CBS 11 meteorologist Anne Elise Parks says her mother likes to tell a story about how when she was pregnant with Anne Elise, a tornado came through very close to their Mississippi home. It took out a barn that Anne Elise’s father built.
“My older sister remembers it,” Parks says. “They all remember it. Now they kind of joke that I’m like the protector of the family, the family meteorologist.”
Parks joined the KTVT/Channel 11 weather team in July, filling a vacancy that had been open since Lisa Villegas left in the spring.
Parks says she has been interested in weather since she was a child, when the family farm provided a great view of thunderstorms rolling in. But being a meteorologist wasn’t initially something she thought of as a career.
“When you’re a little kid, people throw out job ideas, you know, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be a doctor? Do you want to be a nurse, want to be a teacher?’,” she says. “I wish that someone had said ‘a meteorologist?’ Because I think had they done that, I would’ve said, ‘Oh, yeah, a woman can be a meteorologist and go on and study the weather and tell people about it.’ ”
In high school she took a journalism class to fulfill an elective requirement. She loved it.
“They started this thing where they had a school television show, and they kind of let me be the person who would go out and interview students and be on camera,” she says. “It wasn’t until that that I had any experience with broadcast journalism, or any interest until then. I enjoyed it, it was fun, I’d talk to people and tell their story, connect in that way.”
Her older sister, who was attending Mississippi State, told her about the school’s popular broadcast-meteorology program and thought it would match Parks’ two big interests.
“She called me, when I was in high school, and said, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you’ve ever known about this program to put journalism and meteorology together, and it just made me think of you,’ ” Parks says. “When she told me that, it was like a light bulb went off. So that was my ‘a-ha’ moment, and ever since then, I’ve never looked back.”
Parks came to CBS 11 from KTVI-TV in St. Louis, where she was not only a meteorologist but a weekend-morning anchor. Before that, she was the morning/midday meteorologist for WTWO/WAWV in Terre Haute, Ind.
More in this edition of “Meet the Meteorologist”:
“As I’m training — I’m still not working on my own as a waitress yet, I’m still going through the training process — one day, in walks Dan Mullen, he’s just recently been hired as Mississippi State’s football coach. Dan Mullen and [several] people in the alumni association connected with the football program. It was about eight of them. They sit down, and I’m in charge of pouring their drinks. I was so nervous. You would’ve thought the president had just walked in. I’m a huge Mississippi State fan and all the rage was about having this new coach. ... Having to pour out that water pitcher into those glasses was terrifying.”
First green-screen experience: “[Laughs] It was horrible! It was at Mississippi State. We had a practicum course, you start taking it your junior year. Our teacher put us up, one by one, in front of the green screen and just told us to kind of go for it. I was completely confused by how it worked. Everything I was pointing at was backward. You’re looking at yourself on camera and things aren’t where you think they’re going to be when you put your arm up.
I was really off and felt really lost and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ [But] after two years of doing practicum, you go in and do a pretend forecast once a week, and it’s amazing how those two years you just really improve. You get all those reps in and it really makes a difference.”
On learning the pronunciation of Texas towns: “I’ve been careful to only say the ones I’m sure of on air. But as I’m learning them and trying to talk with the weather team off air, there have been several that I’m amazed by. Like ‘Itly’ [Italy] — it’s just weird to me is that it’s ‘Itly’ and not ‘Italy.’ Or Palestine [pronounced ‘palesteen’] — every time I say that on air, I get nervous that I’m going to say it wrong.”
On handling severe weather: “I try to just look at what’s in front of me, analyze the radar. We have a great team here that’s got my back. Severe weather has to be a team effort. And I also try to remember what’s worth hyping, and what doesn’t need to be overhyped. I think about people like my sister, who are petrified of a non-severe thunderstorm. I try to think about people like that.”
Most memorable weather events: “At my first job, in Terre Haute, Ind., the Henryville tornado came through.” (The March 2012 tornado outbreak caused such massive damage that CNN.com’s headline was “March tornadoes: One day there was a town; the next day it was gone.”)
“Henryville is just outside of our viewing area, but there were thunderstorms, supercells were barreling through our viewing area that would go on to create the Henryville tornado. I remember I was supposed to be leaving town early that day for a wedding in Mississippi, and I ended up staying behind to stay with our team and cover the storms.
We had countless tornadoes popping up. It was one of those days you don’t want to have to relive. It’s chaotic, and once you’ve gotten one storm past, another one’s brewing and it’s dropping a tornado.”
Favorite weather song: “We actually used to play weather songs on the morning show in St. Louis. So you’d pick a song that kind of matched the forecast. One of my favorites, if it was a pretty day, to jam out to, and just have fond memories of when that song was a big hit, was U2’s ‘Beautiful Day.’ ”
Favorite weather movie: “ ‘Twister.’ There are many silly things about it, but it’s still so fun. Just watching [the stormchasers] be a team day in and day out. Again, it’s unrealistic because they just have these massive tornadoes to follow all the time, and they just happen to be there.”
The secret life of a meteorologist: “I’m really into home decor and home design. I watch HGTV entirely too much. I’m into photography, travel. I definitely like to get into more of a creative side that I feel like is very different from my job that’s more science-based. There’s a creative side that’s fun to dig into on the side. And I’ve been a dancer my whole life. I was a ballerina for many years, and still miss that dearly. That’s one of my big passions, is dance.”