Interns Work at Regional TV Network
By Edwin L. Aguirre
On the afternoon of June 1, an outbreak of tornadoes with winds exceeding 135 miles per hour struck western Massachusetts. Residents in Springfield only had about 10 minutes’ warning that a powerful twister was approaching their city. The tornadoes — the strongest to hit New England since the 1953 twister in Worcester — killed four people and left hundreds more injured or homeless.
Kristina Oakland, a 21-year-old student in UMass Lowell’s Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, was on her first day as a meteorology intern at the New England Cable News (NECN) studio in Newton when the tornadoes struck.
“It was absolutely crazy!” she says. “I rushed the alerts from the National Weather Service to NECN meteorologist Matt Noyes for his live TV broadcast. I also answered the phone and took down information the viewers were sending in. Watching the formation of the storms on the Doppler radar was amazing, but at the same time it was frightening to see the power of these tornadoes. I was one of the first to see pictures and videos from Springfield and neighboring towns before they were aired and I was speechless. It was a scary, exciting first day.”
Also interning at NECN is Heather Jaffe, who graduated from UMass Lowell in May with a degree in atmospheric sciences.
“I was in the studio two days after the tornadoes struck,” says Jaffe. “The aftermath was very devastating. Still, we are very fortunate we had such good coverage of these storms, giving people at least 10 minutes to take cover in their basements before the twisters touched down. This was my first experience dealing with tornadoes, and hopefully my last until I decide to go over to the Midwest to storm-chase!”
A Childhood Passion for the Weather
“Being accepted for a summer internship at NECN was a dream come true for me,” says Oakland, who is vice president of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the earth sciences honors society, and treasurer of the American Meteorological Society student chapter at UMass Lowell.
“I have been interested in weather for as long as I could remember,” she says. “Whenever there was a thunderstorm, I was always glued to the windows to watch it unfold. And every time I go to the Museum of Science in Boston I always had to watch the lightning show.”
In high school, she took an online course in meteorology and for a class project, she interviewed J. C. Monahan of WCVB-TV in Boston.
“After interviewing her, I knew that forecasting the weather was exactly what I wanted to do for a career,” she says. “After graduation, I plan to get a place near Boston so I can find a job at a news station as a forecaster. Maybe I’ll be seen on TV, which is my dream.”
For Jaffe, her passion for the weather started in junior high, when she became an avid viewer of the program “Storm Stories” on The Weather Channel.
“My experience so far at NECN has been phenomenal,” she says. “I am trained to perform on-the-job situations, such as keeping a close eye on the April Fools’ Day blizzard and other severe storms we had this winter, updating the forecast in the NECN website as well as its Weather New England blog
, helping make graphics that are shown on-air, producing forecasts for closed-caption viewers and analyzing weather maps and satellite images.”
Like Oakland, her plan is to break into the broadcast meteorology business.
“Hopefully, this won’t be long from now as I had already sent out seven demo tapes to various TV stations in New England,” says Jaffe.
A Fellow UMass Lowell Graduate
Jaffe has also been working with NECN meteorologist Danielle Niles, a Weymouth native who received her bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in atmospheric science from UMass Lowell in the spring of 2006 and joined the network in 2008. Niles delivers on-air forecasts of New England’s challenging, ever-changing weather mainly on NECN’s weekday broadcasts.
“Danielle and I like to talk about the professors we both had here at UMass Lowell, and how we both miss our student days,” says Jaffe. “She is very nice!”