Oregon State University

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

A Forecast of her Future

How Alumna Melissa Frey Became a Meteorologist for KEZI 9 News

Melissa Frey

Melissa Frey

A 1 a.m. telephone call jarred Melissa Frey awake. It was the news station. An earthquake had rippled across Japan, and the Oregon coast could soon be slammed by a tsunami. Frey's heart jumped. As the meteorologist for KEZI 9 News in Eugene, she knew thousands of people would depend on her message to make safe decisions and potentially evacuate.

"The reality of what had happened was a lot to take in. I was overcome with emotion but knew it was time to get to work," she said. "It's important that I communicate to people without scaring them, but with enough urgency to make sure they are safe."

Fortunately Oregonians were in good hands. Frey earned her graduate degree in atmospheric sciences from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State. On a daily basis she uses her skills to interpret computer models, satellite and radar imagery and loads of data to make accurate forecasts. That day was no different. She jumped on the computer to assess the situation for the West Coast, ready to present the information and help Oregonians brace for a potential disaster.

While the tsunami scare waned and then fizzled, the experience was a lesson in preparedness. "It was a reminder to all of us that we need to be prepared. If this happens again, I think we'll all be ready," she said.

By the Stars

Some people fall into a profession by accident. Not Melissa Frey — she made it. Growing up in Beaverton, she loved the sky and wanted to be a meteorologist.

"When I was a kid, my dad taught me about the sky. From his days as a navigator in the Air Force, he knew constellations and had spent a lot of time in the air," she said. "I was fascinated by space in general and the whole idea of the sky. I would stare at the clouds, wondering how they formed and how they moved."

She shadowed a T.V. meteorologist in high school and knew she had found her calling. But instead of majoring in science as an undergraduate, she earned her degree in communications while taking every possible course in math, physics and science.

"To do T.V. meteorology, it's important to have both sides of it, the journalism and the meteorology," she said. Knowing this fact, Frey decided to get her master's in atmospheric sciences at Oregon State.

Frey wasn't the typical graduate candidate. All her peers had degrees in physics, chemistry or atmospheric sciences, but Frey was determined. Surprisingly, instead of being cast as an outsider, she became a valuable member of her cohort. "The student camaraderie was huge. Although the classes were tough, we enjoyed getting through it together," Frey said.

Frey's dream of being on T.V. and forecasting the weather soon came true. Not long after graduating, she was plucked up by KEZI 9 News in Eugene as one of the station's meteorologists and has been there ever since.

Video

Melissa Frey video

Melissa Frey with KEZI 9 News gives a forecast of Beaver Nation. Courtesy of Melissa Frey.

A Sunny Tomorrow

Watch Melissa Frey on KEZI 9 News, and you'd think she was made for it. Equal parts charisma and class, poise and professionalism, she flits between describing why fog forms in the valley to the surging storm over the Pacific.

By the time viewers see her forecasts and decide what to wear for the day, Frey has been on the job for hours. She wakes up at about 2 a.m. – a brutal schedule for most, but not for someone who loves the job.

Frey tries to wrap a story around her forecasts, a take-away message — in addition to the seven-day forecast – that will stick with viewers. "My forecast story has a beginning, middle and an end. It has a theme. And that's where my communications skills come in," she said. "For example, my story for today is that the winter rain and mountain snow is back, and given the lack of rain and snow we've had this season, this is a major change. So dust off the rain jacket and chains if you're headed to the Cascades, but also know this could be a good thing long term."

Of course the job has its challenges, too. Frey must communicate the forecast in a way that most will understand, interpret correctly and also enjoy listening to.

"People can misinterpret what I say. That comes up especially with extreme weather. With snow, for example, I've learned that I have to be very specific about what I'm expecting and what is still unknown," she said.

A 100 Percent Chance

The hours are early and the stakes can be high. But Melissa Frey has successfully crafted her career and realized her goal of becoming a meteorologist. "I hope I get to do this until I retire," she said.

And while watching out for tsunamis and forecasting extreme events can pose a degree of doubt, this Oregon State alum can make one prediction with 100 percent certainty: "I will bleed orange forever."


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