SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Students in a sixth-grade science class at Broad Rock Middle School had lots of questions for Kelly Bates, and the NBC10 meteorologist happily answered them all during her visit to the school on Tuesday morning.
Bates visited the class of about 40 kids in the Sapphire Team to talk about her job, which is much more than just reading the weather forecast in front of a TV camera.
“My job is to tell the weather story,” Bates said as she stood in front of a crowded classroom. “What I do combines the science with communications.”
The National Weather Service, she said, employs more meteorologists than TV stations. They also work in a wide variety of fields outside of just TV, she said.
“There’s forensic meteorology,” she said. “If you think you had a tornado go through the back yard, they will send a team to your location, take photos, data and look at the debris. Then that’s the point when they can say if you had a tornado or not.”
Companies like FedEx, UPS and Amazon also hire and rely on meteorologists, as well as organizations like the PGA.
“If there’s a storm coming toward your golf course, you want to know,” she said.
Bates showed photos of the newsroom and her work area at the Channel 10 station, and also explained the behind-the-scenes activity at the station.
“On the weekend I go into work at 3:30 in the morning, I’m responsible for building my own graphics and making my own forecast using free weather data, and I also have to do my own hair and makeup.”
In order to display the televised weather map, Bates and other meteorologists have to stand in front of a green screen and point at nothing, while looking at the weather graphics on a monitor that’s off-camera.
The map data is then superimposed behind Bates.
“It does take practice,” she said. It’s like pointing at a map’s reflection.
The children were fascinated by not only how Bates, a veteran forecaster, uses the latest technology to get accurate forecasts. They also listened with rapt attention as she described all the different types of weather and atmospheric phenomena people in her profession encounter, including tornadoes, water spouts and blizzards.
“Weather data is kind of cool, because it is the last free exchange globally of information that we have,” she said. “If I want to, I can go on and see what the Canadian meteorological service is saying about things. I can go to Japan’s weather service page and pull data from them.”
In her work, Bates appears on-air for the noon forecasts on Thursday and Friday, as well as weekend mornings.
Sometimes, during severe events, the meteorologists at the TV station have to stay there to monitor the fast-changing weather.
“We have cots at the station and I’ve slept there on a cot a few times,” she said. “When the weather happens, you’re on.”
The students gave Bates a gift – a framed piece of mural art they made that depicts the sun, rainbows, clouds and other types of weather.
“This was a really special and exciting visit for us,” Principal Tammy McNeiece said.