Danielle Breezy: Always Watching The ‘Next Weathermakers’

WKRN Nashville meteorologist Danielle Breezy has an exceptionally close relationship with her viewers and community, where she’s quick on the draw with life-saving information and always looking around the corner to the next impactful weather events.

At 12:40 a.m., on Monday, March 2, 2020, Danielle Breezy, chief meteorologist for WKRN, Nexstar’s ABC affiliate in Nashville, did not have the luxury of wasting seconds or mincing words. On the air, in-studio, using the Weather Company’s Max Velocity storm tracking technology, she spotted a tornado moving quickly into the market.

Breezy instructed viewers in Davidson County to follow tornado safety protocol immediately.

“Go down to the lowest level,” she said, reminding them of the appropriate measures to take. “A room with no windows, preferably a basement, a bathroom, a closet.”

She then zoomed in on the map and began listing individual street names in downtown Nashville that were in the tornado’s crosshairs. Scanning east moments later, she railed off the names of more roads in peril and pleaded with viewers who might know people living on those blocks to contact them — wake them up if necessary — and compel them to seek safety.

“It’s a large, violent tornado. Large. Violent. Tornado,” she said. “Meaning you need to get up now and get downstairs.”

When all was said and done, 25 Tennesseans were killed by tornadoes that ripped through the state across that Monday and the following day. More than 300 people were injured and 73,000 experienced power outages. Many lost their homes altogether.


But when the skies cleared Breezy wasn’t done with the crisis. Though she’d remained on the air for hours throughout the tornado touchdowns, she’d only just begun to cover them.

“You have to be there for your people, before the storm hits, during the storm and after the storm,” says Breezy, 37, who’s been forecasting weather since college at Cornell University. “People know I’m not leaving them.”

Typically, there might be a couple-days-long buildup to a tornado strike, she says. In those stretches, when Breezy’s not on the air, she pops into Facebook Live, keeping followers informed, albeit with a less-formal presentation.

“I hold my phone, I talk to them; it may not be as professional looking, but I can actually talk to the viewer and say, ‘Hi,’” she says.

After severe weather barrels through Nashville and other outlying neighborhoods, Breezy goes into field-reporter mode, finding stories of recovery and heroism. In the days after those 2020 tornadoes, subject after subject she interviewed told Breezy her on-air forecast and smartphone alerts — also enabled by Max technology, which she’s tested in its developmental phases — helped save their lives.

For her work during those dark days, and the brighter ones that followed, as community members inspiringly banded together to support each other, the American Meteorological Society named Breezy its Broadcaster of the Year. Everything in her professional life — and even some personal experiences — put her on a course to shine in those moments.

When Breezy was an eighth grader she met Philadelphia-area meteorologist Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz during a Career Day presentation. Bespectacled and famous for his bowtie, the recently-retired Schwartz explained to Breezy and her classmates some of the science behind weather forecasting. If that wasn’t enough to hook her — though it was — she says Schwartz also exhibited that on-air talent can be free to bring their own personality to a broadcast.

In addition to her work ethic and drive to always improve, Breezy says her ability to let her hair down, on the air and especially across digital platforms, has been a key to her success. She tells people when to watch out for thunderstorms, but also first-hand experiences at local restaurants when she dines out with her husband, radioman Joe Breezy. (She playfully points out marrying into that kind of family name was good for her meteorologist branding.)

Connecting with viewers in such ways, she says cultivates trust. So, when severe weather is threatening her market, Breezy is in a better position to save lives.

“It’s a good combination of professionalism, but letting people see [me] as a person,” Breezy says, adding she doesn’t mind telling viewers about her love of Costco and Wawa, too.

This approach has helped her build a stout following on social media. She has 81,000 followers on Facebook, where she connects most directly with viewers — though she also has 31,000 followers on Instagram and 23,000 on Twitter, where she interacts with consumers in comments and direct messages as well.

Creating an online community of such size also provides Breezy opportunities to get bits of news quickly, straight from viewers.

