Corydon Times
Last Updated: Dec 10th, 2013 - 08:55:27

Former meteorologist Josh Baynes flying high
By Jason W. Selby
Dec 9, 2013, 11:41

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Wayne graduate Josh Baynes interviewing Willie Nelson in 2003.
For around eight years, the people of eastern Iowa woke up to meteorologist Josh Baynes’ weather forecasts. One viewer was former Iowa Hawkeye football player Nate Kaeding. Baynes met him early in Kaeding’s NFL career as a kicker with the San Diego Chargers.

“What’s funny is that he seemed more excited to meet me than I was to meet him,” Baynes said. “And I was excited to meet him. He said, ‘Hey! Josh Baynes!’ It was during an event in Cedar Rapids that KCRG's sports department hosted. He knew me from watching [the news] while living in Iowa City.”

Growing up in Wayne County, Baynes never envisioned being a television personality. Yet from 2002 to 2010, Baynes worked at KCRG Channel 9, which is an ABC affiliate in Cedar Rapids. Before that, he forecast the weather for almost two years at a news station in Lake Charles, La. He is now a public relations specialist with Rockwell Collins, a job that has reunited him with his love of flying. Though not ruling out a return to television, Baynes is happy with the new challenges at Rockwell Collins, which designs avionics and electronic communications products for commercial aircraft. His wife, Molly, is also expecting their first child in March. It’s a girl.

“When I look back, I like to think I’ve come full circle,” Baynes said. “When I was in high school and even younger, I was fascinated with aviation. In high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. My first thought was to become a helicopter pilot and to fly life flight. Then I veered toward flying commercial aircraft.”

Right before high school graduation, Baynes applied at a couple of colleges that have flying programs—the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Southern Illinois University. A student can go to those schools and get his flight ratings and a degree in aviation management.

“And off you go, and get a job for a regional jet. Well, as I was looking into that, I realized how expensive it was. It’d be your normal tuition, which would be out of state, plus your flight time to get all your ratings—multi-engine through certified flight instructor is easily $20,000. So while I’m looking at all that, Iowa State comes along and says, ‘here’s a scholarship that’ll pay for your tuition.’ It was the Christina Hixson Opportunity Award. They award one for every county.

“I’m looking at that, and I’m looking at going to all these other schools, and it’s night and day in terms of price. I went to Iowa State thinking I could get all my flight ratings on the side. You can go to any small airport, and there are flight instructors there that’ll teach you all the way through. You can get a job as a bush pilot or a regional pilot. Then I got to learning about the life of a pilot—long hours, so I decided that wasn’t for me. I decided a way I could stay in the field was to become an aviation meteorologist.”

The first class at ISU that Baynes really enjoyed and excelled at was Introduction to Meteorology. He joined the college meteorology club. Then Baynes took a tour of KCCI in Des Moines.

“While I was there doing the weather lab, getting to talk to guys I watched growing up—like John McLaughlin and Mike Lozano—they said there were opportunities for internships. So I thought about it, and decided it’d be fun. I ended up doing that for two years.

“Not long after I started, they kind of looked at me, and said, ‘Why don’t you get up in front of the weather wall, and act like you’re doing the weather.’ So I did. I still had the thought of being an aviation meteorologist, not a TV meteorologist. I thought I performed poorly. But they sat me down afterward, and Mike Lozano said, ‘You might want to think about doing this.’ From that point on, it just got in my head, and I practiced week after week while I interned there.

“I’m still friends with Kurtis Gertz, Bryan Karrick and Jason Parkin. I give a lot of credit to them for helping me along the way. They’re just like they are on TV—they’re good guys.”

While at Channel 8, Baynes helped the weather department make the forecast and the graphics. It helped him get his first employment out of college, before he had even earned his degree. He first worked as a weatherman in Lake Charles, La., about two hours east of Houston, at a small NBC station. He had sent them a DHS tape of himself giving a forecast, and they flew him down to Louisiana and offered him the job. He had a few other offers from other television stations, as well. Right out of college, Baynes moved down to Lake Charles. He worked there for about a year and a half.

“It made me appreciate Iowa and the Midwest.

“When I worked in Lake Charles, I got to meet Rod Roddy from ‘The Price is Right.’ He ended up doing the weather for me in his Price is Right voice.

