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Up Close with Kim Martucci, Meteorologist, WUSA Channel 9

Jamie Jones @ 10:59 PM

Originally by Dan Stillman, June 2005

This is the sixth in a series of interviews with Washington-area weather professionals.

In a sea of veteran meteorologists, Kim Martucci is the new kid on the D.C. weather forecasting block. Don't be fooled by the freshness of her face, though. Martucci, who since January has been handling morning weather duties at Channel 9, has paid her dues in the world of broadcast meteorology. recently talked with Martucci about her passion for weather, her previous on-air experiences, and her message for young girls interested in science ...

CapitalWeather: What's your favorite kind of weather?

Martucci: I'm a severe weather weenie. While I'm fascinated by all weather, nothing gets my heart thumping faster than a tornado watch box. I like the scale at which most severe weather occurs -- the mesoscale. It's just the right size and challenging to forecast.

CW: What do you remember about your first time on air?

Martucci: The first time I was on the air live was at a local cable outlet in Ithaca, N.Y. Our show was live at 5 p.m., and then it was rebroadcast every hour until midnight. I remember having to spend 45 seconds to a minute on each map -- I think I had a total of three -- because the graphics package we had was so rudimentary. We were very limited in how many maps I could show. In fact, I had to point out to a producer where I wanted various fronts to be drawn because I wasn't allowed to make my own maps.

CW: Any embarrassing moments you'd be willing to share?

Martucci: Once, in Huntsville, Ala., I had to do the weather on a "chroma ramp." Most TV stations have the meteorologist stand in front of a blank green or blue wall called a "chroma key." It's upon this blank wall where our weather maps appear on TV to be "hanging," even though in reality the wall is blank. In Huntsville we had the ability to "walk on the weather" via the chroma ramp. At the last second, during a commercial break before the main weather segment, one of the guys running camera spotted a piece of paper on the ramp that would have shown up on air if it had been left there. So, while I was standing on the ramp waiting for the commercial to end, he zipped out to grab the paper. But the commercial ended too soon, and when we came back from break the viewers were treated to me and some random guy bent over fetching a piece of paper. The best part, though, was his startled reaction when he caught himself on the TV set off to the side. He jumped up in the air and ran off, leaving me there speechless and laughing.

CW: What do you like most about the TV weather business?

Martucci: TV weather combines the best of both worlds for me -- I get to be the scientist I was trained to be and I get to talk to thousands of people about something I love.

CW: What do you like least about the TV weather business?

Martucci: When people surprise you in the produce aisle at the grocery store when you're fresh from the gym, hair a mess, and not looking your best, and then they say, "You look so much better in person!" I never know if that's a compliment or not.

CW: Do you have any storm stories?

Martucci: My first storm story is the one that got me hooked on weather in the first place. Back in 1979, as a young girl growing up in northern New Jersey, Hurricane David tore through my hometown and flung a huge weeping willow tree onto our house. I remember hiding under the covers with my sister in my parents' bedroom and running to the window after the impact. I saw twisted tree roots all tangled up and hanging from the roof above our head. But what really caught my eye was the live power lines zipping and zapping and making buzzing noises. That, quite literally, sparked my interest in weather.

CW: How has forecasting D.C. weather been different from other locations?

Martucci: I've been lucky enough to work in many locations around the country, each place with its own characteristic weather. In Huntsville, I learned firsthand about tornadoes. Buffalo brought me up to speed on lake-effect snow. Boston was home of the nor'easter. And northeast Pennsylvania, with the cresting Susquehanna, taught me a lot about flooding. I'm still learning about Washington's weather. One thing I did realize quite quickly when I started here is that D.C. and Huntsville have something in common -- a snowflake on the seven-day outlook can induce a slight panic.

CW: Do you have a favorite book? ... movie? ... TV show? ... place to visit?

Martucci: I'm looking forward to the latest Harry Potter book, due out soon. "The Color Purple" is my favorite movie. "King of the Hill" always makes me laugh. And every summer I travel to Maine -- my favorite place on the planet.

CW: What role has your gender played in both the academic and professional worlds of meteorology?

Martucci: Being a woman in this business can be, at times, lonely. I was the only female in my graduating meteorology class at Cornell. It took me a while to land a chief meteorologist position, something that I had aspired to for quite a while. While navigating the broadcast meteorology business, I kept getting weekend roles, a position a lot of women find themselves placed into. I can't speak for everyone, but I think women meteorologists want to be afforded the same opportunities as male meteorologists -- we don't want to be handed "token" positions in larger markets, nor do we want to be passed over for "chief" jobs because a news director doesn't think the public is ready for a female chief meteorologist. In the time that I've been in the business, I've seen that slowly changing. It seems that more women are in roles with more responsibility, and that trend makes me feel good.

CW: What message do you have for women interested in pursuing careers in science?

Martucci: I've spent some of my spare time with organizations involved in keeping young girls interested in math and science. These organizations include Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), Women in the Natural Sciences (WINS), and Women Empowered by Science (WEBS). Studies indicate that, for some reason, young girls in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades start to lose interest in math and science. When they drop out, or fail to take the more advanced math and science classes in high school, they do not prepare themselves for potential careers in engineering, meteorology, etc. I hope that by showing young kids, and girls especially, how much I love my job and how fun it is, that they will stick it out and not lose interest in math and science.

Check out Martucci's full bio and her recent tornado-chasing trip.

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