‘Frogchokers and hayrotters’: John Bernier celebrates 35 years at 8News

Local News

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — 8News is celebrating John Bernier’s 35 years of service to Central Virginia. 

8News anchor Katie Dupree sat down with longtime chief meteorologist for a look back.

“When Central Virginians want a reliable forecast, they turn to TV8’s meteorologist John Bernier!”

John’s been bringing Central Virginia’s most accurate forecast to Central Virginia for 35 years now. Growing up in New England, and after attending the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, he got his start in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in the early 1980s. Getting weather maps have changed a lot since then.

“They printed out on a machine called a NAFAX which used a roll, a giant roll of like wet wallpaper,” Bernier said. “It was an electrical current that passed through because when it was wet, it conducted electricity so the map was actually a burned image.”

The way the weather was presented was different too. Before green screen technology, they stood in front of real maps.

“Temper paint,” is what they used, John says, “and you could actually mark and then you immediately went and washed it off as soon as the show was done to clean it.”

John’s always had his own unique way of presenting the weather. Some of the terms he uses on air today, he’s used since day one.“Satellite photos that you saw on TV were a loop that was assembled by basically strobe lighting still pictures that were flipped, and then the networks would feed that out to you, “ Bernier said.

John moved from South Dakota to Indiana and Ohio before landing his job here at WRIC, then known as WXEX 35 years ago.

More than three decades later, John says he remembers his first day fondly.

“Oh, you’re anchoring the news at 6 o’clock tonight,” the News Director at the time told him.

John explains how he felt that day, saying “this wasn’t thrown into the deep end of the pool…this was thrown off the high dive into the pool.”

“Although computers were being used by meteorologists by then, they weren’t what they are today,” Bernier recalled. “If you go back into the 80s, the computer systems back there were essentially suped up Etch-A-Sketches. They really were. Doppler radar that we are using is a 1980s technology. This is basically technology that was developed 30 years ago that we’re still using,” John says.

Ask anyone in Central Virginia and they’ll tell you they enjoy John’s severe weather coverage–not just for the life-saving information, but he really shines with his extensive knowledge of the area.

“You can’t remember where everything is,” he said. “It’s just places you pick up along the way.”

Thirty-five years of serving Central Virginia will do that.As for his best memories here at 8News, John says the station’s coverage of Hurricane Isabel in 2003 always sticks out to him.

“Everybody pulled together in here,” he said. “We had our morning news anchors sleeping down the hallway in an office…we were on the air for 32 hours straight covering stuff.

“Those were some of the times of the great camaraderie here when everybody stepped up to the plate.”

And we aren’t just celebrating a big anniversary for John.

“We actually commissioned this building 29 years ago today,” John said. “So it’s kind of a whole birthday for the television station too.”

Find 8News on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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