On his first day at work, Alex Herbst was faced with “some of the worst flooding the valley has ever seen.”
That was the opening line of the 26-year-old’s obituary published by his employer, Brownsville, Texas CBS affiliate KGBT (Channel 4). It was his first television after college graduation, and he moved from his native New Jersey to pursue a career in television meteorology.
“One minute you’re sitting there waiting to be trained, and the next second, you’re in it. You’re on the front lines,” KGBT Chief Meteorologist Bryan Hale said. “And that’s exactly what happened — and he did it without missing a beat.”
Herbst was found dead last week at his apartment near the station, sources told The Desk on Monday. The station did not say how Herbst died, but a law enforcement source with knowledge of his death said it appeared Herbst took his own life. A meteorologist at a competing station said they were also told Herbst’s death was a suicide (the meteorologist did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic and because they were not authorized to speak to members of the media without prior station approval).
One of Herbst’s last social media posts was made on September 8. In it, he describes a science experiment in which he encouraged viewers to melt crayons exposed to the Texas heat in order to create a “cool pattern on a t-shirt.”
The video was part of a Sunday Science franchise that Herbst started at the station, one way he sought to make a connection with viewers at home. And he did, according to numerous social media comments of condolence posted in the days since his death.
“I met him briefly a few months ago when I was live at a remote and he was very kind to me,” Bonnie Hernandez, a radio personality, wrote on his Facebook page.
Another forecaster said on Twitter Herbst “inspired me to be a better meteorologist starting back in school…it was a joy to watch him doing what he loved.”
Herbst graduated from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire with a degree in meteorology. Last year, he graduated from Mississippi State University with a master’s degree in geosciences with a focus on broadcast meteorology, KGBT said.
KGBT is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Inc.