“It helps your newsroom,” Breezy says. “I’ll ask, ‘Is anyone hurt? Is anything happening? Have you lost your power? What’s going on?’ and … that’s some of the best ways to learn about things.”

In addition to her weather-related field story reporting, she connects with community members during special segments, such as her yearly “Backyard BBQ” series. Over a few weeks in the second half of summer, viewers get a chance to host Breezy, their friends and family at their homes, cooking Breezy a meal while she delivers her forecasts during the 4, 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.

Showing off her versatility, she says, gives her better job security and market equity — though she’s quick to point out that the station leaders she’s worked under throughout her career have always encouraged her to wear many hats and develop multiple skills. She’s happily obliged.

“The TV business is very volatile and I’m very blessed that I feel very secure in my job, and I love my management,” Breezy says. “They’re fabulous, but I also know that on any given day, something can change and so you need to make sure you build your own brand so people know who you are.”

Breezy also gives talks in schools on a weekly basis, she says, sometimes more frequently. She visits city schools, campuses in rural areas and everywhere in between. It’s her attempt at paying forward what Schwartz — whom Breezy later interned for and calls her “weather dad” — provided her when he visited her school nearly 25 years ago.

One of her goals with these meet-and-greets is to at least get the kids “into math and science,” if not weather, because of the opportunities such knowledge can provide. (If the mother or father of a weather-curious kid writes Breezy an email, she’ll invite them to the station and show them the ropes.) But Breezy also has safety on her mind. She says she always goes over tornado safety protocol — some of the same information she dished out late that night in March 2020 — and hopes the children she interacts with go home and urge their parents to be better prepared for such emergencies.

Breezy also collaborates with a number of local charities, including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, where, as a spokesperson, she helps promote a yearly “Dream Home Giveaway,” and the Nashville Humane Association, a nonprofit dog shelter and advocacy group, where she’s taken part in fundraising efforts. She says like everything else associated with her public profile, she attaches herself to these causes because she authentically supports them.

“When you’re a public person you have this opportunity to create positive changes in your community,” Breezy says, “and I think that’s what everyone should be doing.”

But for Breezy it always comes back to weather. She says covering “severe weather” is, and always will be, her No. 1 job. However, generally, she thinks what sets her apart from other on-air talent is her prioritizing of what she calls “the next weathermakers.” She says this approach might not work in morning broadcasts, when viewers just want to know what they’ll need when they walk out the door, but leading her segments with a weather story people will be talking about immediately and in the coming few days is what keeps viewers engaged. Otherwise, she says, they’ll tune out till the meteorologist gets to the seven-day forecast.

Her hard work and upskilling through the years, her constant interaction with viewers and her authentic, smart approach to on-air appearances has not only won her the praise of the American Meteorological Society, but also her boss.

“Danielle’s passion for delivering critical and daily weather information to our audiences is unmatched,” says Tracey Rogers, WKRN VP-GM. “She takes her job very seriously and delivers difficult information in a calm manner, which means so much to our viewers.”

Rogers characterizes Breezy as “a friend to all viewers” — something she says is “super cool” — and serves as a great “ambassador” for the station.

“The only thing equal to Danielle’s passion for people and weather is her work ethic,” Rogers says, evidenced by all her community engagement on top of her time spent just reporting the weather.

“At the end of the day you want to build a community and you want the people in your community to feel like you’re accessible,” Breezy says. “They see me out on the street, they say hi to me, or if I’m pumping gas or whatever. And I’m nice, that’s just how I am. I’m human and I want to say hi to people.”

Editor’s Note: This is the latest of TVNewsCheck’s “Newsroom Innovators” profiles, a series showcasing people and news organizations evolving the shape and substance of video reporting. These profiles examine the inception of their innovations, the tools they employ and how they’re reconciling experimental approaches to news storytelling within daily workflows. You can find the others here.

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Art Austin says:

August 16, 2022 at 11:18 am

Danielle Breezy gained her first notoriety April 15, 1998 when a tornado slammed into downtown Nashville. She continued her coverage well past her shift at Channel 2.