Monday, February 11, 2013

Weatherperson's Week: Carol Erickon

(Editor's note -- this feature was delayed from running last week due to our storm coverage.)

Carol Erickson has been around Philadelphia, off and on, since the late 70's. Hired by KYW-TV (before the CBS 3 era) in 1978 as a reporter, Carol serves a dual role as weekend morning meteorologist and occasional reporter at the station.

Carol's path to weather didn't start out simply with a tornado or surviving any weather disaster.

"Meteorology was never in my sights growing up," she explains. "I stumbled into a weather job right after I graduated from the University of Arizona with a business degree. I went to the local TV station in Tucson, Arizona to see if I could get a sales job and ended up doing the weather two days later on their 5, 6 and 10 PM newscasts. I was the proverbial blonde 'weather girl' with zero experience and even less knowledge."

Well, not really less than zero. She did watch the weather occasionally as a child. Warren Culbertson was one of the meteorologists she recalls watching during her time living in Dallas.

As for her experience in the 1970's in Tuscon, the times have changed a fair amount from then to now.

"When I started, we got one satellite map faxed over on a facsimile machine one time a day. Our surface map slowly came over some large machine that printed the highs and lows and fronts. There wasn't a lot that the TV stations got, but we did get different kinds of maps in Dallas than in Tuscon."

Carol went back to work in Dallas before she landed in Philadelphia.

"But Texas has such crazy weather you need more. Still, there wasn't a lot to choose from (in those days)."

Carol goes on to talk about the computer modeling aspect of weather.

"The computer models are great, but sometimes they are like asking the "8 ball" questions: Will it rain, and depending on how you twist it, the answer can vary. So every run, every model tends to look different. It's a big help and computer models are science, the kind we could never do with a pencil or a hunch."

Carol has earned accreditation from the American Meteorological Society, including earning the AMS' gold seal, and from the National Weather Association. She served on the seal evaluation committee with the NWA, which selected individuals seeking to earn the NWA's "seal of approval" in weather forecasting. In addition to forecasting the weather, she does split duty as a reporter, typically on weather or pet-related features, on three of her five day schedule.

"Three days a week, I work as a reporter. That means I could be covering any kind of story but usually a feature story of some kind. I come in and pitch whatever story ideas I have to the morning meeting. They either like them or decide there is something else they would rather have me do. Once the decision is made what to cover, I go out with a cameraperson and shoot the story. Then I come back to log the tape, write and edit the piece. Sometimes the packages are done and fronted with a mobile weather lab live shot. Sometimes, like this weekend with the snowstorm, I go out in the mobile weather lab and report live from the road in a variety of locations. On days I am in the studio doing weather, I get graphics together, check what the weather is and likely will be, and get the show in order. Then we go on the air to present what hopefully is a forecast that verifies."

One of Carol's biggest passions in life is her support of animal causes. She often mentions the need to make sure one checks on their pets if their outside on more extreme weather and has been honored twice by the Pennsylvania SPCA for her support and dedication to pets.

"I am a huge animal lover," she explained. "Their welfare and encouraging their welfare is very important to me."

What is her advice to those who are thinking about pursuing a career in the field of meteorology? Erickson says passion and education are key.

"I have met many people who have loved weather since before they can even remember. They are the people who run out in diapers at age 2 to see a storm. Those people will succeed in this field because their passion will lead them to learn everything they can and it won't feel like work. . .Education and a curious mind are key for happiness and success in life, whatever the field."