by Judith Salkin
Ginger Jeffries makes her way into most of our homes, in one way or another, just about every day of the week. Whether it’s as the Chief Meteorologist for ABC affiliate KESQ bringing us the forecast for the Coachella Valley or public service announcements for valley events, for most of the past 17 years she’s been a fixture in our homes.
But there’s more to Jeffries, 41, than just the face of weather in the valley. She’s a mom, a student, teacher, science nerd, self-affirmed geek, active member of the community, a leader to the members of her on-air weather staff (she leaves notes and lollipops for them at the weather desk) and, pretty funny lady in person.
And unlike the weather girls of the early years of television, isn’t just set dressing she noted recently sitting in the station’s empty Palm Desert studio. “I don’t just point to the map and read the weather.”
Jeffries and her staff use the Weather Central service. “So I make all my own graphics and formulate my forecast,” she said of the daily updates she presents at 5 and 11 p.m. “It’s not Accuweather where you get weather in a box.”
But weather wasn’t always on the map for Jeffries. She was born the youngest of four at the hospital where her surgeon dad worked in Truckee, Calif., near Lake Tahoe, and spent her first four years in Emerald Bay. By that time, her teacher mom wanted a more stimulating school atmosphere for her children and the family moved to Sacramento.
And, yes, Ginger is the name on her birth certificate. “Chalk that up to my dad’s sick sense of humor,” she says with a laugh. “When he was in junior high he had a babysitter with the name and he had a crush on her. By the time I was born I think my mom was tired of picking out names and just went with it.”
As a teen, she looked forward to a life in sports. “I was planning on playing professional tennis,” she says of the sport she began playing as a child.
In her senior year of high school Jeffries was on her way, playing the junior Davis Cup circuit when a pair of car accidents just a month apart, both caused by drunk drivers during daylight hours, took a toll on her back and knee, and the university where she had planned on playing pulled her scholarship. “Without the scholarship, I had to make other plans,” she said.
Jeffries decided to follow her surgeon dad into medicine and attend school at San Diego State University, studying biology. “I was a geek,” she says proudly. Once again she changed direction in her senior year, and this time Jeffries took another left turn.
When her sorority president who was the editor of the campus paper asked her to write a piece for the paper, “Something happened,” she recalled. Also the producer of campus daily news break, when the sorority prez asked Jeffries to fill in one day, “I was really flippant and told her, ‘sure, I can walk and chew gum’. It turned out it was the biggest high I’d had in my life.”
Jeffries found herself seriously thinking about switching career paths. “I called my mom and told her, I thought I was crazy, but this is what I wanted to do,” Jeffries says. Mom’s response was for Jeffries to follow her heart.
With degrees in Biology and Journalism, a stint at a San Diego AM radio station and a nine month on-air gig where she had to write, produce and edit her spots in Redding, Jeffries made it to the valley – the first time – in 1996 as a general assignment reporter and weekend anchor.
Along with her on-air gig, Jeffries continued taking courses toward a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences and wanted to be on the station’s weather team. She even left for a nine month shot when she didn’t get the gig. “I was friends with (former news director) Erin Gilhuly who wanted me back at the station and she worked to get me the weather spot,” she said.
Jeffries last exit from the valley was a little more than a decade ago, when she moved to the number three market in Philadelphia. “That was quite a jump, from market 148 to number 3,” she says of the move. But 12 hour days, a nanny spending more time with her children, Chloe, then three and Weston, a year-old toddler, didn’t seem like the life she wanted. “I started working on Monday, fired my agent Thursday and began working on coming back to the valley,” she says.
The ability to have a private life, home school Chloe and Weston, be active in her community and to be fulfilled in her professional life are what have pulled Jeffries back to the valley and KESQ.
“For me, it’s the perfect situation,” she says.
As for that Ph.D., which was put on hold to raise her kids, plate tectonics are pulling Jeffries away from atmospheric sciences. “I’m just a big kid, I still love learning,” she says. “My favorite thing is going out in backyard with the kids and blow things up, like Mentos and Coke. I still have questions I need to find answers for.”