TV Meteorologists Face Heavy Weather Together

Sarah Wrobelewski in the studio
Sarah Wroblewski ’05 in the WBZ-TV studio

By Katharine Webster

Some of the most familiar faces on television news in New England are graduates of UMass Lowell’s meteorology program, including Sarah Wroblewski ’05 on WBZ-TV and Shiri Spear ’07 on WXFT, both in Boston. 
That wasn’t always the case. Barry Burbank ’72, who presided over the weathercast at WBZ for 40 years, was for a long time the only UMass Lowell meteorology alum on TV. In 1993, Michael Haddad ’90 began forecasting for WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he is now chief meteorologist.
Then in 1996, an inspiring young colleague of Burbank’s at WBZ, Mish Michaels, was invited to teach the first broadcast meteorology class at UMass Lowell. Since then, a steady stream of graduates has gone on to television meteorology careers, helping each other through internships, mentoring and networking. Many are women in a field still largely dominated by men, and Wroblewski credits Michaels, who died in 2022, for much of that.
“Mish Michaels was a powerful force,” she says. “She flew into hurricanes. She climbed Mount Washington. She won a number of Emmys, and she was flawless in my mind. She inspired me to always push myself to do better. I feel fortunate that I get to follow in her footsteps.”
Now, Wroblewski and other alumni teach and mentor the next generation of aspiring broadcast meteorologists, like senior Victoria Wisniewski. She came to UMass Lowell from New Jersey, sight unseen, largely because of that record of alumni success in television. 
On social media and through events hosted by the campus chapter of the American Meteorological Society, Wisniewski has been able to ask Wroblewski, Spear and Houston-based meteorologist Lena Maria Arango ’19, ’20 about their career paths.
“They’re an inspiration; it’s the drive that they have,” says Wisniewski, who interned at WCVB in Boston over the summer. “I saw that they did this; they took this path. And if I take that path and mold it to what I want to do, then I can get that.”
Other recent broadcast alumni include David Bagley ’15, freelancer for NBC-10 in Boston and New England Cable News, and Arielle Whooley ’15, formerly at WCBD in Charleston, South Carolina. Here are some of their stories.

Sarah Long ’97
WMTW, Portland, Maine

Sarah Long broadcasting from atop Mt. Washington
As a senior atmospheric science major, Sarah Long ’97 took that very first class in broadcast meteorology with Michaels. 
Then she got a job as a weather observer at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire, where she’d interned as a student. “I did not like talking in front of people,” Long says, laughing. “So going to the top of an isolated mountain seemed perfect.”
She helped with research, led school tours and prepared high peaks forecasts, sometimes phoning them in to radio stations. When she climbed down the mountain for good, it was the broadcasting experience that stuck with her. “Radio got me into a groove of creating a weather story, taking the science and turning that into something that’s digestible,” she says. 
With Michaels’ help and encouragement, she got a part-time job as a TV forecaster at a station in Bangor, Maine, moved on to full-time work for Sinclair Broadcasting Group in Portland, Maine, and now works at WMTW, the ABC affiliate in Portland. 
  • Firsts: “I was the first woman to become chief meteorologist and then summit manager at the Mount Washington Observatory. As far as I know, I’m the first woman from UMass Lowell to become a TV meteorologist.”
  • Career Change: “I’m wearing Carhartts and fleece, and now I’ve got to buy heels and wear a dress.”
  • Future Forecast Unknowns: "Aging on air. Will I continue to be valued as a voice with experience if I’m up there in my 50s with my gray hair flying?”
  • The UML Advantage: “Being so close to Boston. There are so many internship opportunities, not just in television, but also at private firms and in research.”

Terry Eliasen ’97
WBZ-TV, Boston

Terry Eliasen ’97 was also in UML’s first broadcast meteorology class. Unlike Long, he went straight into television, but as a weather producer. “I’ve had plenty of news directors try to get me to go on TV, but I like being behind the scenes,” he says.
He spent four years at WHDH in Boston after interning there, and then moved to WBZ, where he had also interned as a student and been mentored by Burbank and Michaels. 
Eliasen is now WBZ’s executive weather producer. He works on forecasts, decides on weather and climate change stories that merit additional news coverage, creates graphics and writes online posts. 
He also helps to manage a volunteer network of more than 500 “Weather Watchers” who help WBZ make forecasts as accurate as possible — for example, mapping the “rain-snow line” during winter storms.
And he helps with internship and hiring decisions. “I’m looking at résumés, looking at the next talent to come out of UMass Lowell that we might want to hire,” he says.
  • Life-Changing Weather Event: “1985, Hurricane Gloria. The eye went right over Central Massachusetts. My uncle and I ran outside, and the sun was out.”
  • UML’s Secret Strength: “I loved the teachers. I spent a lot of my extra time with friends in the meteorology program doing homework in Prof. Frank Colby’s classroom.”
  • Biggest Industry Change: “The accuracy of our forecasting has gotten so much better, but it’s almost overload—there’s so much data.”
  • Long-Term Forecast: “We haven’t had a big hurricane make landfall since the 1950s. I feel like the biggest storm is yet to come.”
    Terry Eliasen and Sarah Wrobolewski in the WBZ studio

Sarah Wroblewski ’05
WBZ-TV, Boston

As a student, Sarah Wroblewski ’05 interned at WBZ in fall 2004, where she was mentored by Michaels and Eliasen—and then went right to work for WBZ in January 2005.

