Carmichaels woman chases passion for storms

Shown is Caitlin Lawrence of Carmichaels at the American Meteorological Society’s 100th annual conference in Boston. She was chosen as one of only a few outstanding scientists across the world to present a poster project on tornadic activity.

Unlike most kids, who grew up watching cartoons, Caitlin Lawrence of Carmichaels watched the Weather Channel.

“Since childhood, I have always been fascinated by thunderstorms and tornadoes,” Lawrence said. “That’s one of the reasons why, in high school, I wanted to take a step forward and took the Advanced Earth Science course.”

The class enabled her to practice giving weather forecasts in front of a green screen, which instilled a passion.

“After taking the class, I knew this was the career for me because I loved it so much,” she said.

Years later, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology from California University of Pennsylvania, Lawrence is now a member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Through the organization she attended the 100th annual AMS conference in Boston from January 12 to 16.

Though only her second conference, the society chose her as one of only a few scientists from around the world to present a poster project, which focused on tornadic activity in Dixie Alley, during the Springs of 1983-2013.

At the conference, she also participated in oral and written interviews on her past, present and future weather endeavors, which were put on a flash drive and buried in a time capsule scheduled to be opened in 2070.

During this year’s conference, which drew 6,000 attendees at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, she attended weather-related classes like space and severe weather, and attended three tribute dinners for renowned scientists. Her parents, John and Susan Lawrence; her brother, Ben; and a friend from work, Rick Menkel, joined her for the final banquet in the Grand Ballroom.

Lawrence said she has been a proud member of the AMS and the National Weather Association (NWA) since 2006, her freshmen year of college.

In 2010, she attended her very first AMS conference, in Atlanta Georgia. There, she and Cal U were recognized as the AMS Southwest Chapter of the Year. Lawrence and her classmates participated in a tour with Nick Walker to see the Weather Channel, a highlight on her bucket list.

“Cal U has a lot to offer a meteorology student: things like storm chasing and weather conference opportunities,” she said. “It also has a very active meteorology club.”

Throughout college, Lawrence participated in different areas of meteorology and had two internships in broadcast meteorology: one at KDKA-TV and the other at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh. She was also a radio meteorologist for 91.9 FM WCAL for four years.

She was chairmen of the educational outreach committee for the university’s meteorology club, in which her team visited 40 schools and presented programs to over 3000 students on weather safety and the significance of understanding daily weather activity. Through her endeavors and community service in the field, she earned the Student Ambassador Award.

For three years at Cal U, she stormchased across the country, going as far as the Great Plains and New Mexico. In her second year at Cal, she intercepted an EF1 and an EF2 tornado on the same day.

“It was one of my most memorable experiences,” she said.

Since graduating in May 2010, Lawrence has been forecasting weather conditions for La Grande, Oregon from her Carmichaels home. She also leads online discussions about weather conditions and forecasts the possibilities of avalanches, wild fires and ice storms at ski resorts.

Currently working for the HBC Service Company in Washington, where she builds pallets used to supply area Giant Eagle stores, Lawrence continues education outreach by going out to local organizations and schools, giving presentations on weather events and storm safety.

Still “living out her dream,” she said she storm chases every chance she gets, remains an active member of AMS and NWA. In her free time she continues her atmospheric research studies.

To read Lawrence’s oral narrative from the conference, Google “AMS Centennial Home.” Follow the first link then click of the Stories tab at the top right. To see her poster project, download the AMS100 app and type in poster #1154.

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