Meteorologist visits ILMS

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By Jesef Williams

Katie Virtue begins each day at 3 a.m., not long after many people have just gone to sleep. She sometimes works evenings and is also on the job many holidays.
Virtue, a meteorologist for WSOC-TV in Charlotte, said her gig doesn’t have glamorous hours, though the job is fulfilling in many ways.
She shared work experiences and discussed weather trends and phenomena with students Wednesday at Indian Land Middle School.
Life of a meteorologist
Virtue has been at WSOC since September 2009. She first worked at a television station in Rock Island, Ill. She then worked in Albany, N.Y., before moving to Charlotte.
Virtue said meteorologists often have to relocate if they want to advance in the field. During that journey, weekend work is quite commonplace.
She’s had to work during Thanksgiving and other holidays.
“You have to work all the time,” Virtue said. “It’s a very interesting job, but it’s not easy.”
Still, Virtue said she enjoys meteorology. She describes her task as telling viewers what’s going to happen before it happens. But false predictions sometimes lead to angry viewers.
She told the ILMS sixth-graders that she’s gotten several e-mails from people who were frustrated about an incorrect forecast.
“I’m trying to predict the future,” Virtue said. “But we get it wrong sometimes.”
Weather patterns
Virtue invited several students to help her with an exercise that explains how molecules affect air pressure. More molecules result in greater air pressure.
She explained how the Earth’s constant rotation and tilt create the seasons. During winter months, Virtue said it’s hard to predict the type of precipitation – whether it will be snow, sleet or rain.
Virtue told the students that flooding causes more deaths than any other natural disaster because a flood can happen anywhere.
“Water creates a rushing river,” she said.
Tornadoes and hurricanes are also dangerous, Virtue said. Tornadoes pack faster winds while hurricanes cover a lot more area.
“They’re very dangerous, but in different ways,” she said.
Sixth-grader Coda Fontaine said he could see himself going into meteorologist. Virtue’s visit gave him new insight, he said.
“That would be awesome,” Fontaine said. “I’ll think about it.”
Jeffrey Carter, another sixth-grader, said he enjoyed Virtue’s presentation but doesn’t think he would be cut out for meteorology. The work hours are a deterrent.
“It would be too early in the morning,” Carter said.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com (803) 283-1152