Military, music and the weather: A perfect storm for Sterling Poulson
By Jennifer Eaton. Previously published in VALOR, May 2017.
For KUTV 2News Chief Meteorologist Sterling Poulson, weathering storms is as much a personal mantra as it is a professional endeavor.
“I’ve had a tumultuous life in many regards,” said the 65-year-old, explaining that he was removed from a troubled early-life family situation, and placed, along with his sister, into
the hands of adoptive parents at the age of two.
Though he was born in Utah, the new family dynamic landed Poulson in Hawaii, then Washington, as well as a number of additional locations across the country due to his father’s Army career. Being raised by a man who received a field commission during the Korean War instilled an indelible
sense of patriotism that became a driving force in his own life as well.
In 1969, Poulson enlisted in the Air Force as an aerospace ground equipment operator. He served a thirteen-month tour in Vietnam from 1970-1971, and in addition to other assignments, also spent time as a Severe Storms Forecaster at Air Force Global Weather Center at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. He would later spend another 11 years with the Utah Air National Guard, eventually retiring after 27 years in uniform.
“My service took me many places and taught me many things, and the honor I felt only continued to increase throughout my career,” he said. “It solidified my deep respect and love for the men and women in uniform who preceded me in working to preserve the freedoms we hold dear.”
The second pillar of Poulson’s unique personality — a musical calling — was cultivated by his adoptive mother at an early age.
“She signed me up for piano lessons at five years old, and music has remained a passion throughout my life,” he said.
That passion has translated over the decades into involvement and leadership within a number of prestigious choral groups including the Jay Welch Chorale, and more recently, the Chorale Arts Society of Utah, which he helped found and continues to serve through his role as music director.
Collaborating in enjoyment of what he calls “the sheerpower of music” is only the beginning, as Poulson has simultaneously become a driving force in the community, working to create opportunities for others to share the majesty of choir performances. The KUTV Holiday Concert, Days of ’47 KUTV Pops Concert, and Armed Forces Day Concert are among his most popular outreach projects. For his work, Poulson was recognized with the prestigious 2016 Zions Bank Veterans Service Award during the annual Veterans Day Concert in November.
As for Poulson’s third great love, it was time spent living in Texas, a state revered for its spectacular thunderstorms, that fueled an obsession with weather and forecasting.
“I remember, I was in junior high, and there was a huge storm — water flowing nonstop, and when it settled, there were turtle eggs everywhere that had been washed out of the sand,” he said. “That was the moment I became absolutely fascinated with weather.”
Crafting detailed forecasts for his family around the breakfast table became a daily ritual. “My mother would ask, ‘what’s the weather today, son?’ and I’d give her my best prediction,” Poulson reminisced, noting “that’s one of my fondest memories of her, not to mention a defining period of time in my life.”
Decades later, working as an established behind-the-scenes weather producer, a colleague’s fluke car accident landed Poulson a quick turn in front of the cameras.
“All of a sudden, I was throwing on nice clothes, my heart was pounding because I’d never been on television before, and I was completely scared to death,” he remembers.
Though he doesn’t remember what the weather was that day, or how well he actually did in his on-screen debut, it did ignite a determination to pursue a new aspect of his career.
“I went home and decided to practice, thinking that if I could do it once, maybe I could do it again,” he said. “A friend started working with me on the weather wall and making practice tapes, and I started going to work in a suit, not jeans, so I’d be ready next time it happened.”
Sure enough, there was a second time, and not too long after that, he accepted a job at KUTV 2News as the morning on-air weatherman, his face becoming a familiar one in Utah.
Three very distinct affinities—the military, music, and the weather, might seem difficult to reconcile into one seamless persona, but they’ve somehow manifested into the perfect storm for Poulson, who finds meaning in their triangulation.
“Music stirs the spirit, much like the feeling I get when I see a storm building in all its power, and force of that magnitude can elicit a strong sense of the importance of daily life and our way of life, without which, music and my career might not be enjoyed to the same extent,” he explained.
Though he’s known to lend his talents as an emcee for numerous philanthropic events, Poulson’s social life is surprisingly low-key. He’s currently pursuing a degree in Chorale Music Education at the University of Utah, and when he’s not on television, in a classroom, or preparing for the next
major musical performance, you’ll find him out fishing enjoying a tranquil hobby that affords plenty of time for reflection.
“One thing I can tell you is that life’s not always perfect, but it’s always great,” he mused. “Everyone will have setbacks, but the most important thing is to look forward and press on.”
Spoken like a man who’s seen the forecast shift from rainstorm to sunshine in the blink of an eye.
Jennifer Eaton is a journalist and public relations professional. She serves as public affairs officer for the Utah Air National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, and has been recognized with multiple Air Force journalism and public affairs awards. She currently a doctoral candidate.
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