In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, where new KDFW/Channel 4 meteorologist Alberto Romero, was born and raised. He was 8 years old at the time, and he had a revelation.
"I walked outside and saw what a Cat-5 hurricane did to my city, and I wanted to know the science," says Romero, who joined the Fox 4 weather team in January. "I wanted to know the why and how it happens, and to have an understanding of what took place. "
Seven years later, Romero and his family moved to Fort Worth, where he was a student at Fossil Ridge High School. The North Texas weather, volatile in a different way from Florida's, continued to arouse his interest.
"I got exposed to North Texas severe weather — the severe wind, the hail, the tornado threats," Romero says. "That kinda sealed the deal for me."
In his junior year, he promised his mother that he was going to be a weather forecaster. But he took a different route than a lot of TV meteorologists: the military. He researched which branch of the service would provide the best college opportunities for him and discovered that the Air Force has a "forecaster" job title.
"So I spoke to my recruiter and said, 'The only way I'm going in is if I get guaranteed this job,' " Romero says. "His response was, 'If you score high enough on the ASVAB [Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery] test, you can have whatever job you want.' "
Romero took the test, got the forecaster position and left for boot camp in summer 2004. His weather training was at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi — where he would get another up-close look at a Category 5 hurricane when Hurricane Katrina struck. The base suffered a lot of damage and troops had to be evacuated. But some, including Romero, stayed behind to help hurricane survivors nearby.
"They asked for 50 volunteers," he says. "I remembered, when I was 8 years old back during Hurricane Andrew in Miami, the National Guard helping us out, so I thought it was my place to return the favor. So I volunteered to stay behind for the humanitarian relief efforts in Biloxi, which earned me the Humanitarian Service Medal from the military. That was a great, great experience, a very humbling experience."
His Air Force training led to more than 80 semester hours of meteorological college credit. It was a long process, especially because he was deployed to Afghanistan twice. He got out of the service in August 2012, continued taking online classes with the Mississippi State meteorology program, and received his bachelor of science in geoscience in 2015 (he also has an associate's degree in applied science in meteorology).
Before Fox 4, Romero had been with CBS affiliate KYTX in Tyler since 2015, and he also did a stint at the now-defunct Texas Cable News in Dallas (and interned under WFAA/Channel 8 chief meteorologist Pete Delkus). He talks about his experiences as an Air Force forecaster and his transition to TV in this edition of "Meet the meteorologist."
Before the green screen: "I had a short stint as a [dental tech] at Next Century Dental off of Denton Highway. I was 18-19 years old, it was just something to pay the bills." (I note my admiration for dentists, who make their living looking in other people's mouths, and Romero chuckles: "You need a strong stomach sometimes for that.")
First green-screen experience: "It was weird, it was definitely different having to look at a monitor while having to point at something, not knowing exactly where it was at. Definitely a big learning curve. The biggest learning curve was being able to give the weather with personality. I had become used to giving weather updates for mission briefings in the military, and it was a no-jokes, 'Yes sir, no sir, weather operations are good to go ...' Going from a very dry weather presentation to being more animated and more bubbly — that was probably the biggest learning curve for me."
On forecasting weather in Afghanistan: "People always ask me, 'So what was it like in the desert?' But the part of Afghanistan I was in was very mountainous and rocky terrain. Not much of a desert. I would have to forecast for snow at different elevations in Afghanistan because the mountain ranges there are anywhere from 13,000 to 15,000 feet. It's very tricky to forecast, because we don't have a lot of data for that area because the Taliban got rid of all the climatology. They think that forecasting the weather is some kind of sorcery, so when the Taliban took over, they got rid of all the weather-climate information."
On the challenges of Air Force forecasting: "The Air Force issues their own watches, warnings and advisories for Army and Air Force installations across the globe. When I was with the 26th Operational Weather Squadron in Barksdale [Louisiana], I issued a tornado warning for Crawford [Texas] when President Bush was in town. We issued our own warnings ... separate from what the National Weather Service issues. It's not, 'Hey, there's a chance of rain on Saturday, take your kid's birthday party from outside to inside.'
"You need to know the front levels you can fly in where you won't leave a contrail behind, therefore your jets won't be visible to the enemy. Or, 'avoid this area for turbulence.' You forecast for turbulence, you forecast for icing, for visibility. Especially in Afghanistan, where our helicopters are not pressurized, so they're not able to fly over the mountains. They're forced to fly through the valleys. When it comes to low ceilings, low clouds, that can hurt them because they have to fly even lower, which makes it easier for them to get hit by enemy fire."
On handling severe weather: "You don't want to oversell it, in the event that it does not happen. But at the same time, you want to make sure that you give the most accurate information out there. We may not be the first ones to get the information out there, but we do our best to make sure we get the most accurate information, in order to not incite panic."
Favorite weather song: "[Thinks about it for a minute] I guess 'Rock You Like a Hurricane.' I like it because Hurricane Andrew is what got me into weather to begin with and then I lived through Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi. Hurricanes have been my 'mix' weather." [Fox 4 chief meteorologist Dan Henry, overhearing this, chimes in that his favorite weather song is the Rolling Stones' "Get Off of My Cloud."]
Favorite weather movie: "I'm going to have to go with the classic: 'Twister.' I guess I love it because it was the first of its kind, and back in the '90s, when people didn't understand how radar exactly works, it kind of opened a page to that part of the weather world."
Secret life of a meteorologist: "I try to take advantage of good-weather days as much as possible, but I also try to take advantage of rainy days when we're not experiencing ice or severe weather, because it's nice to snooze on the couch for a little bit during a shower or thunderstorm. When the weather is dicey, we're called in to cover it, but I actually prefer a nice rainstorm once in a while. ... But I like anything outdoors that gets me out of the office, because we're in the office or our studio and most of them have no windows, so anything that can get me outdoors is definitely my hobby."