Bright Forecasts: First jobs of weather gurus

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

NEW YORK, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Looking at the weather and other natural phenomena these days, it seems the only thing that has yet to occur is a plague of locusts.

Hurricanes have devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean, leaving countless communities dealing with devastation, flooding and lack of power and basic necessities.

In the aftermath of the storms, one group of people shot to prominence in living rooms around the country due to media interviews: the nation's meteorologists.

We talked to a few of these familiar faces about how they got their starts in life, and what they did before they began tracking the whims of Mother Nature.

GINGER ZEE

ABC News Chief Meteorologist and author of Natural Disaster. I Cover Them. I Am One"

First job: Bussing tables

My first job was at the University Club of Grand Rapids, a country club in the city, bussing tables at weddings. I loved the beautiful flowers and happy people, but I also loved watching the open bar turn into a drunken fiasco many times.

As I became a waitress and eventually a bartender at these weddings, I learned to perform. I learned crucial social interactions that help me still today. My boss was tough on us all, and I loved that. It made me work even harder.

But there was one wedding I will never forget. It was the first time I was given the task of holding the champagne for the bride and groom and entire wedding party before the toast. Their toast was done on the dance floor. With my small round tray, I carried eight regular champagne glasses, along with two carefully filled Waterford crystal glasses that were heirlooms of the brides.

As the toast began, the wedding party rushed in to grab their drinks, and the tray started to quiver and eventually crashed to the floor. The heirloom glasses shattered on the dance floor. It was horrific. Grandmas were gasping, the bride was crying. After that, I never dropped a tray again.

STEPHANIE ABRAMS

Meteorologist, The Weather Channel

First job: Hallmark store

My first job was working at a Hallmark store back at home in Wellington, Florida after my freshman year at the University of Florida. I think I made around minimum wage, but I remember being so excited to be making my own money for the first time. Im still a big card-giver to this day.

JANICE DEAN

Senior Meteorologist, Fox News; author, "Freddy the Frogcaster"

First Job: Clothing store

I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, and I remember wanting to be of age so I could finally get a paycheck. I ended up working at a clothing store called Dapper Dans - I don't think they even had enough money for an apostrophe.

I also got a job at the local city hall in bylaw enforcement. I had to deal with complaints about long grass or barking dogs, and make sure building codes were up to par. I took calls from a lot of angry people. Some people even say I got my broadcasting career from those days, because I talked all day with bylaw officers over the CB radio.

One year I even got to be an enforcement officer, complete with a special outfit. But I was way too afraid to catch any dogs. If I saw a dog on the loose, I would just pretend I didn't see it.

JEN CARFAGNO

Meteorologist and Host, The Weather Channel

First job: Lifeguard

I worked as a lifeguard at a neighborhood pool in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philly. The weather could make or break whether I even got a paycheck that day, so it became extremely important to me.

Even then I was a real weather geek, and my boss knew it. One day he got me a 'sling psychrometer,' which measures the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. I would always include that in my pool logs, along with data like chlorine levels and cloud cover. I could never stop talking about the weather.

That first job taught me the importance of record-keeping. When I think about today and how I forecast, I'm always watching for trends like that, because it points you in the direction of what is going to happen next. Just look at my phone: I have more pictures of the weather than I do of my kids.

I still have a sling psychrometer, by the way. The people at work call me the 'Dew-Point Diva.'

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum)

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