August 2019

Kris Allred: The Face of Your Forecast

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

If you are like most people, you probably tune into the weather report at least once a day. While you can always do a quick, on-the-go check via your trusty weather app, there’s something more personal about watching it reported live on local TV. For many of us who live in the Lowcountry, Savannah’s WSAV TV chief meteorologist Kris Allred is the face of our daily forecast.

In September 2018, 420 attendees at the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island’s fall luncheon at the Sonesta Resort got to meet Allred in person and hear her inspiring keynote speech. Our CH2 team was so impressed, we decided to make a trip over to the weather station to see her in action and hear more about her background and what her job entails.

Meet the real Kris Allred
When you see Allred smiling back at you in HD, you may have a sense that you know her. It’s as if she’s right there in your living room, talking about the weather. And she sort of is, because when she’s on camera, she thinks of her delivery as a one-on-one conversation. Her natural communication skills were developed, she said, when working at her dad’s truck stop in the summers, where she talked to every kind of person, from truck drivers and motorcycle gangs to the governor of Alabama. “I learned how to talk to anyone, and I also learned that everyone is worth knowing,” she said. It helped, too, that her mom was a high school English teacher who insisted on perfect grammar.

Allred said she’s had two passions in her life: baton twirling and weather, in that order. She is a former member of the University of Alabama’s Crimsonettes, and before that, she was a world champion twirler.

She’s also a single mom of two and one of only 30 female chief meteorologists in the nation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication, telecommunication and film from the University of Alabama and a master’s degree in meteorology from Mississippi State, known for its one-of-a-kind meteorology program. (Twenty students were selected from all over the country, and out of those, Allred was one of two females to make the cut.)

Born and raised in Alabama, when she was an intern, Allred was told she had to lose her Southern accent. “I went to a speech coach two summers in a row, and I did. And that was not an easy accomplishment,” she said.

She started her career in Omaha, Nebraska (“right in the middle of tornado alley”), reporting soft news like parades and ribbon-cutting ceremonies and doing the weather on weekends. Moving into hard news (murder trials, terrible accidents, bank robberies), she found the job depressing and left at the end of her three-year contract.

Next, she went to Grand Rapids Michigan. “They had every weather tool known to man. It was like a dream come true. But they also have lake-effect snow!”

When the chief position came available in Savannah, Allred went for it, and after an intense interview process, landed her ideal job, with reliable hours in her preferred area—plus she’s in charge. And it’s that kind of focus and drive that is evident in every area of Allred’s life, including her family life: She doesn’t give up!

When her son Eli was diagnosed with autism at age two, experts never expected him to speak. Determined not to let his diagnosis define him, Allred’s research and persistence paid off. Eli has recently finished Stem Academy in Savannah and ranked in the 98 percentile in math, not just at his school, but in the entire United States. He has been accepted to Savannah Arts Academy with a focus in film studies, and yes, he talks.

Allred’s daughter Carson attends Garrison School for the Arts. She’s a straight-A student, a competitive dancer and, according to her mom, “a little perfectionist,” who already has her life mapped out.

As we got to know Allred over the course of our visit, it became increasingly clear how this ambitious young woman has shaped her own life around the possible, allowing her children to do the same, through hard work and determination with a great deal of passion.


Kris Allred chats with writer Linda Hopkins in the WSAV TV studio.

More than a pretty face in front of a green screen
There is an old stereotype attached to women who report the weather on TV, sometimes referred to as “weather girls,”—a characterization most female meteorologists begrudge. We quickly found out there’s a lot more to forecasting the weather than dressing up and pointing at a map. We asked Allred to show and tell us what goes on behind the scenes.

Linda Hopkins: What does it take to become a chief meteorologist?
Kris Allred: I was in school six and a half years. I can’t even begin to describe the number of math and science classes involved. It’s no joke. It’s definitely a hard degree to get.

LH: What challenges do you face that most male meteorologists don’t?
KA: I get more remarks about what I’m wearing than anything else. A man can wear the same suit and tie for a week and no one’s going to notice. Eleven years ago, I was told I could only wear suits, and they had to be a dark color—no pastels. I was told I couldn’t point with my finger because that’s too feminine. It’s still an issue. As females, we still don’t really know what our place is in terms of anything that is scientific or a management role.

LH: What’s it going to take to change that?
KA: I think girls have to be told that they can do it; it’s okay to like it and be good at it. But then, once a girl gets past that step, does she really want to put herself out there to be told, “You’re not pretty enough today?”

