FOX 5’s Sue Palka: Still Going Strong After 25 Years

Sue Palka relaxes at her Kentlands home.

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards. … They try to do more … in order to have more, so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” — Margaret Young

One of Sue Palka’s favorite books is Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Simple Abundance.” I opened the book to its foreword after I spoke with her recently, spotted the Young quote and thought: This is pure Palka.

We met for this interview at a local cafe, late on a Saturday afternoon. “I know only one way to be,” she said.

She smiled. “There’s no other Sue. What you see is what you get.”

With Sue Palka, what I always get is “nice.”

Recently Palka, 52, was honored by FOX 5 Television (WTTG) for her excellent work in 25 years as a weather forecaster for the station, as well as her accomplishments as a family woman and active community member.

Palka is a six-time Emmy winner, certified by the National Weather Association. After 25 years of doing the science and then stepping in front of the camera, Palka’s interest in her field seems to be in surge mode.

“I love it,” she said. “I will absolutely stay on as long as they want me.”

How did she get here? Start with her earliest loves — science and teaching.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, her parents were teachers, their siblings were teachers and, said Palka, “Teaching is in my DNA.”

Enter science. Her father was a “traveling” elementary school science teacher who brought science experiments and special lessons to students at their schools before the days of elementary school in-classroom science curricula. He also led frequent field trips, and Palka speaks fondly of planetarium visits throughout her childhood.

Palka’s dad later became a school principal, but his daughter’s love for earth science, space science and meteorology was planted early and endures.

As she tells her story, it seems Sue Palka did not plan the path she is on today. It beckoned to her and she had the courage to follow it.

Palka studied education and sciences in college. She became a teacher. She also acted in theater, where she met her husband, Joe.

Palka acted in commercials and was approached by local television news and weather broadcasters in cities where she lived before she got her first weekend weather job. In 1985, Palka was in Richmond working full-time as coordinator of community relations for Richmond Public Schools and, in addition, as the regular weekend weathercaster at a Richmond, Va., television station.

After her husband took a radio talk-show job in Washington, D.C., the two settled in North Potomac near Quince Orchard High School and then made a pioneering move to the Gatehouse neighborhood of Kentlands where theirs was the first house built on the street.

These days Palka savors her career and is energized by it. She speaks enthusiastically about going to work and burying herself in scientific models of the atmosphere and the other scientific tools she uses to produce her forecast. She glows when she talks of her work.

“I do all my own forecasting,” she said, describing how she uses multiplier computer models and simulators.

“The models we work with of the atmosphere now are phenomenal,” she said. “We use all the earth science, put our own graphics and weather maps together.’

She loves that she’s worked “in this climate” for 25 years, and despite constant change, she knows it like an old friend.

Palka is grateful for the life she has and talks about gratitude a lot.

She says she has many reasons to be grateful. She and husband Joe celebrated 30 years of marriage this year. They are recent “empty nesters.” Their children, Liz and Nora, are healthy, adult and flourishing — one in college and one embarking on a television journalism career herself.

When I interviewed Palka for this space a number of years ago (our children were much younger) she talked about gratitude then, too. She spoke of walking through her life in the present moment and nurturing the serenity within. While so much has changed, for Palka, that has remained the same.

With Palka, you don’t get superficial. She’s unpretentious, warm and friendly. Dressed for her television job, it’s time to drive to D.C., and yet she’s in excellent humor following this reporter around and around her yard while I try to figure out where to photograph because I forgot the camera at the interview Saturday afternoon.

Based on my experience, Palka is unusually good about that kind of stuff. She says she has learned over the years to set healthy boundaries and the importance of meeting her own needs.

“I’ve learned to say, ‘No,’ when it’s best,” she said matter-of-factly. “I’ve learned to allow others to make themselves happy.”

What you see is what you get. What I get from Sue Palka is all good.

Check out more on Sue Palka’s 25 years at FOX 5 by visiting http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/weather/family-and-friends-celebrate-sue-palka-25-years-at-fox-5-092910.

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