“I liked it down there, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to stay—the people are very outgoing, but the weather was boring unless there was a tropical system. Which there never was while I was there. From April to October, I would get on TV and say the same thing. ‘Well, today it’s going to be 95 [degrees] with a 20 percent chance of showers.’ That’s how it is on the coast down there.”

As luck would have it, a job opened up at KCRG in Cedar Rapids. Baynes applied, got the job, and was soon back in Iowa reporting on Iowa’s dangerous, exciting and ever-changing weather patterns. He also got to interview Willie Nelson in 2003 when Nelson was performing at a concert in Waterloo.

“I met Jim Abbott, the former Major League pitcher that only had one hand. I emceed a Cedar Rapids Kernels fundraiser a few years back and he was the guest speaker. Very genuine and inspiring guy.

“I did the weekend job. At the time, the schedule got to be tough. Even if you’re the chief meteorologist at a TV station, you’re still working nights. If you’re a morning meteorologist, you’re going in really early, getting up at two in the morning.

“Doing live TV—it’s very exciting. Even after doing it for 10 years, I’d still be a little nervous right before I went on the air. Because it is live. If you let your mind go… you can’t say this, you can’t say that. That can drive you crazy.

“It was fun for people to know who you are, even to this day. Even after three years, people still say, ‘Hey, I enjoy you on TV 9!’ and I have to tell them I’m not there anymore. Then I get people telling me, ‘I really miss you, I enjoyed watching you.’

“Because of the job at KCRG, we did a lot of school assemblies. Secondary to being a pilot, growing up, I had the thought of being a teacher. KCRG opened up the opportunity to go into schools and teach kids about weather and weather safety. I actually headed up this weather academy—we ended up making a DVD, which I won an Emmy for—then we gave it to all these eastern Iowa schools free of charge. We counted up through the years, and we reached over 15,000 kids in person. That was a fun opportunity—from the thrill of live television and the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life, and at the same time getting to inform people about weather, especially dangerous weather.

“People enjoyed how I didn’t get too animated. If the weather was bad, it was just a calming, ‘Here are the facts, and what you need to do,’ rather than scaring them. That was the feedback I got, that they just enjoyed my delivery—it wasn’t over the top.

“At the core, I really loved the forecasting part—the science of it—and so I always made my own forecast and put a lot of effort into that. I get a lot of comments about how accurate I was. It was just a fun job.”

The job at KCRG was not without its moments. After Baynes had been working there a short time, around a half an hour before a newscast, he ate a Snickers bar.

“During one of my weathercasts right after that, all of the sudden, I was talking but you couldn’t hear anything. Somehow a peanut lodged in my throat. I couldn’t make sounds, it was very strange. We had to cut away, and I walked back to the anchor desk. I remember that being on the blooper reel.

“During RAGBRAI I was doing live weather in Tipton, and toward the end of it some young adult rode by and screamed [something inappropriate] into the microphone. So I cut it back to the studio, and the anchor was laughing, and said, ‘You’ve got to love live TV.’

Baynes covered the tornado that that went through downtown Iowa City. He was on duty that night.

“I can’t claim that I saved lives, but I like to think I helped at least somebody.

“And then, of course, there was the flood of 2008 in Cedar Rapids. When the river crested, I was out of town on vacation, so I came in after the fact. At that point, we were just like supports for the news team. Witnessing that, just as a citizen of Cedar Rapids, it was pretty amazing. The image that stands out—it was a Saturday night and I was going to work, the river crested at two in the morning—and coming down I-380 to downtown, it was pitch black. The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, a pitch-black downtown Cedar Rapids. It was eerie. And also seeing it for the first time during the day, as we’re driving down to KCRG, it was just like an ocean with buildings sticking out of it.”

In 2010, Baynes felt it was time to move on when a new opportunity arose.

“I enjoyed what I did, but at a certain point, I wanted to find something with a better schedule, and a new challenge. It took me a while to come to that decision, because once you leave that business [television], it’s tough to get back in. From there, I tried to figure out what to do based on my strengths, with communication, and my aviation background, because I did get my pilot license during college. I joined the flying club at ISU, and it was a blast. I’ve flown off and on ever since.