LH: Did your former years of baton twirling play into your performance confidence?
KA: I think so. But it’s like any other job. Some days you have more confidence than others. Some days you have to really dig down and go, “I’m good at this; I know what I’m doing”—especially if you get a negative email.

LH: Give us a rundown on what goes into the forecast.
KA: It doesn’t start when I walk in the door. I’m looking at stuff from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. I’m checking to see if I was right. Is it doing what I said it would do? If it is, why? If it isn’t, why? When I arrive at the station, I start fresh, looking at computer models. What it looks like is a big math problem. Once I pick the numbers and what I’m going to do, we put all the data in online so it goes onto our maps. We have to build the maps. I have to write an article for the website. I have to post on social media. We also shoot what we call sells; let’s say you are watching [another program], I might come on and say, ‘It’s turning cold tonight.’ We have to shoot all that. From the moment I walk in the door, I’m busy.

LH: What do you think might surprise your viewers?
KA: One thing people often don’t realize is that the broadcast is all live. The anchors read a script. There is no script for weather. Also, when you stand in front of the camera, everything is flipped. When you raise your right hand, it looks like your left. That’s not something you can just walk up to and do all of a sudden. It takes a lot of practice. And because you are ad-libbing, even the smallest distraction can throw you off.

LH: What makes local weathercasting different from the national forecasts?
KA: I think when you are forecasting for where you live or where you are, you have a different relationship in its entirety. You’re connected to the people, and you just care about it more. I’m not saying that the forecast would be any more or less accurate, but you have a different passion.

LH: How did you initially get interested in weather?
KA: My interest started because my grandfather had an aneurism and eventually had to have his leg amputated. Any time the weather would change (this was when I was in high school), he would get phantom pain. When assigned to write a term paper, I chose to write about how the weather affects you physically and psychologically. That was when I realized this is way cooler than I thought it was going to be. Then I started watching local news and paying attention to who was giving the local weather. This was something I could see myself doing. I was 17 years old, and now I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

LH: Talk about hurricane forecasting.
KA: Well, it’s changed—the reaction, social media, what people have access to—all of it has changed with each storm we’ve covered. With Matthew, it was so new, everybody just wanted to know what to do. Then came Irma. From our perspective, people on social media were angry: “How could this happen again?” and “Don’t scare us.” But then it did happen. With Florence, the models were everywhere. We were telling everyone in the area, two or three days out, to get ready. So, there were a lot of jokes about who was right and who was wrong. With Michael, it seemed like people were very calm.

LH: What part was scariest?
KA: With Matthew, for several hours, I was the only meteorologist here. [Allred provided 17 straight hours of live storm coverage during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.] It was the anxiety of can we do it? Are we going to lose power? Are we going to be okay? I never went outside and looked. I thought if I did, it would be too real, and I would get too upset. And I’m glad I didn’t. When it was all said and done and I drove down Victory Drive to Ardsley Park, I just burst into tears. It looked like a bomb had gone off.
LH: What makes you passionate about your job?
KA: From a prediction standpoint, whether it’s a calm or stormy day, you just want to be right. And you learn from it. You kind of get to be a scientist behind the camera, and then you get to perform!

LH: How do you feel when you see yourself on camera?
KA: It depends. Like everybody else. Some days your hair looks better. Some days you’ve put on a couple of pounds. I had a condition that required me to take steroids for 19 months, and I gained 15 pounds. For someone who is five-foot-two, it’s a lot. That was hard. I didn’t want to look at myself.

LH: As a female chief, what has the response been from your viewers?
KA: At first, I got a lot of mean emails. One viewer said, “A weatherman should be a man.” But as I began to track storms and gain respect, the mean emails subsided. I started to point with my finger and wear dresses! Now I wear any color I want—including pink.

LH: Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or things you like to do?
KA: Being a single mom, it’s hard. I enjoy working out, running, doing anything physical. And I like participating in local events. But to be honest, between taking the kids where they need to go and work, what is down time?

LH: What’s the best advice you’ve been given—something that might be beneficial to our readers?
KA: When I look at the camera, the best advice I was ever given is to think of the one person who built you up the most. I tell kids and adults this. You can use this every day in any situation. Visualize the person who makes you feel the best about yourself, and you will come across differently. 

Catch Allred on air at WSAV News 3, reporting daily at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Learn more about the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island and find out who their next exciting speaker will be by visiting www.wahhi.com.

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