How a zombie turns into a meteorologist
I get asked this question a LOT. What does a regular day for you look like? Let’s just say, it doesn’t start pretty. That girl you see on the TV screen looking alive at 7 a.m. has been awake for four hours. You heard that right. My day on weekends starts at 3 a.m.
The night before the living dead
I'm just going to run with this zombie theme for this post. Because that is what I feel like during my pre-show routine.
My schedule runs from Wednesday through Sunday. I cover the weather on the weekends and the other three days I'm a weather reporting or a general assignment reporter. Fridays I make a difficult switch going from working dayside to immediately turn around and having to wake up at 3 a.m. That only leaves nine hours between my two work shifts. The transition is not easy. In the news business, there is no set end time to your workday. You may finish work at 5:30 p.m., or you may work until 8 p.m. . Imagine getting off at 8 p.m. then immediately go home, go to bed, and then waking up a few hours later? That has happened to me before. It sucks.
On a good day, I'll get off at 5:30 p.m. Dinner usually happens around 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. I'll make my breakfast and set the coffee maker to auto brew the night before, as well as pack my work bag.
If I'm lucky, I get about six hours of sleep. Bad days happen where I wake up for work after only being asleep for three hours.
3 a.m - to 4:00 a.m. - The zombie apolocalyse... AKA... Leah wakes up
I'm not a pretty sight in the morning. The alarm goes off, and I'm grunting and whining because I really want to sleep. There have been days where I'm so tired, I seriously consider just going back to bed... turning off my phone... I would NEVER do that. I would hate for one of my co-workers to be dragged out of bed to cover my shift. Plus, I love my job too much.
Anyway, the alarm goes off. Three snoozes later ( ~3:30 a.m.), my brain kicks into gear. Shower, followed by a ridiculous facial routine to make my eyes look less puffy. Pluto gets a quick walk before I grab my breakfast, coffee, and gear, then head out the door.
With eyes still very half-open, body not yet fully awake, I drag myself to work at 4:00 a.m. Coffee (all five cups of it) is the only thing giving me life. Woe to my co-workers who see me at 4 a.m. I always enter through the back door, hiding from everyone. I have been spotted before by my producer, and I'm pretty sure I scared them. I am a zombie, after all.
4 a.m. to 4:45 a.m. - The cure is found
My zombie state is remedied by drinking half of my coffee and a major transformation. I think this is the scariest part, having to go from the walking dead to human. Full-on clown makeup, complete blowout of my hair, and finally putting on the dress.
Makeup routine - thick under-eye correcter (I have designer bags, under my eyes), liquid foundation, powder foundation, eye shadow primer, four colors of eye shadow, three eye-liners, mascara, eyebrow pencil, bronzer, blush, highlighter, and lastly, lipstick. Whew.
4:45 a.m. to 6 a.m. - The newly cured meteorologist
By this point, my co-workers can see me without being scared for their lives by my zombie state. Weekend news works on a skeleton crew. There is the producer, one reporter, and several people in the control room.
First up, I chat with our producer and anchor, giving them a rundown of the weather, and may ask for more time as needed.
Next, I forecast. I'll start by looking over the daily surface observations, running through past model data to see what led to the current weather pattern. I will look at data starting from the top of the atmosphere to the surface. Finally, I'll start putting down my numbers. I forecast the 7-day, I'll plot the surface maps, and study futurecast radar. Just before 6 a.m. I will write up my forecast discussion, enter in closed captions, and throw together a few graphics before I film the cut-ins.
6 a.m. to 7 a.m. - Post-apocalyptic chaos
Nearly bang on 6 a.m. (or whenever I'm ready), we start filming some pre-recorded weather segments for KY3 24/7 channel and Branson Visitor TV. We also record a weather hit for our local gas stations that you watch while filling up. There are about eight or nine weather hits we pre-record.
On Saturdays, only, right at 6:26 a.m. I do a live weather cut-in for Good Morning America. Then at 6:56 a.m., we do a live weather and news cut-in before the Ozark's Today Weekend Edition hits the airwaves at 7 a.m.
Between filming all these weather hits, I'm updating the web forecast, recording videos for the web and the app, and putting together any specialty graphics for my show. If there is ever severe or inclement weather, my to-do list is longer than my arm. It can be absolute chaos on those days.
7 a.m. to 9 a.m. - Meteorologist Leah Hill emerges
Showtime! I'm right off the top with the latest weather news. You may wonder how we know when to go on air? We have what is called a rundown of the show (pictured below). The rundown breaks down the entire show into timed segments for news and weather. Think of it as the blueprint for the newscast.
The first half-hour of the show
~ 1:30 minute first weather
~ 3:30 minute main weather
~ 1:00 minute travel weather
The second half-hour of the show
~ 1:30 minute first weather
~ 3:30 minute main weather
~:45 to 1:00 minute final weather
Repeats for the second hour.
Even while on air, it is not always smooth sailing. If I ever have too much coffee, I become super hyper and slur my words. Sometimes the graphics have spelling errors, super embarrassing, which I'm just too tired to catch. Graphics may freeze up, the internet may crash, or a million other things may go wrong. You learn to roll with the punches. I would say that 7 times out of 10, the show is smooth sailing.
As a broadcast meteorologist, I'm both a scientist and a presenter. Everything I say while on air is completely ad-lib. There is no script. I just talk. I'm constantly switching out my graphics to make the weather story more interesting and relatable. I have had coaching sessions before on how to stand, walk, and talk to better engage the audience. Every movement of my hand, every step I take, the jokes I'll tell, or the inflection in my voice, is all deliberate. With practice, all these things become second nature.
9 a.m. to Noon - What now?
After the show, I record several more segments for Branson Visitor TV and for our KY3 24/7 Weather Channel. Then, I'll tape and schedule videos for the phone apps and post more to social media.
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you'll see that I am very active. One of my tricks is scheduling posts in advance so I won't have to remember them throughout the day.
I try to spend an hour on Saturday prepping for my Sunday show by putting together any specialty graphics I need. If there is severe weather I'll run a few Facebook lives or cut into regular programming to give updates.
PRO's and CON's of working weekend weather
This is another question I get asked frequently. What do you love about your shift and what do you hate about it. First off, I don't hate anything, but there are a few cons to working weekend morning weather. I break those down below. There are also so many pros to my schedule and position that greatly outweigh the negatives. I wouldn't trade it for an evening shift. I think the best thing about getting off work early is you have the full day ahead of you. This leaves so much time for working out, going to the pool, hiking adventures, etc. Once you get used to the schedule, it's amazing.
Check back! I'll breakdown soon what my day looks like when I go out reporting.