Miami Meteorologist Says Covering Hurricanes is One Part Emotion, One Part Science

By Kevin Eck 

Local news stations up and down the East Coast have been busy keeping viewers up-to-date on the progress of Hurricane Sandy.  Meteorologists bear a heavy load during severe weather, staying on the air for hours at a time giving viewers as much information as possible to keep them safe.

Like any breaking news event on television though, there is a fine line between providing much needed information to the viewer and keeping viewers eyes glued to the screen.  TVSpy talked to veteran WTVJ meteorologist, John Morales about the role weathercasters play during hurricane coverage.  His advice?  Stick to the facts.  “Don’t worry, you won’t be boring by not exaggerating or hyping,” Morales told TVSpy.  “The weather story itself is fascinating.”  He said viewers will appreciate it later.

The chief meteorologist for the Miami NBC owned station also said it’s important to be mindful of what you say and how you say it.  “Viewers, especially your most loyal ones, can often tell how serious a threat is by simply watching your body language and listening to your tone of voice.”  Morales added, “With all your forecasting experience, you should know that early on it’s a matter of showing folks the potential of what the storm might do, but certainly not a time to make them nervous. After all, they’ll need to begin preparing should the threat become more imminent. And you need them to be in their best mental state when that time comes.”

Emotions play a large part in what a meteorologist deals with during sever weather.  But Morales takes a philosophical view.  While he said knows the dangers he’s warning viewers about, they will often want to experience it for themselves. After all, how many live shots have we seen with people standing dangerously close to the surf they’ve been warned about?   “Anyone that has survived a major hurricane lives in fear of ever having to experience one again. Just ask those who went through Andrew here in South Florida back in ’92.”  said Morales.  “But those that have never experienced one will often — not always — have a hidden dark desire to have the storm come and strike directly in their area ‘just to see what it’s like’. So you’re dealing with a wide spectrum of wildly conflicting human emotions which makes covering hurricanes more difficult.”

The bottom line for meteorologists covering extreme weather? “Never stop trusting yourself,” said Morales.  “Since forecasting is as much an art as it is a science, you can’t ever let go of your instincts. You have the experience, and you’ve earned the right to ‘follow your gut instinct’. Do not be afraid to tell it like it is. Keep an even keel and a non-alarmist style. It will go a long way.”