By Angie Fenton
Contrary to popular opinion – or at least the sarcastic comments so freely shared by so many – forecasting the weather is not easy.
Just ask WHAS11’s Chief Meteorologist Ben Pine.
During a recent spate of winter weather, Pine stayed up for 34 hours straight trying to predict accumulations, wind chills, precipitation forms and dangerous situations for viewers and those eagerly following along online.
Good weather still equals long hours. Even after our experts study hard to earn degrees in the science of weather, they’re never truly done being students, not if they care to evolve with the changing technology and times.
Yet, no matter how good you are at your craft, no matter how accurate, every meteorologist errs at some point when trying to forecast the future. When that happens, a mistaken forecast can be incredibly serious, though that’s rare. Usually a wrong prediction leads to nothing more than grumbling viewers (You said it wasn’t going to rain but it did for an hour! Snow? It’s 50 degree and sunny today!) who wonder – post, Tweet, joke – if meteorology is more guesswork than grueling hard work (it’s the latter).
But what happens when you make a forecast for the future of your family? If you’re Ben Pine, you take a giant leap of faith and pray that you don’t let your loved ones down.
Ben grew up in rural Richmond, Ind. His wife, Sarah, did too. “We’ve always known each,” she said.
“She may have been my first kiss when I was, like, three years old,” Ben cracked.
When his parents divorced, Ben moved with his mother to St. Louis, Mo., leaving behind his rural roots.
Sarah and Ben kept in touch and both attended Ball State University. Eventually, they started dating and married, setting off on a what would be a journey from urban setting to urban setting as Ben gained more experience working as a television meteorologist. “I was a city slicker,” Ben said. “I spent most of my life living in cities or suburban areas,” from Peoria, Ill., to Jefferson City, Mo., to Augusta, Ga.,
In 2008, WHAS11 hired Ben as part of the weather team. The couple was thrilled to head back closer to home. They moved into a home in the southeastern portion of Louisville. “We almost had no backyard,” Sarah said.
The location, however, worked for their lifestyle and budget. But then it didn’t.
The Indiana natives preferred the schools in their home state and wanted to raise their children there and, since they all enjoyed being outdoors, they wanted an actual backyard. On a whim, Ben searched for property with more acreage than he’d ever imagined owning. Almost immediately, he found what he never knew he’d wanted – until then.
PRAYERS & NERVES
“We were dreaming of one to three acres,” Ben said. “We found 30 (acres) instead.”
But not just any acreage. The Pines had stumbled upon 30 acres of property filled with trees, steep hills, a pond and a creek that is 500 feet about sea level in Borden. “It’s like the Gatlinburg of Southern Indiana,” Ben said.
The land was gorgeous, Pine said, as he identified each tree – “chestnut oak, red oak, maple, river birch, beech, pine, cedars, persimmon, mimosa” – and rattled off the wildlife they’d seen: “Owls, red tail hawks, raccoon, deer, coyotes, wild turkeys, woodpeckers.”
The only problem was a big one: If they purchased the hilly, tree-filled land, where would they build?
“I think everybody thought we were crazy,” said Sarah.
“They couldn’t see it,” added Ben. It was all forest. They didn’t see any flat land.”
That’s because there wasn’t any, but Ben saw it anyway, and Sarah believed him.
“She trusted my love for the property. She had to believe in what I saw about clearing an acre that was just a forest. She trusted that it would all work out,” Ben said.
“And that I could make a home,” Sarah said.
“We heard horror stories of marriages that had been tested (in similar situations), but we learned a lot,” Ben said.
“It was a lot of teamwork,” said Sarah.
Logger Adam Dufour helped Ben “get the vision. I couldn’t see, at first. It’s very severe terrain. He helped me lay out the backyard and the pond. You hate to tear down trees, but at the same time, now all the little creatures are going to have a place to drink. … Since we moved here, I’m just learning about all of the things that God made.”
When it came to building a home, the topography was challenging, but builder Brad Weddington, owner of Weddington Custom Homes, was up to the task.
“There were a lot of nervous moments and a lot of praying, but Brad made it work,” Ben said. “We could have stressed out a lot, but I guess we channeled that energy in other ways. … And we kept meeting the right people. The logger (Adam Dufour) was a good Christian man with a lot of experience. Brad took the time to explain the building of our home. Each step, let’s just say there were a lot of miracles.”
HOME SWEET HOME
The Pines moved into their new home October 2014. When Sarah’s father, Scott Bell, pastor of United Methodist Church in Liberty, visited, he told Ben, “I have three words for you: I was wrong.”
“To have a father-in-law say that, that’s pretty good,” Ben said.
Thanks to his initial rural upbringing and a father, David Pine, who taught Ben how to swing an axe and keep a wood stove stoked, Ben spends his time off work outdoors, both exploring and ensuring his family has what it needs to thrive on the forested land. (It should be noted that they have yet to turn on their heater this winter, opting to use the wood stove to heat their entire home.)
“I feel like I’ve gotten a piece of my childhood back,” said Ben. “I even have the axe my dad used to use. He redid it for me for Christmas.”
Ben and Sarah’s children, Brady, 6, and Hannah, 8, have benefited, too.
“The kids, they love it,” said Sarah. “Hannah used to have some anxiety (before the move). There were lots of tears and worries in the morning before we went to school. It’s gone now.”
“It went from technology overload to they’re outside and they’re loving it,” Ben said.
So are the family’s pets. Troy, an 11-year-old lab mix, was starting to “deteriorate. I just wanted him to live long enough so he could have a retirement place,” Ben said. Not the senior dog climbs up 900 foot hills, flanked by Annie, a 3-year-old border collie, and a cat named Sugar.
Ben was recently named WHAS11’s chief meteorologist. “It’s an honor, and I don’t take that lightly,” he said.
Ben loves the job and also is grateful for the convenient commute.
“In a lot of other cities, you can’t be this close (to work) and have this much land and a 25-minute drive. It’s not for everybody, but if it’s for you, it’s hard to beat. Plus, my commute is at two in the morning, so there’s no traffic,” he laughed, before getting serious. “All of our life decisions are going toward small town living. We pray this is the last stop.”