Belinda Jensen traces her interest in meteorology back to an idyllic childhood spent near the St. Croix River in Prescott, Wisconsin. A self-proclaimed tomboy and one of five children, Jensen says Prescott was a great place to grow up. She’s always loved the outdoors and excelled in science. And for more than 20 years, she’s brought her passion for all things outdoors to her work as a meteorologist for KARE 11 News and co-host of KARE 11 Saturday and Grow With KARE. Jensen has made her home in Edina since moving to the Twin Cities from Utah in 1994. I sat down with her on the set after she gave me a quick tour of the acclaimed “backyard” in the process of getting its first makeover in 30 years. Jensen has been chief meteorologist at KARE 11 for 8 years. Here’s what else I learned about one of Minnesota’s most beloved TV personalities.
“I’ve always enjoyed science,” Jensen says. “My high school physics teacher thought I was almost as smart as my older brother.” She laughs and then goes on to tell about how she once interviewed Paul Douglas, who was a KARE 11 meteorologist at the time, for a 10th-grade term paper. Jensen caught the weather bug, and her physics teacher suggested she study atmospheric science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While at Madison, Jensen was offered an internship at KARE 11, where Douglas became her mentor. During that time, Jensen’s parents moved from the shores of the St. Croix River to Woodland Hills, Utah.
Belinda and Eric Perkins at the 2014 Twins Opener. Photo courtesy of Belinda Jensen
After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in meteorology, Jensen moved to Utah to be near her parents and pursue a master’s degree in atmospheric science. But she would soon be detoured from a career in education to one in television. “I fell into TV,” Jensen says. When she noticed the weatherman for KTVX in Utah was using terrible maps, she called the station and sold herself as a mapmaker, a skill she honed while an intern at KARE. In December 1990, she was having fun working behind the scenes at the TV station in Utah when a newly hired morning show co-host abruptly left and Jensen was grabbed from the back and plunked in front of the camera.
Three years later, Douglas would call and encourage Jensen to apply for an open position at KARE as a weekend meteorologist. Although she was on television in Provo, Jensen didn’t feel really ready for a big market like Minneapolis. But Douglas persuaded her, and she grabbed her best suit and flew into town for an audition. At the time, Douglas was the only local meteorologist doing the weather outdoors, and only he was permitted to be on camera in KARE 11’s backyard. So, Jensen was instructed to present the weather in front of a small green screen inside the studio.
Similar to this year, 1993 was a record year for rainfall in Minnesota as the Midwest was stuck in a pattern of flooding rain. With no one giving Jensen instructions in her ear and no indication of when to stop, she went on for 13 minutes explaining the scientific details of the historic rainfall. She was offered a job that week.
Jensen returned to the Midwest with more than a suitcase and a new job. While living in Utah, she met the man who would become her husband. An outdoorsy type like Belinda, David originally hailed from California and hoped to live the lake life in Minnesota. But the couple determined owning a home no more than eight miles from the TV station made the most sense and that Edina would be a great place to raise a family. The couple would go on to have two children, now ages 11 and 7.
“I can park my car most anywhere in Edina and accomplish nine different things within walking distance,” Jensen says. “The town has lots of interesting people and diversity, and we’re blessed to be in this school district.”
At home, Jensen enjoys cooking and entertaining. “My sister and mom are good cooks,” says Jensen, whose specialty is barbecued ribs, a recipe from her mother-in-law, Kitty. But if she’s going to cook, Jensen prefers to have lots of free time, a clean house, a glass of wine and background music. She also hosts a holiday luncheon for girlfriends on or near the winter solstice. They exchange cookies and sip champagne.
In the spirit of this month’s health and wellness theme, we asked Jensen about her fitness routine. She scoffs at rumors she’s a runner—“I’m a Clydesdale. I ran a 10-mile race once.” Jensen prefers tennis and downhill skiing. “I’ve also gotten into paddle boarding,” she says. “I tried it four years ago and loved it. I’m an early riser so I like to head out early to Lake Bryant or Lake Calhoun to paddle board.” David is still a California surfer at heart, so the Jensen family has recently taken up wake surfing, although 2014 hasn’t been a very good year for that sport as many lakes remained no-wake for much of the summer due to high water levels.
It’s a passion of Jensen’s to educate kids about weather events like those we’ve experienced this year. “I’ve been invited to speak to second-grade students about the weather for 25 years,” says Jensen. “I’ve noticed children becoming more afraid of the weather because of the constant news cycle.” To ease their anxiety, she’s working on several educational initiatives to help youth understand the science behind specific weather events. These endeavors are just the latest in a string of professional projects for Jensen, who is a part of a variety of programming at KARE 11. She says, “Weather is always interesting, but it’s all the other things I get to do that help to keep my job interesting.”
Belinda chats with students at Countryside Elementary in their brand new garden. Photo courtesy of Belinda Jensen
Guilty Pleasure? “A really good pedicure because I have bad feet. I’ve also never worn nice shoes in the backyard studio because before the renovation, there was often standing water just outside the door.”
Number of coats for presenting the weather from the backyard? “Twenty-four. I’m thinking of someday auctioning them for charity. I also like hats because I don’t like doing my hair.”
Dream vacation? “We are blessed to have a tradition of an annual family trip to Maui. But I dream of taking the kids skiing in Europe or scuba diving in Australia.”
Favorite household chore? “Putzing in the garden or organizing the kitchen cupboards. I’m obviously Type A.”
Worst part of the backyard makeover? “Doing the weather indoors where [the other anchors] can see and hear me. I’m used to being outdoors alone with a remotely controlled camera and the backyard critters.”
Best part of the backyard makeover? “It’s beautiful and fully equipped for a variety of programming.”
Do you ever want to comb Eric Perkins’ hair? “Yes! But nobody is allowed to touch it.”
One-word descriptions of your on-air colleagues:
- Rena Sarigianopoulos? “Wise.”
- Julie Nelson? “Joyous.”
- Randy Shaver? “Organized.”
- Sven Sundgaard? “Determined.”
- Eric Perkins? “Wild, raw talent. What you see is what you get. But that’s how it is for all of us at KARE 11.”