Playing Their Hot Hand
It's been a summer of hot, wet, and stormy weather in Minnesota and, professionally, meteorologists are riding high. They've been front-and-center on TV screens more often than sports anchors, and their expertise has been called on to lead the newscast one out of every seven days, on average, over the last three months.
With this in mind, I interviewed one local TV weather pro who asked that his identity be concealed due to clauses in his contract calling for a modicum of modesty in his public persona.
Have we finally arrived at the era of the Weather King?
Without question. The sports guys have the new ballpark, as well as Bret Favre, and yet they're still jealous of all the airtime we're getting of late. That never used to be the case. In the past those guys made fun of us behind our backs. We had one jock-chaser who used to put women's underwear in my desk drawer. He thought our job was effeminate. You ask any sports anchor today, after he's had a few drinks, and he'll tell you this is the first summer he's truly envied us.
What's it like in the weather room when you're just around other weather professionals?
With both the men and women it's constant fist bumps and high fives. The weather on this planet is getting so crazy and so extreme that we feel like we're mainlining adrenalin most weeks. I got into this gig because I was good-looking in college and someone told me I could find work in television. Weather was never my passion, but these days how can you not love it? In the weather room it's like Doppler porn half the time. We're just beaming.
I've heard you guys receive some pretty weird emails, letters, and calls from viewers.
Yeah, that hasn't changed. In fact we actually have the term "weather-rage" now for some of these situations. Some people can't take the storms, the high heat and humidity, all the watches and warnings, the lack of any norms in their climate. They call or email and just unload on us, as if there's something we can do about it. One guy called up a week ago and said, "You got three minutes to paint a pretty picture of the next month or the wife and I move to Colorado." It was suddenly our responsibility to maintain this guy's residency. My co-worker had a guy knock on the front door of his house last month and show him photos of his daughter's outdoor wedding, which had been ruined by storms. This father then told my colleague that he had a concealed carry permit—didn't show him a gun, just mentioned the permit.
That's pretty scary. Do you ever feel you need to carry protection?
Oh, we all do. There's not a meteorologist in town who isn't packing. That started after that weather guy in Dayton, Ohio, was assaulted for messing up a Labor Day weekend forecast. That made news all over the industry and served as a warning to us all.
Why can't you talk about this openly?
All the meteorologists in town have morality clauses in their contracts. You wouldn't believe how strict these things are. We're all supposed to be "nice." They don't want us seen in bars or casinos. They don't want the guys growing facial hair or being spotted with anything but a wholesome spouse and children. Weather people have it the worst. Somewhere along the line it was determined that we have to appear as though we spend our free time mowing lawns for the elderly. I have to leave town if I want to tear it up, actually leave the broadcasting area.
Is the job worth the headaches?
It wouldn't be in some places. In a city like San Diego they give a weather guy about 30 seconds of air time each newscast. That job's a bore. The meteorologists in this town will tell you this is where the action is. Minnesota is a weather wonderland. It's like a drug: We feed off it. We couldn't be happy anywhere else. We're hooked now. And this climate change stuff is just making it all the better because weather patterns are shifting so dramatically and growing so extreme. It's my belief that, at some point in the near future, weather professionals will lead every single newscast. It'll be our show. We'll own it. That's what's keeping me going: living for the high that's worth this addiction.
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