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Keep the weatherman indoors

POSTED: September 2, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Back in the 1980s, cable TV started branching out into various specialty channels, offering 24 hours of news, sports and weather.

I remember when The Weather Channel was a fledgling enterprise. You could tune in just about anytime and see somebody delivering the forecast.

They don’t do that now. They have all kinds of shows about historical weather events and throw in the forecast every now and then.

But they do pull out all the stops when a bad storm comes barreling down on some part of our country.

This past week, a storm named Isaac captured our attention and The Weather Channel dispatched their storm chasing meteorologists to stand out in the storm and tell you how bad it was.

The pioneer in all of this is a guy named Jim Cantore. We’ve seen Jim standout on the shores of nearly every state in the South in search of a hurricane. In the winter, Jim stands out in the snow, especially when it is blowing in several different directions.

There was a bit of a wow factor when Cantore was on TV holding onto a street sign or some other permanent structure to keep from getting literally blown away.

Now everybody does it, including a few extra folks at The Weather Channel.

They keep the authoritative hurricane expert in the dry confines of the studio.

It sort of reminds me of the old Mutual of Omaha "Wild Kingdom" program.

Marlin Perkins, who was the older guy, would stand in a studio beside a nice globe and introduce the segment.

His sidekick, a Georgia native named Jim Fowler, was always at someplace where they had vicious or poisonous animals and he would usually try to tangle with them.

About the time Fowler was about to get his arm bitten off, Marlin would interrupt.

"While Jim confronts the ferocious leopard, let’s remind you about insurance coverage from Mutual of Omaha," Marlin would say.

I guess if you see a guy about to get eaten alive by a wild animal, you might think about buying some life insurance. The show was more of a controlled atmosphere. You had to believe that before a lion or tiger or bear would sink his teeth into Jim Fowler, somebody would pull out a tranquilizer gun.

But that doesn’t work on hurricane coverage.

Some of it, however, is a tad theatrical.

On the morning that hurricane Issac began blowing into New Orleans, Jim Cantore was holding onto a fire hydrant to keep from blowing away. This was really impressive until a police cruiser just drove right beside him on a French Quarter street.

If a police car could still drive along, there was somewhere that Cantore could be standing without hanging on for dear life.

I’ve reached the point that when I see their shenanigans, I’m turning to another channel to see what the storm is doing on the super duper Doppler radar. One guy’s wind reading on a side street of a town is not a true picture of what the storm is doing.

If these guys are going to stand out in the wind, maybe they should buy a surplus space suit from NASA and a squeegee from a closed gas station to keep their face shield clear.

Or just shoot them with a tranquilizer gun and wake them up when it’s over.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.


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