Friday, November 2, 2018

Interview: Meteorologist Amy Freeze of New York City's WABC Eyewitness News Talks Weather, Spaghetti Models, Motherhood and What Her Real Name Is

By Suzanne Ordas Curry

We’ve come a long way from the days of Ted Baxter and Anchorman. Amy Freeze is a meteorologist with ABC Eyewitness News in New York City. She does the weather reports with ease and a smile, making even the harshest forecasts palatable. She also is a correspondent for other events, including the New York City Marathon, which is near and dear to her as she is a runner herself. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a social function and she agreed to an intervew. (Note: Some of this content is a repost from an earlier article).

Remember the term "weatherman?" Well that went out with the milkman. Meteorology is a hot topic these days, and we need poised, professional, educated people delivering the news. I can’t remember a time prior to this past decade when the weather was one of the top topics on the national evening news topics like it is now. There’s almost always something going on and in many instances its quite disastrous, devouring unusual amounts of resources like manpower and money. Growing up, I can’t recall many storms or weather events, if that was even a term decades ago, that had the effects that weather does now. Of course now we have more people, more development, more to upset.

My husband originally wanted to be a meteoroglist. When he went to Cook College at Rutgers University, he signed up to be a meteorology major. It didn't  take long for him to realize that it wasn’t his cup of tea. He would notice that most of his fellow weather majors were huddled in front of forecasting equipment indoors when he would rather be outdoors enjoying the weather. He switched to math, rather a cousin of meteorology. 

So having always wondered what really drives someone into meteorology, I was intrigued to hear that Amy Freeze, popular meteorlogist for WABC in New York, was attending a fundraiser for a new non - profit and we both knew the founder. From across the room I could see people huddled around her- okay mostly men- and I knew that when the sea parted I would make my way over an ask for an interview. What I did hear above the noise of the night were people constantly asking her. "Is that your real last name?

It Is Her Real Name

I soon found out that is was. Amy was so pleasant and cordial, happily agreeing to be interviewed by phone after the event was over later in the week.

What I didn’t realize, (because my huband did not end up being a meteoroglist) was that this time of the year when we were scheduling our interview was a very busy time. It was the end of October, unpredictable hurricane season.

So the day of our interview it took a second phone call to reach Amy. Hurricane Joaquin (2015) was threatening the East Coast and all the governors were taking emergency measures to prepare.  All the local programming was being broken into for updates. People were raiding the shelves at the supermarkets. Over here on the East Cost, in the tri-state area, It was time to batten down the hatches once again. There was a storm a’brewin and we didn’t know where it was going.

Enter in our trusted meteorogist.

The Newsroom Before a Storm Hits

I got Amy on the phone before the noon newscast.  My first question, that I just had to ask , was, what is like when there’s a storm coming? I was wondering about the business, or even the excitement among meteoroglists and in the newsroom, as it could have far-reaching and devastating consequences.

“Yes,!"  she answered. "It’s very busy. We're busy putting things together and watching what's going to happen. And then there's the storm itself, which can last hours to perhaps a couple of days." 

She added that, "This storm (Joaquin) has a little one-two punch causing hurricane winds and beach erosion. And after the storms there's the effects and how people have to deal with the flooding and what damage is done by the storm, so its usually a prolonged period of long hours for us."

Lukcily, Joaquin was one of those storms that followed a different path and did not cause major damage. In NJ we were all quite happy about that because many of our beaches had just been restored or were still in the process of being resored after Superstorm Sandy.

Speaking of superstorms, I wondered what Amy thought about climate change. I asked her if, when she was studying to be a meteorologist, if they had forcasted the type of changes we are seeing now.

On Climate Change

“Well climate is variable, weather is always changing. And what the data is showing is that we’ve come off some of the warmest summers we’ve seen in our area in more than 30 years. That's pretty incredible! All the  information the data gives does show us that the climate is changing in dramatic ways, but this is according to the time we've kept records and those records have only been kept about 70 years. In some rare cases some of the oldest cities in America have records dating back 100 years, so when we take a hundred years and we compare that to time and space, it really is a very small, narrow look at what happens with weather. “

Amy continued, “So weather is supposed to change and what our impact is on that change as humans is always up for debate. There's always the science as to whether we can or cannot affect climate. I do not believe that changing our light bulbs will alter the climate. I do believe in energy conservation, in finding clean resources for fuel and i do think that the climate is changing for the fact that icebergs are shrinking. There’s definitely science out there. Does that mean that the world is ending as we know it? Not necessarily because it can change in one location, and just because one things changes and its hotter than its been in one spot doesn't necessarily mean the whole planet is going under.”

