Scott D. Pierce: BYU grad sort of accidentally became a big-time TV weather forecaster

Amy Freeze — yes, that’s her real name — is a star at Fox Weather.

(Fox Weather) Utah native and BYU grad Amy Freeze anchors "Weather Command" on Fox Weather.

When Amy Freeze talks about the weather on TV, you can feel her enthusiasm. She loves what she’s doing — even though it’s not at all what she thought she’d be doing when she graduated from Brigham Young University in 1995.

“No, not at all,” said the host of “Weather Command” on Fox Weather. “A lot of people say, ‘Well, I wanted to be a meteorologist since I was 5 years old.’ I wanted to be a veterinarian.”

And then, when she got to BYU, she was working toward a journalism degree, “but I fell in love, like most co-eds do.” She got married nine months before graduating, “and so in order to finish school faster, I switched from a [print] journalism track to a broadcast track.”

Her then-husband took a job in Los Angeles, and she got an internship at KTLA’s morning news show. “I was there during the O.J. Simpson trial,” she said, “and it was really a great experience. I learned a lot.”

When her husband started grad school in Oregon, Freeze, then 21, got a part-time job at KPTV in Portland as a newswriter. One day, she was “goofing off” on stage, helping the tech staff check the lighting, when a consultant saw her and told the news director she should be on air. She was hired to be the entertainment reporter. And a couple of months later, the station’s main meteorologist had to have heart surgery “and they said, ‘Amy Freeze, you should be doing the weather!’” Because of her name, and despite the fact that she “knew nothing about the weather.”

Freeze quickly enrolled in an introduction to meteorology class at Portland State, and kept taking classes in the field. “I did like it a lot,” she said. “I really enjoyed it.” When she asked one of the KPTV executive producers if she could have some time off for midterms, “he said, ‘Amy, you have a nice smile. You have a good personality. You don’t need to keep taking the classes. You’re going to get the opportunity.’ But I didn’t listen. And I kept taking the classes.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in geosciences from Mississippi State University in severe weather and forecasting, and a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Pennsylvania.

After Portland, she moved to Denver, where she worked at both KWGN and KMGH. Then it was on to NBC-owned WCAU in Philadelphia, where she was both a meteorologist and co-host of a weekday entertainment show — and sometimes filled in on “The Today Show.” In Chicago, she was the first female chief meteorologist at WFLD. Then it was on to New York, where she was a meteorologist at ABC-owned WABC — and sometimes filled in on “Good Morning America.”

Utah-born, Indiana-raised

“I am a BYU baby!” Freeze said with a laugh. Her mother, Linda, is from Provo, and is the descendant of pioneers who crossed the plains. Her father, Bill, was raised in Indiana, and in 1970 was looking for a college where he could play football. He was thinking about Kent State, but his mother didn’t want him to go there after four students were shot and killed during anti-war protests earlier that year.

“And my grandmother’s friends said, ‘You know what? You should send him to Utah. They don’t let the Mormon kids do anything out there,’” Freeze said. So her father went to BYU to play freshman football. He hadn’t been there long when he and a group of othrr young men went “up in the mountains” where they were doing “quick draw” with handguns. “And my dad shot himself in the leg,” Freeze said. “The family joke is my grandmother wouldn’t let him go to Kent State because she thought he’d get shot, so he went to BYU and shot himself.”

Her parents met, married and became parents while they were at BYU. “And when I was 6 weeks old, they bundled me up and took me to Indiana.” She grew up in southern Indiana — in Jeffersonville, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.

“I loved it. It was such a great place to grow up,” she said. “I had a very strong southern accent. And every once in a while, when I get a little tired, that starts to come back.”

Freeze was a high school cheerleader, and she wanted to go west and keep cheering in college. But, at the time, BYU didn’t allow freshman on the cheer squad, so she got a cheerleading scholarship at Weber State and headed to Ogden. “It was a fantastic experience,” she said. “I loved living in Ogden. I loved Weber State, a great deal. I really enjoyed it there.”

At that point, her parents moved back to Provo with her four younger sisters, and her mother encouraged her to try out for the BYU cheer squad. She made the squad and transferred to BYU.

While cheering for BYU in 1993, she met and married the guy inside the Cosmo the Cougar mascot suit, who later became a yell leader. “But it was not a fairy-tale ending,” she said. After nearly two decades of marriage, they divorced. “He actually got remarried to a [former BYU] song leader.”

Freeze, whose primary residence is in New York City, owns a home in Alpine. She’s the mother of the three boys and a girl from her first marriage — sons ages 25, 22 and 14, and a 17-year-old daughter. Three of the four were adopted at birth, “and we spent most of our time moving around when I was married to my first husband.”

Determined to succeed

If you take a quick glance at Freeze’s resume, it looks like a steady rise to bigger and bigger TV markets, with increasing national exposure. But it wasn’t as easy as the bullet points might make it seem.

When she moved to Denver, she had a new baby and was planning to be a stay-at-home mom — but the family needed her to work. She went to KWGN and told them, “I’ve got to have a job,” and they turned her away three times. “And finally, on the fourth time, I said, ‘Dude, if I have to sweep the floors, I have to get a job here before I leave today.’” They hired her as the weekend weather person, and soon became host of the weekday morning show.

And she could’ve just taken the advice she got in Portland to forego further education and just rely on her looks and personality. “I kept going,” Freeze said. “If not, this article would be short — she has a nice personality and a good smile. Back to you.”

She said she learned “an important life lesson — be where you’re supposed to be and your opportunity can come. ... Now I could have said ‘no,’ or I could have not followed through on the extra education I needed. But I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Where she is today is Fox Weather, which launched just over two years ago. It’s a digital channel carried on some cable systems (although not on Comcast), DirecTV, streaming outlets including Fire TV, Roku, YouTubeTV, Tubi, Freevee, Fubo, and some digital substations of local Fox stations (although not KSTU-Channel 13 in Utah). You can also log on to foxweather.com.

Yes, it’s owned by Fox — which comes with some baggage, given the right-wing political leanings of the Fox News Channel and Fox Business channel. But Freeze is quick to point out that Fox Weather is about the weather, not politics. It’s a place to find forecasts, not a debate over global warming.

“It’s for people who want to know if it’s going to rain or snow,” Freeze said. “And for people like me who are fascinated by the weather.”

She anchors “Weather Command” Monday-Friday from 7-10 a.m. Mountain time, and she likes that, although it’s part of Fox, the Fox Weather channel is still sort of a start-up operation. “We’ve got a lot of great people here,” Freeze said. “I’m loving it.”

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