LINCOLN - As long as Patrick Bak can remember, he's been fascinated by weather.
As a child, he watched storm clouds gather, rushing indoors at the last minute.
"It was not the smartest thing to do, but still interesting," said Bak, now a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Lincoln, which serves 35 counties in central and southeastern Illinois.
One of about a dozen meteorologists at the center, Bak said one thing that makes the job interesting is that "people are always interested in the weather."
What kind of training did you have to be a meteorologist and what are some of your duties?
I have a bachelor's in meteorology from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. It's one of two schools in the state with an undergraduate program. The University of Illinois has a graduate program. We have extensive math and science backgrounds. In our job, we take calls from the public; issue weather forecasts; severe weather warnings; river stage and aviation forecasts.
What do you like best about your job?
Every day is a little different. The weather is never exactly the same and the job is challenging. It keeps you humble.
How far into the future do you forecast and why is it sometimes wrong?
We have a seven-day forecast. With the size of the Earth and the atmosphere, there are large stretches of the atmosphere that don't get measured. You have to use scientific guesses.
What type of criticism do you get from people when they think the forecast is off?
Sometimes they'll say something like, 'I wish I could have a job where I'm wrong and still keep my job.'
What do you say in return?
I usually say something like, 'Give me credit when I'm right.' Or, I compare my job to a baseball player who hits .300 and is considered great.