“So I’ve got this aviation background, and this job opened up here at Rockwell Collins. They were looking for someone to do public relations for their commercial systems, which include avionics, communication radio and that kind of thing. They wanted someone who could work with the trade press—if they want to put out any news, or if they want to talk to us about our products—the people who do that are all pilots, so I can speak the language. It just worked out perfectly. I got a very challenging job with a good schedule. It’s really opened up a lot of doors for me. I’m working on my MBA for business administration [at the University of Iowa]. I was a Cyclone, but now I’m a Hawkeye, so I’m kind of torn. I don’t know who to cheer for. The University of Iowa has a nice facility here in downtown Cedar Rapids. I just started this semester. It was nice to get back into that—to learn something new. Rockwell emphasizes bettering yourself. They have a strong mentorship program, where it’s almost like they want you to move around and make yourself more well rounded.”

While working for Rockwell Collins, he has been to Washington D.C. several times, as well as Reno, Portland, Orlando, Las Vegas, Seattle and Geneva, Switzerland. He has participated in testing, where the company brings journalists in and takes them up in flight test aircraft to demonstrate products. His first year revolved around networking and attending big trade shows.

“My senior director owns a couple of airplanes, and I’ve went up with him a couple of times. I get my fix that way.

“I have no regrets working at KCRG. I loved it. It opened up doors to get into this position. This past summer, I was the onfield emcee for about a dozen games for the Cedar Rapids Kernels [a minor league baseball team], which was fun.

“Now, here at Rockwell, there are even more doors that have opened for me, whether it’s in this company or outside. Early on, I actually got a call from Cessna asking me to come down and work in Kansas doing communications, but I’m pretty planted in Iowa right now.

“There’s sort of a full circle story there. I went into aviation, then went into weather, and now I’m back into aviation. It’s funny how thing’s work out.

“I love what I’m doing now. KCRG was a cool experience. Will I ever do it again? I doubt it. But never say never.”

Life outside of work is busy for Baynes, as well. Since June of this year, he and his wife have parented two foster children, boys ages three and five. They had talked about foster children for years, and finally took the plunge.

“We just finally decided to walk the walk we were talking, and went through the foster care classes, which last 10 weeks, and my wife is involved in Junior League, which is a nonprofit women’s organization—they initiate a lot of programs, take on a lot of different projects, like the science station in Cedar Rapids.

“They took on a project with kids that have aged out of the foster care system. She had a lot of exposure, so that was the launching point for us to just finally go and do it.

“After a couple of weeks, I called my parents and said, ‘Thank you for raising me.’ Knowing now how hard it is to be a parent.”

Baynes is also involved with Last Hope Animal Rescue. This group saves dogs that are down to their last few days, that are not getting adopted and will be euthanized. His family has fostered around 40 dogs over the past several years.

“Now we’ve moved on to kids. We have two foster kids and two foster dogs. It’s a lively house.

“When I think about where I’m at today and where I came from, I give a lot of credit to my teachers at Wayne. Participating in sports was very helpful, just learning how to work hard. Learning that if you want something, then this is what it takes, whether it’s a job or anything. There’s a lot of good that’s come out of my time in Corydon. Lots and lots of great teachers and coaches from K through 12. I hate to focus it on only a few. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Johnson—I can remember a few things she mentioned that are still with me. Her big thing was, if I got worried, she told me to get out my worrywart rock and just rub it. That’s always stuck with me.

“Paul Epperly and Paul McFarland were very helpful in making me excel in math, which helped me to think logically. Mr. White in junior high—he was very disciplined. I was fortunate to have so many influential, caring teachers while growing up in Corydon and attending school at Wayne, starting all the way back to Mrs. Johnson in Kindergarten.

“I played football, wrestling and baseball. [Laughing] My senior year, I can always say I beat the guy that beat the state champ. In my opinion, it’s good for kids to get exposed to team sports and individual sports. [Like with wrestling] where you’re part of the team, but you have to work for yourself sometimes.”

Something Baynes remembers specifically from his football playing days is getting a 15-yard penalty for almost swearing.

“Somebody on the other team shoved one of our guys, and I said, ‘Don’t take that from that son-of-a-biscuit!’ I got a flag for that. Guys always remind me about it. So I was careful with my words even back then, which applies to my TV days.”

Josh Baynes is a 1996 graduate of Wayne Community High School. He is the son of Ann Johnson of Corydon and Bill Baynes of Chariton, and considers his former stepfather Dave Daughton of Corydon as a parent, as well.

“I just followed my strengths, which is what anyone should do. Rather than try to fix your weaknesses, you should follow your strengths. That will get people a lot farther in life. I’m trying to do that now with my current job, focusing on my strengths and trying to learn something new all of the time.”