Meteorologist Margaret Orr: People Need To Be Smart

Credit: Facebook

The arrival of Hurricane Betsy in 1965 was a life-changing event for Margaret Orr. When Orr stepped outside the family’s uptown home to watch the storm’s eye, her father quickly rushed outside to lead her to safety. Though Camille blew the roof off their house, Orr’s fate was sealed – she would become a broadcast meteorologist.

A graduate of Louise S. McGehee School, Orr earned a degree in English from LSU. After a brief stint at a station in North Carolina, she began working at WDSU-TV in 1979 as a general assignment reporter. Orr made her future in weather official when she completed the meteorology program at Mississippi State University.

During the last 42 years, Orr rose from morning show host to weather reporter to Chief Meteorologist – a title she assumed in 2009 when renowned weatherman Dan Milan began senior status. Orr just doesn’t tell viewers how hot, cold or humid it might be, she’s a friendly face who can easily add sunshine to an otherwise cloudy day.

Armed with the seal of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association, Orr is the longest-serving woman of weather in the region.

Though her work shift does not begin until mid-afternoon, New Orleanians have come to depend on Orr for her early morning pronouncements on the day’s forecast. Orr starts most days in the garden of her Lake Vista home where she tweets the latest local weather information to her almost 40,000 loyal followers. As the day proceeds, she continues to post updates which helps locals make choices like whether they’ll need an umbrella.

Orr is a firm believer that people need to take personal responsibility for weather-related decisions. Overcast skies can lead to rain. Where there is thunder, there’s often lightening. During hurricane season, some superstitious viewers might even take cues from Orr’s attire. If the statuesque Orr dons a red dress, does that mean it’s time to evacuate?

An old-school meteorologist, Orr is always likely to run to the station whenever rough weather hits – whether it was in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. She’ll stay on the air until the crisis passes or until station management insist she takes a break.

Orr has been working especially long hours during Hurricane Ida and has been sleeping in her home without electricity to be close to the station. She smartly advises that a local weather expert who can monitor real-time conditions is likely to be far more accurate than a weather service that relies on models.

Orr is also active in the community. For more than 20 years she and Norman Robinson, another legendary WDSU alum, co-hosted the Children’s Hospital Telethon. Robinson called Orr “an expert in what she does. She is fully committed to great meteorology and has mentored several budding meteorologists.”

Robinson also described Orr’s upbeat personality. “I never ever saw her in doldrums. She was a breath of fresh air when you’d walk into the newsroom.  However the day started for me, low or high, things would get even brighter when I saw Margaret. If I was on camera and would run out of things to say, Margaret could fill the void. She can talk you a blue moon. She has so much energy that she landscaped the front of WDSU by herself.”

When appointed Chief Meteorologist, WDSU president and general manager Joel Vilmenay praised Orr as “an extraordinary combination of smarts, instinct and the ability to communicate in a way few people can.”

With global warming taking its toll on South Louisiana, quality weather forecasting is becoming even more important. Let’s hope Orr continues to bring her unique versions of accurate, dependable reporting to the citizens of New Orleans for decades to come.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated to accurately reflect the correct name of the hurricane in 1965 (changed from Camille to Betsy) .

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