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NWSEO MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Meet Luis Ingram-Westover

Pictured above: Luis Ingram-Westover, Lead Forecaster WFO Key West, near Lookout Fire, east of Eugene, OR

(June 26, 2024) This month, we are thrilled to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month by spotlighting Luis Ingram-Westover, a Lead Forecaster at WFO Key West. Luis has been with the NWS for nine years and a member of NWSEO for approximately eight years.

What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in weather?

I’ve had a fascination with the weather since I was a kid. My father was in the Air Force, which meant a lot of traveling across the U.S. This allowed me to see all types of weather, from blizzards in the Northeast to thunderstorms and tornadoes in the Central and Southern Plains to hurricanes in the Mid-Atlantic. Seeing Mother Nature in action and how different it was in other parts of the country really got me hooked on the “why” and led me down a path of meteorology.

What's your experience working within the NWS?

Before joining the public sector, I spent four years in the private sector for a company in northern Illinois, just outside of Chicago. I started my career with the National Weather Service in 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska, as a Meteorologist Intern. After about two years in Anchorage, I was promoted to General Forecaster at Elko, NV, in 2017. From there, I lateralled to Key West in 2018 and was promoted to Lead Forecaster in 2021.

You’ve been very active in promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) for a long time.  Why is this important to you?

Promoting DEIA is, as I like to put it, almost a second job for me. It is near and dear to my heart as I have faced some discrimination and awkwardness in the workplace before coming to the NWS. This experience led me to be “closeted” when I first came to the NWS. After a brief adjustment period and seeing how different it was, I learned to be open at my home office in Anchorage. However, as I sought to find more with the LGBTQ+ community, it was difficult and, at times, challenging because some folks were still “in the closet.” I sought to advocate for a more inclusive workplace by being vocal and making sure everyone could feel like they could be themselves in the workplace. Coming from a place where I couldn’t be my full self and being told I couldn’t bring up my husband in the workplace hurt. It filled me with a deep sense of shame to realize that when I come to work, I merely sit at a desk and do my job. I can’t bring my personal self to work even though my fellow colleagues who were in straight relationships were allowed the freedom to do so. I did not want that for my fellow LGBTQ+ members, so I have worked tirelessly with folks at the regional and national levels to make sure everyone feels welcomed and included. 

What is it like being part of the IMET program as a member of the LGBTQ+ Community? Are there any unique challenges you face? 

If I’m not in Key West forecasting, I am deployed as an Incident Meteorologist (IMET) to wildfires. Being an openly gay man serving in a historically masculine-dominated environment, I was initially nervous to be front and center. I asked myself, “Do I have to hide my identity?” “Will they respect me if they find out I’m gay?” “Will I encounter any hostility while out on a fire?” Being an IMET is something I have wanted to become, and I worked for six years to obtain the necessary training. I wasn’t going to let my sexuality deter me, but it was still something that was lurking in the back of my head.  When I went to Boise, ID, for the first time for the annual Continuity of Excellence Exercise, I got to ask the burning question, “How would someone like me be received?” I was met with overwhelming support from my peers and some of the partners we work with on the front line. It was refreshing to know that not only am I, not the only LGBTQ+ IMET but that there are LGBTQ+ firefighters as well, and DEIA topics are highly stressed even in the wildfire-fighting community. 

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I love traveling. Coming from a military family, I still have the itch to travel every year and explore the world. Growing up, I lived in two different countries, the United States and the Philippines, and I visited all 50 US states! My husband and I have been to nearly two dozen countries and hope to check off more countries over the next few decades. If I’m not traveling, I’m at home either looking at maps to find new places to visit or building Lego sets.

Why did you join NWSEO?

Besides all the benefits, one of the main reasons I joined NWSEO was the opportunity to serve on regional and national teams. Since joining NWSEO, I have been able to serve on several regional and national teams, with an emphasis on DEIA topics. My work on these teams has led to changes for the betterment of everyone. 

Would you recommend joining NWSEO to others?

I would recommend joining NWSEO. Being a part of NWSEO has allowed me to fulfill meaningful work that goes beyond my regular duties as a forecaster. I get to not only do work in the field I love, which is weather, but also the ability to help my fellow peers by working on DEIA topics. My work benefits not just myself but everyone within the NWS. NWSEO allows people to be a part of something bigger than just on a local level if they desire.



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