After a couple of years, though, she took a full-time job with a private weather forecasting and technology firm in Andover, Massachusetts, Weather Services International (now The Weather Company; see story on page XX), while continuing to work part time and freelance.

In 2011, she went back to full-time TV meteorology at WXFT. After more than six years there, she returned to WBZ, where she rejoined Eliasen and former UML women’s soccer teammate and friend Danielle (Niles) Noyes ’06. She’s now both a meteorologist and climate reporter (check out a day in her life, on page XX).

She returns to UMass Lowell frequently to inspire meteorology students and women student-athletes. Several years ago, she and Noyes co-taught a class in broadcast meteorology.

Biggest Challenge: ““The hardest part is that challenging winter storm forecast. It can be nerve-wracking when there looks to be a big storm several days in advance, and there’s still a chance it may fizzle—or that fizzling storm explodes.”
Biggest Responsibility: “I feel responsible for people to be safe. That’s my job. When I'm covering tornadoes, I have to be as serious as possible about safety. I really want people to be prepared.”
Giving Back: “Whenever a student reaches out to me, I try to be kind. When I first started, I had a female icon to look up to, and I want to be that for other people, too.”

Lena Maria Arango ’19, ’20
KRIV, Houston

Lena Marie Arango on the Houston waterfront
Lena Maria Arango ’19, ’20 got an internship at WXFT, where Wroblewski and Spear taught her the ropes, while completing a graduate degree in meteorology and atmospheric science through the bachelor’s-to-master’s program.
Like Spear, she got her first television job in Western Massachusetts, but at a different station: WGGB/WSHM, where she did a few promotions in Spanish. Networking, and her bilingual abilities, opened doors for Arango, and after just a year in television she was invited to join KRIV in Houston. 
Now, she forecasts hurricanes, floods and droughts in English on air and in Spanish for a twice-weekly, digital weather program she helped to develop. “I jumped from the No. 114 market in the U.S. to the No. 7 market,” she says. (The Boston-Manchester area is No. 9.)
As part of her job, Arango visits locals school frequently. She also makes herself available, long distance, to UMass Lowell students like Wisniewski. She especially tries to encourage girls and students of color to study math and science.
“It’s incredibly important to have a mentor, be a mentor and bring up the next generation,” she says.
  • Value of a Master’s Degree: “It expanded my ability to conceptualize the complexities of the atmosphere.”
  • Value of Experience: “Over time, I’ve learned the nuances of the area where I live now. A lot of it is pattern recognition.”
  • Houston Weather: “The biggest thing here is the humidity. It can be like trying to breathe through a wet washcloth, but you get used to it.”
  • Houston Vibe: “I love living here! The food is incredible, there’s so much to do and see, and people are so welcoming and inviting.”
Editor’s note: Shortly after this issue went to print, Lena Maria Arango ’19, ’20* left her role at KRIV and joined a consulting firm.

Shiri Spear ’07
WXFT, Boston

Shiri Spear broadcasts from the beach
Shiri Spear ’07 gave birth to her first daughter just as she was starting the second year of her master’s degree program in atmospheric science. She missed the first week of classes.
That wasn’t the only side excursion on her path to a television career, but she always kept her eyes on the prize. “As a child, I remember thinking, ‘I want to bottle up everything there is to know about weather and drink it all,’” she says.
Spear studied atmospheric science at McGill University in Montreal for two years before returning home to Hollis, New Hampshire, to marry her high school sweetheart. He was in the Marine Corps, so she kept studying math and science while living at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. 
After her husband was deployed to Iraq, she came home again and earned a bachelor’s degree in math education at Rivier University in Nashua, New Hampshire, and then went straight to UMass Lowell. 
Despite being a new mom, she finished in two years and did an internship at WBZ. “Terry Eliasen taught me everything I know — he and Sarah Wroblewski, who then became a colleague” at WXFT, Spear says. “It’s a very small community.”
She worked in Springfield, Massachusetts, for three years and in Miami for two before coming “home” to WXFT.
  • UMass Lowell’s Superpower: “The accommodations that were made for me. I was a TA, and I remember [Prof. Emeritus Arnold] O’Brien burping the baby when I was grading papers. It was so much more than just learning about atmospheric science; it was about learning how to treat people.”
  • Biggest Industry Change: “People used to accuse us of being political when we talked about climate change. Now, more people are interested in it and want to know what they can do.”
  • Geographical Challenge: “Forecasting was so difficult in Florida. Everything I thought was the formula in New England just got completely thrown out the door.”