By now, most viewers probably know that on-air weathercaster Amy Freeze, the former chief meteorologist at WFLD (Chicago Fox News), ended her tenure with the station on Feb. 20.
However, what they probably don't know is that Freeze, her chiropractor husband, Dr. Gary Arbuckle, and four kids, Tyler, 12; Jared, 9; Kate, 5; and William, 2, have been living in Oak Park for the past four years ... and counting. Stay tuned.
And yes, Freeze is her real last name.
But we'll get back to that.
First, let's meet this dynamic female weathercaster who breaks the ice (as it were), not to mention glass ceilings, wherever she goes. The petite, 5-foot-4 brunette is a personal weather event — one of those compelling personalities people track on social media to discern what they're doing now and next.
She is also one of the few women in the world to hold accreditation from the American Meteorological Society. Freeze also has two professional Seals of Approval from her industry and is a three-time Emmy winner for Best Weathercaster, Outstanding Host, and for the weather special, "Surviving Severe Weather," according to her bio.
Prior to being picked up by WFLD and TV stations elsewhere around the country, she covered movies and entertainment, reported on the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and Atlanta, and was the first female sideline reporter for Major League Soccer, even though she has never played sport herself — though she's a huge fan.
While at Chicago Fox News, she was the on-field weather conditions reporter for the Chicago Bears, and in 2008, she was featured on Monday Night Football for her "frozen" report of the coldest kickoff ever at Soldier field.
In addition, Freeze has studied international politics in Johannesburg during the re-election campaign of Nelson Mandela, and, as a member of the Radio and Television News Director Association since 1994, she was chosen to participate in the 1996 RTNDF/RIAS German Journalism Exchange, which included the study of German politics, the European Union and NATO. Before leaving Berlin, she produced two documentaries that aired on cable.
Because of that wide-ranging experience, she is anticipates her professional future will be bright, with breezes at her back and sunny skies.
"I am disappointed and it was unexpected that Fox would release me from my contract, but I have also been pleasantly surprised with the opportunities out there and how people have been reaching out to me," Freeze said in a recent phone interview. "I hope to stay in Chicago. It may or may not be possible. That is yet to be determined."
In the interim, Freeze entered a "Blog your way to the North Pole" online contest, sponsored by Quark Expeditions. She wasn't chosen, but it demonstrates the variety of notions she is considering.
"I've always wanted an adventure to the North or South Pole. If I don't make it with this, some day I will go there no matter what," Freeze says.
Cold name, warm heart
At home, on-air, and in public appearances, Freeze enthusiastically espouses that girls can do absolutely anything they want, whether it be pursuing a career in science, going on an expedition to the Arctic, or becoming an astronaut and flying to the Moon.
When asked how, as a working Mom, she is juggling it all, she quickly credits the support she has received from her spouse, saying she would not be where she is without him.
As on-the-go parents, their penchant is to prioritize, picking the most important thing on any given day, and sticking with it — especially when work, or a child's sick day, throws scheduling off-balance.
"Balance is such a misguided concept," says this working Mom. "As parents, we will never be able to equally divide the pie. It's just not going to happen. If you keep a priority list intact and believe in what is the most important thing for you and your family on a day-to-day level, it will be easier to keep things running smoothly."
In season, and whenever possible, Freeze and her family, aptly perhaps, while away their free time slipping and sliding at the Ridgeland Commons Ice Arena/Ice Rink in Oak Park. The two older boys play hockey, and the toddler doesn't seem far behind his brothers. Kate skates, but her thing is currently gymnastics, says their proud Mom.
"All my kids skate, even my two-year-old," she says. He's out on skates pushing the little red walker so he can learn. That is how we spend our winters in Oak Park."
And if you spy the local celeb off-hours in the frozen aisle of a nearby supermarket, go ahead. It's OK to ask.
"People sometimes say, 'I am so sorry to ask you about the weather ...' and I say, 'I definitely want you to ask me about the weather. It's my job.' I love it when people ask me about the weather, even if I'm at the grocery store," she says.
Well, then, what can we expect next in the Chicago area?
"The long-term forecast out of the National Weather Service shows a normal spring for us, so it's whatever we can consider normal for Chicago. But if you say there is going to be normal weather in Chicago, to me that says it is going to be anything but normal," she jokes.
For Freeze and her professional colleagues, Chicago is a veritable candy store of interesting weather events. In one day we can experience extreme high temps that are cut short by a sudden 30-degree temp drop. Also in metro Chicago, we can expect big wind gusts, seasonal flooding, droughts, severe rain and snow storms, and lest we forget, microbursts and twisters.
"The tornado season, including the activity of severe weather, all those things make it extremely interesting for me and the other meteorologists who live and work in the Chicago area," says Freeze, who has a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Environmental Science, as well as two other related undergraduate degrees, one with an emphasis in Severe Weather and Forecasting.
Having lived in seven states and covered major ice storms in the Pacific Northwest, Freeze says that without a doubt, the huge snowstorms in the Rockies and hurricanes on the East Coast don't compare to Chicago's recent Blizzaster of 2011. By far, it was the most interesting storm she has covered yet.
"Obviously, it is sad when we get too much snow because it ruins people's day or their work or whatever, but just the incredible awe of a storm of that magnitude — well, this storm for me is the top of the heap so far," she says.
She was born in Utah, by the way, raised in southern Indiana, and is the oldest, and shortest, of four Freeze girls. Her sisters are basketball tall, married, working moms — three are labor and delivery nurses, one a real estate agent — and avid athletes, like their big sis.
So far Freeze has completed five marathons (Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, California and the Chicago Marathon in 2000), is scuba-certified and swam with a dozen or so 300-pound sharks housed at the New Jersey State Aquarium, and has even taken a dip in the Oceanarium at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Nom de Fume?
But getting back to that name, do the jokes ever end?
Not really, says the good-natured Freeze. Some of her favorites are Freezer Burn, Frost Bite, Tasty Freeze and The Freeze.
"It is an endless list of nicknames. Anti-freeze is a good one. Just fun stuff," she notes.
Her husband Gary thinks it's funny when people call their house and ask for "Mr. Freeze" as if he were the villain in Batman.
Regardless, Amy Freeze is her real name and, no joke, she really does prefer cold weather.
"There is just something about cold weather for me that is magical. I love it. How can I not with my last name?" she quips.