Job title: AccuWeather heads storm warning meteorologist
Previous professions: Prior to AccuWeather, I worked at WeatherFlow where I was a senior customer service representative. I have also worked as a weather tutor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University along with the customer service role.
What led me to my current role: I have been interested in meteorology since childhood. I grew up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where my father was a palm farmer. I helped him cover the palm trees for the first frosts of winter, and whenever severe weather was forecast, my father and I would look for it. Between 2004 and 2005, a hurricane parade swept through our hometown, and my family and I spent a few evenings huddled in the innermost room of our home. This fear of not knowing what, when and how the storm would come was terrifying. I turned to meteorology to have a basis in knowing the weather, and my fear turned into fascination and obsession.
I went back to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for Operational Meteorology and Emergency Management and gained my first experience through a few other meteorology jobs at smaller companies. However, it has always been a goal of mine to end up with AccuWeather – a strong and trusted brand that has been around for 60 years and is recognized as a leader in commercial meteorology.
I was so excited to finally get an internship at AccuWeather in 2016. I made the 24 hour drive from my home in Florida for the internship – it was totally worth it! After graduating, I was hired full-time by AccuWeather.
I couldn’t ask for a better job and career path. Meteorology literally led me to my fiancé, Tom, who proposed to me during a tornado chase. Beyond my personal life, it is enriching to help people, communities and businesses weather the most challenging and volatile weather we have experienced in decades, as well as helping to save lives and livelihoods.
How I spend most of my day: Every day is unique – and that’s one of the reasons why my work is so rewarding. There are a few different ways a day could go, the first being as a shift coordinator. I spend the entire eight to nine hour shift as the key decision maker, making sure meteorologists who feed data into our forecasts, monitor severe weather or speak to our customers and media are able to perform their expected duties and make the most of their strengths.
On days when I’m not the primary decision maker, I’m either at the warning desk or forecasting the next big storm at AccuWeather’s Severe Weather Center in Wichita. At this hub, we prepare clients for snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and many other types of severe weather throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico, assisted by our team of meteorologists at our Global Weather Center in State College, Pa., and in other locations worldwide. AccuWeather also monitors severe weather for all locations worldwide.
My responsibilities in this role include providing companies with emergency weather briefings – for example, one day I assisted a Fortune 500 company with a tropical briefing for a land-making hurricane, issued snow warnings and forecast severe weather.
Here’s a look at how AccuWeather operates on a day with a severe weather outbreak. This is one of the busiest days we have. Luckily, I don’t usually work that late, but when the weather calls for it, I step into action and do what’s necessary to keep people safe.
7am: I wake up hoping my fiancé will be the first to get up to make coffee and feed our two cats and a dog. Every morning I appreciate not having to switch to the midnight shift for the foreseeable future, which I had to do for the first four years of my job. The weather never sleeps!
7:30 a.m.: I finally roll out of bed to find my fiancé drinking day-old coffee with ice (that’s his favorite way) and giving me the choice of making drip or French press coffee. Knowing what lies ahead and how busy it will be by the time I get to the office, I know a French press is fine, and I pour myself two cups.
9:12 a.m.: I drive to work exactly eight minutes to start my 10am shift. Although the bill might not be right, I prefer to arrive early to enjoy another cup of coffee (are we down to three cups now?). As it’s going to be an active day this morning, I proactively go home early to make sure the day goes smoothly and I can thoroughly review the night shift coordinator’s notes.
10 am: I go through my to-do list: train meteorologists, create special forecasts and support the warning center.
11 clock: Roughly every hour a new shift of meteorologists arrives asking me for advice on today’s tasks. It’s a big responsibility when the weather gets more active throughout the day, especially when meteorologists depend on me for their day-to-day duties and important contributions to important forecasting decisions. I remember being called to the coordinator role for reasons related to my expertise and calm demeanor.
1:30 p.m.: We have one of several daily internal meetings between the meteorologists at AccuWeather Severe Weather Center and AccuWeather’s Global Weather Center at State College. At this point, as colleagues, we coordinate our approach to severe weather for that day, a process we call “consensus forecasting.” We work together all the time – we have a 24/7 Zoom call between our office and operations at the State College. Our offices are also very collaborative and they are full of people exchanging ideas with each other right now.
14 o’clock: Time for lunch! Today we have rosemary and lemon roasted chicken thighs with homemade potato chips. During the pandemic, my fiancé spent his time trying a new dinner recipe every day. And I spent that time satisfying my appetite.
4 p.m.: Today has quickly become hectic – a whole series of tornadoes are expected to hit Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida tonight. I ensure our forecasting team has all the tools and resources they need to provide accurate alert and preparedness information to our clients and share it with our forecasters and journalists who produce content for our digital platforms. We all know the importance of getting the forecast right – lives and businesses are at stake.
6 p.m.: Busy would be an understatement. This is the part of the day when I would close my computer and go home. Not today – the tornado outbreak has peaked. An unwritten part of my job is to make sure the meteorologists on duty don’t burn out and take a short break to recharge. I prompt her to take a snack break, get her dinner, or just look away from her screen for a few minutes. One benefit of being an achiever is that I thrive in high-pressure situations and try to use that ability to help others in the middle of the action.
On a normal day, getting off work on time, I would enjoy high-intensity hot yoga, bike down the river, or walk my dog, Piper. Unfortunately the weather has decided that this will not happen today.
8 p.m.: I’m pushing 11 hours now, but I’m still needed. Because of the personal relationships we’ve built with our customers, we call them if they don’t acknowledge an immediate tornado warning so they can make the best weather-related decisions. In addition to our forecasting work, we also help with customer and product support – we bridge the dots between our customers’ needs and our technical capabilities.
8:30 p.m.: I leave work and breathe through the 11 hour day. I am acutely aware of the role I have just played in helping people, businesses and communities make the best weather-related decisions when seconds count and lives are at stake. I remember how rewarding it is to work in an operational leadership role. I smile at myself in the elevator mirror and say to myself: “You made it, you made it through the hardest day of the year so far.”
8:38 p.m.: I’m finally home, exhausted but feeling fulfilled. I fight the urge to go straight to bed without dinner. Luckily my fiancé cooked a homemade meal with quesadillas. It’s nowhere near as exotic as what he usually cooks, but his day has also been busy.
21 clock: We’re tuning in to Gilmore Girls hoping Rory never gets back together with Dean, although this is our third binge-watching show and we know the outcome. Sometimes it’s nice to see people leading relatively normal, uneventful lives after a busy day.
22 O `clock: The day’s performance and exhaustion quickly turns into dozing off on the couch with our cats, Indie and Gale Force, and we’re checking in for the night to catch some important Z’s until we start all over again – tomorrow.