With spring and tornado season in full spring, I thought it’d be fun to introduce you to a weather forecaster and a few of her picture books on storms. Janice Dean, whose nicknames on her job with FOX News are “The Weather Machine” and “The Weather Queen”, is also an author of the Freddy Frogcaster series.
Before starting her career in broadcasting, Dean was a Canadian By-Law Enforcement officer. Her duties included writing parking tickets and chasing dogs Dean began her broadcasting career in Ontario, where she served as a morning show co-host, reporter, and disc jockey. She received an honors diploma from Algonquin College in Radio and Television Broadcasting. From there, she continued her career in various American locations, where she landed positions as an on-air traffic reporter, a radio co-host, entertainment reporter, and a news editor. Dean is a member of the American Meteorological Society and was awarded the AMS Seal of Approval in 2009.
ALLISON: In weather terms, how would you describe your childhood?
JANICE: Plenty of sunshine. 🙂
ALLISON: How about your adolescence?
JANICE: A few strong thunderstorms, but the rainbow always came out after the storms rolled through.
ALLISON: Why did you become a meteorologist?
JANICE: I studied journalism and radio television broadcasting in college back home in Canada, but my interest in weather goes back to being a kid when we had snow piled up to our rooftops during the big Canadian winters. I remember thinking I wanted to find out why events like this happen and watching the forecasters trying to warn people.
I was a local weather presenter right out of college on the CBC while I was a radio host, and did that part time. Back then, you could do the weather without having the meteorology background. When I was hired at Fox to be their daytime weather person, I decided it was time to go back to school and meteorology classes and study the science while working full time.
ALLISON: How did you train to become a meteorologist?
JANICE: I took one of the best distance learning programs for Broadcast Meteorologists at Mississippi State University. Many of the television meteorologists have done the same thing while they are working in the field since it’s tailored for weather broadcasters to complete the required coursework for the AMS (American Meteorology Society) Seal of Approval and the certificate in broadcast meteorology.
ALLISON: How did a Canadian end up reporting for Fox News?
JANICE: The short version of the story is I have dual citizenship (my father was American) and I moved to New York for a broadcasting job in radio, and became friends with a makeup artist that worked at Fox News. I wasn’t happy with my radio job, so she brought my “tape” (an actual VHS tape which have gone the way of the dinosaur) over to FNC, and they liked me enough to bring me over for a couple of interviews…and then eventually hired me. That was almost 12 years ago.
ALLISON: What are your top five favorites about Canada?
JANICE: I miss the food (poutine anyone?), the coffee (Tim Hortons), the chocolate (Caramilk Bars). I have wonderful friends and family that still live there, and I can’t wait to someday give my kids a cross Canada tour of some of the prettiest places on earth like:
- Banff, Alberta
- Victoria, British Columbia
- Montreal, Quebec
- Calgary, Alberta
- Toronto, Ontario
- St Johns, Newfoundland (where my mom is from)
ALLISON: What is the most exciting part about your job as a meteorologist?
JANICE: I get to see storms form and track them as they move across the country or across oceans. Thunder snow is very cool and rare even to witness. It has the same dynamics as a thunderstorm with thunder and lightning except it happens in a snowstorm. And fog is also amazing when you see it from a tower camera above covering a big city like New York. Hurricanes are one of the most fascinating systems. At their strongest, they are incredible to look at on satellite. Of course they can be devastatingly dangerous, so I would prefer to just watch them over the water and not make landfall anywhere.
ALLISON: The scariest?
JANICE: Hurricanes and Tornadoes can be very scary and that’s why I take it very seriously when I’m doing storm coverage. I want to make sure people are aware that this could be a life threatening event but at the same time be a calm and a respectful reporter. I’ve seen EF 5 tornadoes take out entire neighborhoods and Hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy completely demolish parts of the coast line. Katrina was the biggest weather event I’ve ever forecasted or witnessed. We might not ever see a hurricane like that again in my lifetime.
ALLISON: What is the most touching moment you have experienced as a meteorologist?
JANICE: Anytime there is a devastating storm, I see communities and neighbors coming together to help one another. Weather brings us together across the world, and when a storm devastates communities, a lot of times that’s when we get to see the kindness of others.
ALLISON: The saddest?
JANICE: Katrina was the biggest weather events I’ve ever covered here in the US and it devastated parts of New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama taking over a thousand lives, but the EF 5 tornado that ravaged Moore Oklahoma a few years ago is one I will never forget because it tore apart two schools, and several children died. Any weather stories that take our beautiful kids from us bring tremendous sadness.
ALLISON: Why did you decide to write books for children?
JANICE: Over the years colleagues and friends have come up to me and asked my recommendations for books about weather to give to their kids for Christmas and Birthdays. After doing some research I found out there really isn’t a lot out there for children that have a fun story line along with information about the atmosphere and the weather that affects our daily lives.
Freddy didn’t come out of nowhere, though. I’ve had an idea of a children’s book with a weather theme for years. Many of the characters and the story line came to me while I rocked my youngest boy Theodore to sleep at night. Getting Freddy the Frogcaster published was no easy feat. It took me several years and many storylines until I finally got it right. I think Freddy can be a great teaching tool along with parents and teachers to explain why a storm happens, what to do and how to be prepared.
ALLISON: Why animals as the core characters? Why a frog as the main one?
JANICE: Well, the groundhog was taken HAHA! Publishers have told me over the years that children connect well with animals when it comes to children’s books. I’ve always had a love of frogs and I remember reading somewhere that when a storm rolls through, frogs have a sixth sense and actually croak louder to warn other frogs. I’m not sure if that’s actually been scientifically proven, but it was enough for me to decide that frogs could be natural weather forecasters!