EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With just one click on a computer, one woman launched herself into weather history.

Just days before Woman’s History Month begins, Liz Leitman could not wait to leave her mark. Leitman is a meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma.

“My interest really started out when I was very young and I was afraid of thunderstorms,” Leitman said with a laugh while speaking to 12 News Meteorologist Michelle Muscatello.

Liz Leitman after being the first woman to issue a severe thunderstorm watch. (Courtesy: Liz Leitman)

“It started as a fear, turned into a fascination,” the St. Louis native added.

At the SPC, weather conditions are carefully monitored across the country. Watches and warnings are issued when it looks like severe storms or tornadoes could develop in a certain area.

“There was a lot of anticipation and excitement going into the day,” Leitman recalled.

It was Wednesday, Feb. 15, and the ingredients were coming together for the possibility of severe weather over Oklahoma and Texas.

“I was on my first lead forecaster training shift that day,” Leitman said.

On that day, Leitman became the first woman in history to issue a severe thunderstorm watch.

“After I issued the watch, my coworkers gathered around watching and we all kind of celebrated together,” Leitman said with a smile.

When asked if she anticipated the response she got from people all over the nation, Leitman said, “I never expected it to blow up like it did.”

She instantly went viral on social media. Her Twitter post has more than 4,700 likes. National television and newspapers came calling, asking to tell her story.

Liz Leitman celebrates after being the first woman to issue a Severe Thunderstorm Watch. (Courtesy: Liz Leitman)

Muscatello told Leitman, “It was a little surprising to me in 2023 to have a woman send out that first watch.”

“Over the 50 years or so of the [Storm Prediction] Center, there’s only been 36 lead forecasters,” Leitman replied. “Once you get to that position, you don’t leave. Most of our lead forecasters have 10 to 15 or 30 years of experience, and so those opportunities don’t come around very often.”

Her forecast was correct. Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings were issued in Oklahoma.

Leitman had a message to all young girls who are interested in a male-dominated field, especially STEM fields: “Believe in yourself. You know what you’re capable of, so don’t try and let anyone else determine your path or tell you what you should do. If you have the determination and persistence – go for it.”

She added that over the next several years, as people leave or retire from the Storm Prediction Center, she’ll be able to get that promotion to full-time lead forecaster. She’d be the first woman to hold that position.