Let’s start by making this clear: I love the Weather Channel.
I love the way that Stephanie Abrams towers over Al Roker. I love when my girlfriend complains for the fourth day in a row, “Stephanie’s wearing blue again.” I love how Jen Carfagno is in Utah one day and back in the studio 18 hours later. I love how the disaster experts get so much airtime. I love the specials about important topics like global warming, hurricanes, and tornado outbreaks. I don’t even mind that it identifies winter storms with names that you wouldn’t give a cat (c’mon, Quintas?). And then there’s “Prospectors” …
OK, I hate “Prospectors.” You can’t like everything. But I love almost everything else, including the myth that when Jim Cantore shows up at your Waffle House, you might as well head to the bunker and hunker down for this year’s storm of the century.
I’m not implying that Cantore is a weather wimp. Far from it. He seems to like bad weather in the same way that my girlfriend likes to point out ways that I’m wrong. If anything, Cantore seems disappointed when a weather system peters out before dumping all over him. But when it comes to taking the toughest hit from a storm, Cantore is a figurehead compared to the true guinea pig of Atlanta, Mike Seidel.
Here’s an example from a blizzard last year in New England:
Host: “Let’s head to Jim Cantore near Boston University.”
The scene switches to a scenic park in Boston, where college students run through the snow, build snowmen, and gently toss snowballs at each other.
Cantore: “As you can tell, it’s really coming down out here. The snow’s building up at the rate of two inches an hour, but look at these cool snowmen. These kids are sure having fun. Hopefully, they’ll be able to enjoy this devastating snowstorm that’s shut down all of Boston.”
Host: “Thanks, Jim. Now to Mike Seidel on the beach beside the Atlantic Ocean. Mike, how are things out there?”
The scene switches to a dark beach, where the staging lights highlight reeds blowing sideways with the snow. Seidel holds up a hand to steady himself as waves crash from the ocean and the wind tries to blow him over.
Seidel: “It’s certainly coming down out here. The wind is …”
Seidel stumbles, then regains his footing.
Host: “Mike, are you still with us?”
Seidel, screaming above the blizzard: “I’m here, and I’m fine. No worries, but people should stay off the beach tonight. If they could find it.”
A lawn chair flies by, along with a few confused birds.
Host: “Let’s check back with Jim Cantore to see how it’s going in Boston. Jim?”
Cantore, holding a steaming mug: “Thanks, Kim. The good people at the hotel across the street saw us on TV and wanted to do something to help us out. They were nice enough to send us a thermos of their special hot chocolate. Here’s to them.” He takes a sip and smiles.
Host: “I’m sorry, Jim, but we have a development on the beach. Mike Seidel, what’s going on?”
Scene changes to Seidel grasping for the reeds.
Seidel, gasping: “The wind has really picked up, Kim. The snow is mixing with sand and pelting me in the face like millions of tiny pieces of rock salt. I have to be careful when I open my eyes in order to protect my retinas. The sand is actually gouging flesh from my cheeks.”
Host: “I’m sorry, Mike, but we have another development with Jim Cantore in Boston. Jim?”
Cantore, making snow angels: “The students were doing this, and it looked like such fun. But don’t get me wrong; the snow’s really coming down out here. Look how deep my snow angel is. This is like being a kid again.”
Host: “We have another development with Mike Seidel. Mike?”
Scene shows the beach, the sideways snow, the bending reeds, but no Seidel.
Host: “It appears that Mike Seidel has been blown into the Atlantic Ocean. Jim Cantore, how are things there?”
Cantore, holding his mug with both hands: “It’s still horrible out here, Kim. I don’t know how long it’ll take to dig Boston out of this mess. I need another sip of this delicious hot chocolate.”
Again, don’t get me wrong. Cantore definitely finds his way into dicey weather situations, and he seems to love it. And if he walks into your Waffle House, it is a good idea to hunker down and hide. But let’s not assume that Cantore is the bellwether of bad weather; that’s Mike Seidel. When he comes to town, you might as well just move.
(C.W. Grody’s latest humor book, “Since Before You Were Born,” is available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Since-Before-You-Were-Born-ebook/dp/B00EHT3B5G)