a new challenge because we’re dealing with the full effect of four seasons,” he says. “There’s always something to talk about, whether it’s a snowstorm or mild weather.”
And he takes his job seriously. “I like knowing I can help people to plan their days or keep safe,” he says. “We have a wide reach and huge effect on everyday life. The weather is powerful and it impacts our surroundings. I noticed that, as a kid, and I still find it fascinating.”
Last May, Kirchner earned Certified Broadcast Meteorologist designation from the American Meteorological Society. During the process, some of the top meteorologists in the country graded him on his graphical content, presentation skills, and explanation of the weather and the science behind it. “It’s such a big honor to me,” he says. “It’s something I’ve wanted for awhile. I never want to get complacent.”
His former co-worker doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. “He loves the weather,” says DuPont. “He’s very smart, has a great TV voice, and he understands the science of weather. When he worked here, he came in early, worked late and came in on weekends. There’s nothing he won’t do. The sky’s the limit for Alex.”