The forecast was pretty straight forward. I write a little columnette in the Hartford Courant. Here’s what was written yesterday evening and hit the doorstep this morning:
The Storm Prediction Center has an odd way of giving us a heads up on severe weather. As of late Tuesday evening we are under a “slight risk” of severe weather for Wednesday. When SPC says “slight risk” you can read it as “significant risk.” I do and I probably follow their work a little closer than you. Strong, possibly severe, storms this afternoon will usher in cooler, drier air for Thursday.
So, this weather was no surprise to any of us (even at the other stations). Dan Amarante says he talked about it on-the-air over the weekend. That’s a pretty decent lead time.
Once you know about the weather you’re supposed to get ahead of it. Joe Furey stayed late. I came in early. Dan just came in (on his day off).
Rachel, off to visit her grandmother out west, will hopefully board her flight only five hours late! Bradley is the last place she wanted to be. I can relate.
The Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued at 1220 PM. It followed a Mesoscale Discussion this morning which gave a 95% chance of the watch being issued! Like I said, conditions were straight forward.
THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF
NORTHEAST NEW JERSEY
SOUTHEAST NEW YORK
EFFECTIVE THIS WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING FROM 1220 PM UNTIL
900 PM EDT.
HAIL TO 1.5 INCHES IN DIAMETER…THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS TO 70
MPH…AND DANGEROUS LIGHTNING ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.
We went on live around 2:00 PM covering the beginning of the scheduled program. Joe Furey did handled that one and in two minutes set the stage.
At 2:30 PM I went live and then a funny thing happened… we didn’t go off! The storms were vicious. There were reports of large hail and wind damage. The cells were living up to expectations.
When the light on the camera came on I had no idea how long I’d be on. I never expected it to last until 5:00 PM.
Dan ‘drove’ the graphics equipment. Joe kept giving me on-site information coming into the newsroom.
It’s possible to do this kind of coverage by yourself, but its best when the talker concentrates on what he’s saying and the others feed him info. I prefer to watch the monitor and have the graphics lead me. That’s what Dan and Joe did.
There are a lot of standard things to say: how to stay protected, what the colors on the radar mean, what’s expected. It’s also important to have an understanding of the state’s geography. Mentioning West Farms Mall is probably more meaningful than mentioning any of the three towns it straddles.
Dana and Sara, two producers, were in the control room. Along with them were a director, camera operator and audio engineer. They are used to following a set rundown. Not today. Everything was seat of the pants.
Alison and Brent anchored on-set. They did all the interviews, but on a day like today they let the weather folks do the heavy lifting.
It really is a team effort and its made better when the team has a singular goal.
There’s little viewer comparison shopping during a storm like today’s. You just have to hope the folks watching were satisfied and you made some friends who’ll remember you next time they need this kind of info. That’s all you can do. Then you pray audience follows performance.
Postscript: My wife found it funny my tissues ended up on the desk with me. For 2.5 hours my mind was off my cold.