Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Storm Stories

If you watched the news or The Weather Channel last night, you probably saw that fierce storms rolled through the Chicago area around 8:30.  They were impressive storms: the wind picked up a full-sized jet at O'Hare airport and moved it thirty feet.  Three tornados were sighted and a big chunk of the north suburban area was under an official tornado warning.

This blog, however, is not about the weather.  It is about communication.  The citizens of northern Illinois needed it last night and, in many cases, we didn't get it.

Channel 20 (a PBS station), alerted its viewers to the issuance of a tornado warning. However, the station switched to the Emergency Broadcast System, which our Comcast cable box promptly locked out, making the information unreadable. We had to turn the television off and then back on to get to another station to find out if the warning applied to our area.  We found two stations (Channels 2-CBS and 5-NBC) had their weathermen delivering reports but we missed most of it because we had been forced to "reboot" the TV.  And the radio was no help. We tried two stations and learned the Cubs game was delayed. Nothing was said about the tornado warning during the time we listened.

Back to the television.  As soon as CBS and NBC delivered the weather report, both stations returned to network programming.  One station, which continually brags about the amount of money it spends on weather instrumentation, had no live reports during any of the times we left The Weather Channel to check local station coverage. This is not the fault of the weather people who work for the stations.  The decision to interrupt regular programming is made by management and management obviously decided that commerical revenue was more important than alerting Chicagoans of impending bad weather.

Suffice it to say that Chicago was very lucky last night because it escaped a castatrophe.  Since the local stations didn't think the storm was important, no one else did either.  Imagine leaving fans in their seats at the ball park or seated outside at an open-air concert when 80-mile an hour winds were about to hit them.  How irresponsible can you get? 

So, thank you, Channel 20 for taking the warnings seriously.  And thank you Weather Channel for your coverage last night. We would not have known what was coming or what to expect had it not been for you understanding how dangerous that storm could be.  You communicated: efficiently, effectively, and continously. 

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