NORFOLK, VA—While it's hard to know exactly what Mother Nature has in store for us most of the time, television viewers in the greater Norfolk area can count on one thing: The forecast will always be sunny coming from Channel 6 meteorologist Suzy Pratt.
A fixture on the local CBS affiliate's 6 p.m. news for the past eight years, Pratt, 37, is mired in a years-long battle with depression, her crumbling dignity, extreme self-loathing and unfulfilling home life steadily eroding her will to live as she becomes increasingly addicted to painkillers.
"Keep it tuned to Channel 6 for the latest weather information," says Pratt, summoning all her strength to hold back the tears. "Rain or shine, Channel 6 has got you covered."
Dinner time is always fun for Channel 6 viewers when Pratt is on the set, her cheery voice and snappy outfits sure to brighten things up when the weather forecast rolls around on weekdays at 6:18 p.m.
Pratt, however, usually eats a Budget Gourmet dinner around 8 p.m., standing alone at her kitchen counter, her husband Bill too absorbed in his law practice to pay any attention to his home or spouse. Though unhappy in her loveless marriage, Pratt lacks the self-esteem to get out, blaming the marital woes on what she calls her "fading looks."
During her years on the air in Norfolk, Pratt has developed into a genuine local celebrity, pleasing her many fans with her fun weather reports, engaging human-interest stories, and the occasional public appearance at a county fair or beauty pageant.
"El Niño's stirred up a whole mess of trouble throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and Norfolk's certainly no exception. Look for lots more heavy rain tomorrow and through the weekend," says Pratt, choking back sobs she desperately hopes the home audience won't detect.
Once an aspiring model/actress, Pratt learned the cold, cruel ropes of the business during a grueling year in Los Angeles, bouncing from one unsuccessful audition to another and, ultimately, into bed with a "producer" from whom she never heard again. Pratt now views life as something to be endured, consumed by what might have been, if only she had had just a little bit more foresight and wisdom.
Norfolk residents might not always like the weather they get, but everyone loves the mile-wide smile and playful giggle they get from Pratt whenever news anchor Morton Caswell fires off another of his patented "groaners."
Wearing a wig to hide the bald spots from the patches of hair she's pulled out, Pratt masks her pain on-camera with a big smile, each televised appearance a reinforcement of the perky, cheerful weathergirl archetype she has grown both to loathe and epitomize in her years at Channel 6.
Whether it's "stormy" or "warmy" outside, the good folks of Norfolk know that with Pratt and the Channel 6 AccuTron WeatherAlert system on their side, they'll always be prepared for whatever Mother Nature sends their way.
Pratt, meanwhile, grows increasingly delusional, convinced that a man in a maroon turtleneck is trying to kill her. Whether her crippling paranoia will result in an on-air breakdown, an unceremonious firing from Channel 6, or hospitalization is anyone's guess, but in the meantime, everybody is enjoying having Pratt as part of their day.
As for her success as one of Norfolk's best-known faces, Pratt can only say, "I value my job at Channel 6," before scurrying into her car and driving off.