Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Warning: Dangerous Weather

This morning my trusty (not) weather man issued a somber-faced warning: weather conditions will be dangerous today. My gosh, what's coming? Tornadoes? Hurricanes? Gale force winds? Nah, just a hot day in late June. Dangerous?! Is he kidding!? When did hot summer days in June cross over into the "dangerous" category? To understand this you have to understand what high drama broadcasting the weather has become. In the old days, the weather man (or girl) was almost an afterthought on the newscast. They would come out with their little sketch pad and pathetically simple maps and say what there was to say in 30 seconds. People like Tex Antoine who was drunk half the time, and the perky Carol Reed, the first female weather broadcaster on national television, were familiar faces who told us what we needed to know without ever using the word "dangerous".

Now, because the nightly news has become so dummed-down that Justin Bieber's new album gets covered before war in the Middle-East, weather reporting has become an extravaganza. Weather forecasts take up maybe fifteen minutes in a one hour news show. Weathermen and women have promoted themselves to "meteorologists" to underscore the importance of their place in our lives. No more paper pads and magic graphics are now supplied by computer systems powerful enough to launch space probes. The weather geeks stand there and with the flick of a finger, show us the weather conditions in Montana. (Why we should give a s**t about Montana weather is still a mystery to me.) We see fronts moving in and out of California, twisters forming on the Kansas horizon, dust storms in New Mexico...hey putz, I just want to know if it will rain tomorrow in Staten Island!

Another interesting development is the kind and quality of information we are given. On the one hand the forecasts appear to be super-precise: "Manhattan will see a light shower tomorrow between 2 and 3 in the afternoon". On the other hand, you never saw so much cover-your-ass waffling in your life. "It will be mostly sunny in the City today, but with some clouds and a chance of showers". Well hey, that pretty much covers everything except locusts. The reason they allude to every possible weather outcome is that, despite all their computers and meteorological gobble-de-gook, they just don't know. It's as if you were an accountant and went in to see your boss with the following data: last quarter was a good one for the company; we made a profit but there's a chance it was a loss. (Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way to the unemployment office.)

We now have an entire channel dedicated to the weather.These folks are celebrities with fan clubs and websites. (I find it amusing by the way that at least half of them mispronounce the word "meteorologist".) Not content with just giving us what the weather might be tomorrow, they banter with the airhead news anchors. The whole dynamic news team meets the night before to discuss what... the critical issues of the day? No, it's to color-coordinate their little outfits so that they don't clash on camera. One time the jumbo electronic map projected behind this weather girl just went blank, and the look of panic on her face was delicious. It was as if her power of speech had been taken away. She stood there frozen until one of the anchors rescued her with some giggly banter. 

I miss Tex and Carol. They were wrong as often as the current crop of forecasters, but they didn't take all day about it and they didn't try to scare me with words like dangerous.


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1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...