The forecast looks bright, indeed, for this cheery new meteorologist, a Rockford native whose career has led her back to the town she loves.
Tho says you can’t go home again? That’s what Rockford native Morgan Kolkmeyer did when she joined the 13WREX weather team in July as meteorologist of the station’s noon show and 13 News Today, the morning show that airs Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
“It’s cool to have so many roots in this community,” Kolkmeyer says. “It’s a very positive thing working in my community. Rockford gets a lot of negative press, but I love this city and I want to make a difference here.”
“I’m thrilled for Morgan,” says her aunt, Sally Severson, who was a weathercaster at 13WREX in the early 1980s and now works as a meteorologist at WISN 12 in Milwaukee. “She’s got the goods – education, brains, talent – to go far in this business. The sky’s the limit for her.”
Kolkmeyer is the youngest of John and Jennifer Kolkmeyer’s two daughters. Her older sister, Mallory, is a teacher.
Kolkmeyer grew up as a focused and determined child. She started playing basketball at age 4 and played competitively throughout her teen years, including at Harlem High School, where she played shooting guard for the Huskies. Kolkmeyer took up piano at age 7 and stuck with it for seven years. “I tend to keep my commitments,” says the 2009 Harlem graduate. “I’ve always known what I like and I keep doing it.”
That includes finding her way to a career in meteorology. As an eighth grader, Kolkmeyer found herself in the eye of Hurricane Charley, during a 2004 family vacation in South Carolina, where she was awed not only by the hurricane but also a twisting tornado. She begged her Aunt Julie to take her to the beach, where the sights of whipping sand and flying shingles mesmerized her. “It was so much fun,” Kolkmeyer recalls. “That definitely sparked my interest.”
After high school, Kolkmeyer attended Rock Valley College for two years before transferring to Northern Illinois University. In 2013, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Meteorology and a minor in Applied Mathematics.
It helped that she had a love for math. At NIU, she took classes such as calculus, ordinary differential equations, engineering statistics and applied engineering mathematics. “I wanted a career that involved math, weather and public speaking,” she says. “Getting into television meteorology was sort of a given.”
During college, Kolkmeyer interned at two television stations that only fueled her passion for meteorology. One was at 13WREX and the other was at WISN, where her aunt works. “I really wanted her to have the opportunity to see what larger-market television could offer,” Severson says. “It’s different than working in a smaller market, where you might co-anchor and do the weather, as Morgan’s doing now. The early years are great training for learning to do lots of different things. Eventually, however, you stick with what you’re trained to do.”
When she graduated in May 2013, Kolkmeyer was eager to land a TV gig in her hometown, but there were no openings. Instead, she packed her bags and headed north to Duluth, Minn., a six-hour drive from Rockford, where she reported the weather and some news for a year at KQDS Fox 21. It was a much different weather landscape in Minnesota.
“The entire city is built on a hill,” she explains. “There’s a big temperature difference with that kind of elevation change. The bottom of the hill could be 50 degrees and the top could be 80 degrees. And Duluth is on the tip of Lake Superior, so you’re dealing with lake-effect snow. The forecasting models could show nothing and then suddenly drop 14 inches of snow overnight. It was challenging to forecast there, but it was a good experience for me to apply those things I learned in school.”
Kolkmeyer says Rockford folks have greeted her warmly. She gets frequent calls in the newsroom from viewers who know her family members. She trades daily text messages with her doting grandmother who never misses a show, and friends also send words of encouragement. Kolkmeyer has received cards from former teachers and her dentist offered congratulations in the form of a large decorated cookie. “You have a lot of No. 1 fans with your family watching you every day,” she says. “It’s great for people who know me to see me doing what I love.”
Kolkmeyer already feels right at home maneuvering the vast technology located in the weather center. “What’s interesting to me is that the weather changes every single day,” she says. “It’s never boring, unless you get a high-pressure system, and then it’s a little boring. There’s always something to talk about, such as seeing temperatures in the upper 70s and then in the mid-40s by the end of the week. There’s also a creative aspect to the weather. It’s not just science. I get to make fun graphics and display them in a way that anyone can understand.”
Severson is impressed.
“What makes Morgan successful is that she’s the same on the air as she is in person,” says Severson. “She has a self-deprecating sense of humor and is always the first one to laugh at herself. She’s very natural. You can tell she’s interested and engaged in what she’s doing. She likes to dive into the numbers and charts, and she studies all the clues in order to tell the weather story. She’s not trying to be clownish or cute. Her delivery is straightforward, with the knowledge to back it up. That’s what people like to see.”
While some morning anchors dread the grind of working the early shift, Kolkmeyer has no problem with going to bed at 8 p.m. and rising by 2:30 a.m. to head off to work. In fact, she can’t imagine having it any other way. “I hope to work mornings the rest of my life,” she says. “I want to have a family someday, and I want to be able to attend my children’s sporting events. That’s hard to do when you work nights.”
During her free time, Kolkmeyer enjoys getting away to spend time with family and friends on a Wisconsin lake. She enjoys boating, skiing and tubing, and looks forward to snow skiing and learning how to snowboard this winter. She’s also a self-proclaimed nerd. In her downtime, Kolkmeyer likes to peruse her college textbooks, looking for things she might have missed the first time around. “You won’t catch me picking up Fifty Shades of Grey,” she says. “I like reading like my old physics book. I enjoy learning.”
It’s that type of resolve that will benefit Kolkmeyer throughout her career, says her aunt. “Morgan gets better all the time,” Severson says. “She’s only been doing the weather full-time for a year, but she looks like she’s been doing it for years.” And her fans are glad to have her back home again.