I then asked about Antarctica, as we were actually gaining ice there, though not at the rate we were losing it elsewhere.

“Same thing with animals" she added. "Some species are going extinct but we are finding new ones. The system has a way of balancing itself out but we as humans feels we have this responsibility to step in and mitigate things like with animal species, like saving pandas and others, but in reality climate has the biggest influence on ecology. We just have to live the best way we can. Can’t really control the weather.”

On European, Spaghetti, and other Models

Amy, I asked, your job is just to predict the weather. So those models, and even the viewers these days know their names, why are there so many? Any news or weather junkie, especially on the East coast, has heard the term “European Model” and others, but I was wondering why there were so many and why they gave different results.

“There are about a dozen different tropical event or storm models," she answered. "And in those there are variations and different computations in how things are worked out, so some of these models predict weather better. They may have more gridded locations, they may have more data going into them, and as more data goes in over time they get better results."

What's the best one?, I asked. "And the one that gives the best results for tropical data on the East coast is the European model. and in 2006 they altered the European model which had been giving us the best data, we saw that in forecasts like with Sandy where the EM was dead on. It has been the most consistent and now all the other models are catching up to it as it approaches land, as it approaches large land masses like the east cost of North America.

The Human Element in Predicting Weather

I then asked Amy about how much input a meteorologist's expertise comes into play with the computer models. She said, "We always have computers that will figure out different kinds of storms from thunderstorms to snowstorms and they give us some kind of guidance on output numbers. But you can't look at just those numbers along because sometimes the computer models have glitches in them or have biases in them, or they may not be telling the whole story. That's why you have to differentiate what the guidance is telling you if you really want to get the forecast right."

She added, " A great example of that is that people just look at their iPhone for the weather these days. Well, if you look at your iPhone it may say high temperature of 65, but the current temperature is 67 because the iPhone is just giving you the model base number, it didn't take into consideration the early start of warm temperatures and it didn't adjust for that during the day. Computers can get it wrong so there's a human forecaster needed that can interpret the date and give you a better estimate."

Upon hearing this, I surmised there is still plenty of work for your team of meteorologists! She said "Yes, we use a brand called AccuWeather but we as the forecasters are the ones to collect all the data and we are personally responsible for the interpretation of it. Changes in weather also 
also breaking news"

I asked if things change before a forecast. "Yes, she answered, "We are crazy like that. You can change up to the last minute before we go on TV. Even if we are gong on at 12:15, for instance, we can change at 12:14.

Sticking to a Script, or Ad-libbing?

Amy noted how "Everything is ad-libbed and we don't have any written scripts." She said, "We don't have a Teleprompter, like a newsreader my have one that they read from, where every word and even their name is on it. We have something different, it's callsed the Teleprompter Flip. It shows us all the images you would see on television. We don't have any words, we're looking at a picture or a mirror image. So you have to point at the image behind you."

I commented, "So there's nothing to read?
She said, "There's a teleprompter that will just say like 65 or whatver number is the key number for the day. Now we do have a monitor on the side so we can see the map, it's the same map you're seeing on TV. We don't have any additional scripts written out. The only things we see are the numbers you see on the screen.

I asked how you end up doing the report in the exact amount of time you are allotted. She replied, 'HaHa with lots of practice!  We all have small earpieces and the producers will give us time cues."

So that's really the most difficult part of the newscast? "I think so," she replied. "Sometimes they use us to fill up extra time or sometimes they go over on another story so we'll have to be shorter. So we have to be flexible in our storytelling." I asked if she practiced in front of a mirror and she said "correct."

On Being a Mom 

"I find you have to juggle a lot. It's not that one is a priority over another. It's that the priorities change throughout the day. For one period of time during the day my priority may be my kids, for another party of the day it is my job.

My philosophy is that there will never really be any balance. It's a juggle consistently and the only thing that you can do you to be successful in your situation as a working mom is that you have to have the priority right at the right time, as well as at different times of your life. 

Sometimes it's a priority with work or priority which church or something at school with your kids whatever the priority is it the time you just have to be consciously aware of where the party is at that moment. And shift accordingly. "

Dedicated to Causes

Amy raves about he Muliple Myeloma Foundation. She says, "They are a blood cancer organiation, and one of the most cutting-edige blood cancer research institutions in the world today. They do that my having their researchers share their information publicly". She also supports several shelters in New York City.

Getting Personal:

Favorite Movie: Groundhog Day with Bill Murray!

Favorite Season: I love winter.
Favorite Fast Food: I not a fast food person.
Favorite Shows: I like documentaries, I also watch Netflix.
You can see Amy on WABC Eyewitness News
For more information: 


All photos from Facebook

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