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Even as a little girl, storm expert loved weather

Published July 27, 2006

Michelle Mainelli is known as a hard worker who makes killer lasagna and loves chocolate.

She’s also the first female hurricane specialist in the 40-year history of the National Hurricane Center. She spoke this week with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Andrea Chang.

The first woman. What took so long?

Honestly, there’s not a lot of women who are specialized in tropical meteorology and hurricanes.

Are we making too big of a deal of you being the first female hurricane specialist?

It’s an honor being recognized, but there are three other people along with me who were hired and selected for these new positions. (The hurricane center now has 10 hurricane specialists.)

Why meteorology?

I enjoyed the weather ever since I was a little girl. Loved the weather. Loved all the different impacts in would have. As a child, my favorite part of weather was when it would close down schools for a couple of weeks with snowstorms.

Quick. What’s convection?

Convection is just a fancy term for showers and thunderstorms.

How have you trained your daughter to be prepared for hurricanes?

She understands them and she understands the threats.

What’s in your hurricane kit?

I have a very large kit. A generator in the event of power outages, hurricane shutters … lots of bottles of water, flashlights, batteries, candles, canned foods — say, tuna fish — and nonperishable foods that can last for a while.

You try to have important documents in sealed bags in the event water can get in the house. Chocolate — every woman needs chocolate.


Michelle Mainelli

AGE: 35

EDUCATION: St. Louis University, bachelor’s in meteorology; University of Miami, master’s in meteorology and physical oceanography.

EMPLOYED: 13 years at the National Hurricane Center; recently promoted to hurricane specialist.

INTERESTS: Lasagna, chocolate, 7-year-old daughter, Christina.

[Last modified July 27, 2006, 22:13:41]

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