Q and A with Lauren Linahan, Meteorologist at @WBRCnews in Birmingham, Al
Lauren provides forecasts for viewers of WBRCnews in Birmingham, Alabama.
While working in Columbus, she has covered Hurricane Michael and the deadly March 3rd, 2019, tornado outbreak, two of the most transformative moments of her career.
Lauren graduated from Valdosta State University with a B.S. in Environmental Geosciences and a B.A. in French in 2012. She also completed Mississippi State’s Broadcast Meteorology Program in 2017. After graduation, Lauren pursued her burgeoning interest in media while working as a tour guide at CNN in Atlanta. While there, she spent her free time shadowing the network’s meteorologists, laying the foundation for her future broadcasting career.
Lauren’s first on-air job was as a meteorologist and reporter at WTVY/WRGX, the CBS and NBC affiliates in Dothan, Alabama. One of Lauren’s favorite aspects of working in southeast Alabama was traveling to north Florida for the landfall of Hurricane Hermine, as well as covering stories focused on environmental and animal advocacy.
In her free time, Lauren indulges in Mexican and Thai cuisine and explores the Great Outdoors. But her favorite past-time is hands down a chill night in with her toothless rescue cat, Ophelia.
1. What was your most memorable weather event?
March 3rd, 2019, forever changed me both professionally and personally. The Chattahoochee Valley experienced a tornado outbreak; one EF-4 tornado, in particular, killed 23 people in Beauregard, Alabama. I’ll never forget the fear that consumed me while on air, providing live coverage of the powerful tornado as it tore across our area, seeing the debris ball and watching the tragedy unfold in real time. The hardest part was trying to compose myself and remain a source of calm for our viewers while I was internally terrified. The victims and their surviving family and friends still weigh heavily on my mind daily. James Spann always talks about how in the business of broadcast meteorology, you need to “have a servant’s heart.” That day more than ever, solidified my mission to become a better meteorologist and communicator, so I could at least try my best to prevent losses of that magnitude in the future.
2. What is your favourite and least favourite type of weather?
I grew up in Valdosta, Georgia, which is as far south as you can go before hitting Florida. Needless to say, I rarely got to experience snow (apart from during the early 1990s, when I was too young to remember vividly). Aside from the occasional flurry, I didn’t see my first real snow until I was 19 on a trip to visit family in Salt Lake City. So, I have a greater appreciation for the beauty of snow since I rarely experience it; however, I would rather forecast for severe weather and hurricanes than a winter weather event! I also lived during Atlanta during the 2014 Snowpocalypse. So, I know it’s not all fun and games and snowflakes!
Droughts are my least favorite type of weather, though I do enjoy analyzing the climatological aspects of drier periods (rainfall, soil moisture, etc.).
3. If you weren’t a meteorologist what would you most like to be?
If I weren’t a meteorologist, I think I would be a geosciences teacher or instructor; community outreach that includes speaking to local students about the ins and outs of weather is the most rewarding part of my job. I love geeking out about the weather with them! I was a meteorology tutor in college, so school visits make me feel back in my “element.” Otherwise, I would want to work with a non-profit organization centred around conservation or climate change. I am very passionate about protecting our planet and its wildlife.
4. From a purely meteorological point of view, where would you most like to live?
I honestly love living in the Southeast– home of Dixie Alley and the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. I would possibly contemplate moving a touch farther north, though, so I would have more of an opportunity to experience snow. I'm not sure if I would want to forecast winter weather regularly, though! Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind Florida to be closer to the beach and Disney World.
5. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I try to use my platform to fight the stigma of mental health. I have battled depression and anxiety for many years of my life, and I know these mental illnesses are far too common in the weather enterprise. High-stress work environments, long hours, holidays spent working, and opening yourself up to criticism in the public eye– our passions which have turned into careers can unknowingly take a toll. Through therapy, an antidepressant, and acquiring an arsenal of tools to help me cope (meditation, yoga, journaling), I have come a long way in my struggles with mental illness, and I hope to continue to be a resource for others who are fighting the same silent fights. I always try to remind myself and others: You are not alone. You are worthy. And you are more than your career.
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