NEW YORK – Regardless of the role that chance plays in weather forecasting – or any kind of prognostication – it is no accident that Nick Gregory has been the weatherman at Fox 5 for almost three decades. He started the day after Christmas in 1986 and has been a gift that keeps on giving to the New York Metropolitan Area as one of its favorite and most trusted weather men.
“I can’t believe I’ve been at the same place for 28 years. That doesn’t often happen,” he said, and noted “I am very fortunate the management has had confidence in my work all these year and the viewers enjoy having me on every evening to tell them the weather.”
The dedication to meteorology and excellence that kind of success demands have deep roots. “My love of meteorology is from when I was a boy – the weather fascinated me from my earliest memories as a child,” and his character was molded by his parents, the late Rev. Basil Gregory and Presbytera Anna.
He said to TNH with pride and emotion that people tell him when he is on the air they can close their eyes and hear Fr. Basil.
“I still miss him. His brilliance and his ability to talk to you and his true caring were wonderful characteristic. I would give anything to hear him speak to me again and give me advice – in some respects maybe he still is.”
That foundation, along with his passion, led to an internship at WCBS Channel 2 when he was a high school senior working with legendary meteorologist Alan Caspar and Joe Witte. “Both of them were very instrumental in my career. “
He studied meteorology at Lyndon State College, where he also practiced being on the air on the college TV and radio station.
“Your resume is how you sound and look on camera, so I started making these tapes. You send the out in the hopes of somebody biting and hiring you, and I was fortunate that CNN was just starting…They liked what they saw and hired me in 1981,” to work in Atlanta.
“You never know where television is going to take you,” he said, but after about five years he experienced a New Yorker’s broadcasting dream come true: he was hired by Fox for the new network’s flagship station in New York on Channel 5.
He agrees that a weather man’s ability to gain the trust of his viewers based on their believing that he cares. “We’re not right all the time…when you get a big forecast wrong, you hope the viewer is forgiving and understanding and remembers the times when you are right.”
In an industry that often succumbs to the urge to hype a story, Gregory told TNH “That’s never been my style. I try to tell it to you straight. I don’t go on the air over-excited and try to scare you…I do try to warn you when I think it’s going to be bad…our job is to warn you and protect your life and property.”
A great conversationalist who infuses energy and feeling into every topic, Gregory really comes alive when he talks about the weather.
He said meteorology has come a long way since 1981.
“Computer models existed, but they were primitive.” He explained that they work by simulating layers of the atmosphere based on temperature, wind, pressure readings “from the surface of the Earth all the way up to 35,000 feet.”
In the models, “the atmosphere is one big physics equation. The models grind out the data that is put into them” and through the solutions to those equations the simulations emerge,” he said.
“The trick” to a good forecast; however “is to remember it’s not really a picture of the atmosphere. “The models do a good job, but they have their faults. If they don’t pick up on something that is out there, or some initial data is incorrect” the forecast is off.
The atmosphere is also not deterministic. Chance is part of the reality that limits how accurate a forecast can be.
Gregory said good forecasters understand the strengths and weaknesses of the models and “try to use them as guidance,” because another element of good forecasting is the meteorologist’s experience, and what his intuition does with it.
“When I have seen this before, what has happened. What did I learn in analyzing this data myself that the models missed last time,” he asks himself as he tries to understand how the atmosphere will operate over the next few days.
They also look at satellite and radar images in real time. “We try to take all of those elements and then come up with a forecast.”
He often finds himself going back to the basics he learned in school – his training was heavy on calculus and physics – but he is also excited about technological breakthroughs, such as new satellites that can detect moisture levels in soil so that flash flood can be predicted.
And the models are constantly upgraded. “They upgrade the equations. They process the data differently, and higher computer processing power is also a goal.
One other field, that is also played out skyward – air travel – was a fulltime career temptation. “I love to travel, but I always just love the idea of flying these machines through the sky,” he said, but he didn’t walk away from it. For the past 20 years he has been a flying instructor, teaching part time weekday mornings and weekends.
“It’s great that at the end of their training I know I have molded this pilot and like a little bird they are leaving the nest to go fly on their own…it’s an awesome experience” to literally watch his students soar.
Just as he his wife, Athena, who will celebrate their 20th anniversary in August, watch their “three beautiful daughters,” grow and flourish.
The couple’s Hellenic heritage is also important. He told TNH with great pride, “my Grandparents are from Asia Minor, Pergamum, Proussa and Smyrna…and we
keep the traditions going.” He is proud they all went to Greek school, adding, “We speak Greek at home,” but admitted “not enough and we try to go to Greece every two years.”
Born in Chicago, he moved to New Rochelle when he was eight years old. “I grew up in New Rochelle.”
Gregory has an older brother, Andre, a New York shipping executive, who attended seminary for two years, but while their father did not push them to become priests, serving as altar boys in New Rochelle, where he grew up, was unavoidable. They have both been active in their parish.
Their father, renowned for his intellect and his humanity – doubtlessly helped him see that “Faith and science go hand in hand. One complements the other,” Gregory said. “Sometimes we don’t keep our minds open enough to bring them together…if you know where the science comes from, you see they go together,” said the man who is in touch with the sky and has his feet planted firmly on the ground – which comes through both in his forecasts, and when he dances a Zeibekiko.