Without a lot of fanfare, Lisa Villegas joined the KTVT/Channel 11 weather team in September, making her on-air debut Oct. 4 as the meteorologist for the station’s weekend-morning newscast. As noted by local-TV blogger Ed Bark, she is the station’s first female meteorologist in a few years, adding to a formerly all-male team.
“I was very excited about joining the team because I’m not replacing anybody,” Villegas says. “No one is retiring or leaving for another market. I’m just an addition to the team. People have already asked, ‘Who’s leaving?,’ and it’s great to just respond that ‘I’m not replacing anybody ... I’m just the new girl in town.’ ”
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Villegas is no stranger to Texas: she worked for KRGV, an ABC affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley. She also worked for KLFY in Lafayette, La., and has done weather work in Florida, Maine, the Canadian Maritime Provinces and elsewhere.
Villegas, a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she earned a bachelor of science in applied meteorology, says she inherited her love of weather from her father.
“He saw from a young age that I was really interested in clouds, because I’d always look up in the sky,” Villegas says during a phone interview. “He’s a pilot. so he was always talking about the planes flying by, and I’d always talk about the clouds. So he knew I had an interest there and he kind of pushed it with me. He definitely pushed the science behind the meteorology part that I feel in love with.”
We asked Villegas about a few more weather topics. This is an abridged version of the conversation.
Whether she’s a weather geek when she’s off the air: “Yes, I am! It’s actually really silly, I have all these apps and I’m always on them. I’ll get text messages from my friends, and they’ll be like, ‘What’s the weather doing?’ I’ll say, ‘Well, it’s this and this, and this model’s showing this —’ and they’ll say, ‘OK, Lisa, I don’t know what that means.’ ”
Her first green-screen experience: “Very scary. I think the first time I was on a green screen, it was in college, and I had a professor named Dr. Lou McNally who is my mentor. He gave me a 30-second green-screen time. I remember I had a Steelers jersey on, 30 seconds, a national map, and he’s like, ‘Go!’ It was the longest 30 seconds of my life. I didn’t know afterward if I could do this or not. [But] it was just getting over the initial fear of it, like being up there and not really knowing what to do with your hands, what screen do you look at, where are the monitors, how much time has passed, how many facts can you get into that 30 seconds? After the first time, you get it over with, and it’s all downhill from there.”
The hardest part of forecasting in DFW for a newcomer: “I think just learning the different counties and the city names, because that’s always the hardest part. You don’t want to mess up a city where people were born and raised.”
Most memorable weather experience: “Covering Tropical Storm Lee [in 2011]. I was by myself in Lafayette, and I was kind of surprised because my chief and morning meteorologist were like, ‘You can cover this by yourself; it’s not that big of a storm.’ It was a tropical system, and I thought that was pretty cool that I was able to cover it myself. I was able to take care of it, but I also think I did a pretty good job.”
When forecasts go wrong: “You just keep on moving. You have to push forward. It’s bound to happen. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to everybody. You have to learn from your mistakes and keep on going, because you can’t go back..”
Before the green screen: “I was a waitress for years. I was waiting tables at BJ’s Brewhouse in Daytona Beach, Fla. Before that, I worked at Applebee’s. I was a bartender for a little bit at Applebee’s, but I’d been a server since high school. I loved it. I had a great time and made a lot of friends.” [Villegas also had several non-broadcast weather jobs, and according to her CBS 11 bio, she has completed 15 years of classical ballet training and attended Pennsylvania Governors School of the Arts on a full dance scholarship, as well as having performed with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Point Park University, and touring Europe with a Michigan ballet troupe,]
Favorite weather movie: “ Twister [laughs]. It’s still the whole, ‘That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ The other weather movie that I love that I’ve seen recently was [2014’s] Into the Storm . That kind of also captures the feel.”
Favorite weather song: “I don’t really have a favorite weather song. I fall asleep to an app that has a thunderstorm mix on it, but nothing like a weather song with lyrics.”
Here’s Villegas’ KTVT audition, which took place in August, before news anchor Tracy Kornet left the station.