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Chasing the storm: Latinos in the National Weather Service

Posted at 4:14 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 17:14:06-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — “I come from Puerto Rico, from the Caribbean island. I went through several hurricanes some of them were traumatizing experiences,” says Meteorologist Alina Nieves.

“I grew up in east Texas. We have a lot of storms, a lot of severe weather. Being near Tornado Alley, it was something that I was used to,” says Meteorologist Christina Barron.

“Back when Hurricane Andrew affected Miami, as a young child experiencing such a powerful hurricane, that's what piqued my interest. That's what started to get me interested in weather.,” says Meteorologist Juan Carlos Peña, Jr.

These meteorologists are Latinos, forecasting the weather in the Coastal Bend with the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi (NWS). Their experiences with the weather growing up, as well as their Hispanic Heritage fuel their passion for the job.

“I wanted to know how those tropical systems work. How did they form and how can I give back to the community that had given me so much,” says Nieves.

Barron remembers finding her calling as a child watching the movie Twister. “And it said on the screen, scrolling with the TV meteorologist saying the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning. It clicked in my head and I said ‘that's what I want to do. I want to warn people.’ Like, I'm so interested in weather, but I want to make sure people are safe and that was the thing that I wanted to do. Actually, that came true a couple years back when I issued my first tornado warning.”

Latinos in the NWS are also coming together to make sure severe weather alerts are reaching the Spanish-speaking community. Nieves says “there's a lot of people in the weather service that are Hispanics, that are bilinguals. And we volunteer to do translations of media interviews for offices that don't have a Spanish speaker.”

Peña sums it up as part of the job, saying “ultimately just ties us part to our mission of just saving life and property, and just trying to do our best to serve the public in whatever language that may be.”

As for what it’s like being a Hispanic scientist, Nieves says “we're like fire you know like we, we have that Sazon, that flavor within us.”

“To tag on to what Alina said, just going for it and you know 'echando pa'lante' [pushing forward]. I mean there is no turning back,” he says.

Nieves says, “you can see it in our arts, you can see in the way we dance, and the way that we live. We just want to project that joy or that happiness that we have within us.”

To learn more about our local office of the National Weather Service, visit weather.gov/CRP