WOSTER: Cold, with a chance of silly
One thing about the wacky winter weather this year: a whole bunch of broadcast news reporters have been captured on camera standing out in the snow, wind and cold telling their viewers that snow is falling, the wind is blowing and it's cold out.
I'm sharing a pet peeve. I don't get it that a station makes one of its people go outside in a blizzard to show people that the weather is frightful. Sometimes the reporter in question is barely 50 feet from the front door of the station, it looks like. Still, the person is outside, and that makes it live. Well, call me an old curmudgeon, but I don't need winter brought to me live and in color.
You show me a graphic on the screen that says the city has had six inches of snow, the wind is blowing 32 mph with gusts to 41 mph from the northwest and the actual temperature is minus 10 degrees? I'll call on my life's experience and figure out that it's miserable outside. In fact, if the forecast says those conditions will exist for the next 10 hours in my coverage area, I'm going to go ahead and make the assumption that it's not a fit night out for man or beast, as the guy in the old cartoon used to say.
I was thinking that the other morning as I watched a national reporter in Washington, D.C., stand in a small snow drift, dressed in a nifty winter parka with coordinating stocking cap and carefully wrapped scarf, holding a microphone to his chattering lips and explaining that what I was seeing was snow and wind in the nation's capital city. And, by the way, in case I hadn't caught on from the parka, stocking cap and scarf, he explained that it was unseasonable weather for the D.C. area.
I don't remember -- maybe it's my age, or maybe it's the age of the country's population -- so much attention paid to every storm system that moved through. Of course, I grew up in a time before polar vortices brought really cold air from Canada and the Arctic Circle. We didn't know about wind chills in my younger days, although we knew that on below-zero days it didn't make much sense to face the wind unnecessarily.
When I was a kid, Dave Dedrick hadn't even started talking about the Banana Belt or Alberta Clippers or any of those other phrases he used so elegantly. Wonder what he'd have made of this polar vortex phenomenon?
Maybe I missed some of the television news about big-city blizzards and record cold snaps because, well, it could have been one of several reasons. For about the first 10 or 12 years of my life, for one thing, we didn't have television. We listened to WNAX Radio from Yankton when we could get it, and in a major storm, that was iffy, even if the power stayed on.
And we couldn't always count on the power staying on. I loved the fact that the REA came to my part of Lyman County when I was just a youngster. Those first lines, though, they could fall to ice and wind. We had a generator. We had a propane furnace. We had a battery pack on the back porch. A wind-charger right outside the north door pumped juice into the batteries. It all worked -- after a fashion.
We didn't use a bit of electricity that wasn't absolutely necessary. Many evenings were pretty dark. We dressed warmly and we sat quietly in the house, listening to the wind as it rattled the window panes. It didn't take a big imagination to hear the spray of snowflakes against the glass and conclude that it was a dark and stormy night.
Maybe most of the people in the country who remember those times have passed on. Maybe we need reporters standing out in the blizzard to make us appreciate the magnitude of the weather.
Maybe I should just shut my eyes and let the sounds tell me all I need to know.