A television snow job
Editor's note: This column was first published 25 years ago.
With more than a foot of snow, sleet, and ice falling over much of Pennsylvania, the television news teams went into overdrive. This may be an accurate description of one of those minute-by-minute broadcasts.
"I'm Harry Hansom. Co-anchor Polly Prattle just called. Her car slid into a ditch about eight miles from the studio. Fortunately, she had her roller-blades, and is skating furiously to get here so she doesn't lose a day's pay. We begin our team weather coverage with chief meteorologist Hugh Miditty."
"Based upon detailed computer analysis and extensive satellite monitoring, available only through our exclusive Poplar Eye-Witless Weather Watch System, we can trace an upper level atmospheric low-pressure system that formed just east of Phoenix, traveled north to I-80, then cruised east where it hit dead-center with another low-pressure system coming north from spring training in Florida. Or, maybe it began in New Jersey, and then ran a doughnut of isobars around Pennsylvania. As you know, a lot of bad things begin in Jersey. Before the storm leaves to drop two feet of hail on Bermuda, we'll have anywhere from five inches to three feet of snow and sleet. Or, maybe, we'll just have a foot or so of acid rain that'll burn the paint off every car in a hundred mile radius."
"Thanks, Hugh, for a report that got real deep. We continue our extended and comprehensive team coverage of the snow emergency with Flake Sepulveda."
"From high atop our All-News Roof, I can tell you there's a heap of snow out here. Let me fight the bruising wind and go to the edge of the roof and take a closer look. It appears . . ."
"We've lost communication with the roof. Let's check traffic with Barry Blades in HeliCam 2."
"It's real white out here. I can't see the road, but it looks like I'm a little south of Manitoba, and up to my rear rotor in snow. I'm also running out of fuel. Back to you, Harry."
"For a ground-level view, we go live to Susie Sweetwater."
"I'm standing in the middle of a large parking lot. It seems to go on forever. The drivers have kept their motors running, but for some reason they aren't moving onto the interstates."
"Susie, I believe you're standing in the middle of I-80. Have you seen any snow plows yet?"
"No, but that white stuff is all around me. As you can see, only my Gucci snow hat is visible at the moment. If my dumb cameraman hadn't broken his leg trying to get 100 pounds of equipment out of the all-weather WFAD News VW bug, we'd have even better pictures of nothing."
"Thanks Susie. Now to Bob Covina, live at PennDOT headquarters. Bob, we understand there are thousands of cars on the interstates, and PennDOT crews are nowhere to be seen."
"That's right, Harry. It's a matter of safety. It's dangerous for the workers to be out in this kind of weather, especially when there's all those cars, buses and trucks they'd have to dodge on the interstates."
"Do you have any idea when PennDOT might begin to clear the roads?"
"It's past 6 p.m. now, so I guess when management comes to work around 8 or 9 tomorrow we'll have a better idea."
"Thanks, Bob. We have a special satellite link to the command center of the county's Emergency Management Agency, deep within the reinforced bunker of Mount Melmac. Ethel, you've been EMA director 20 years, what's your county doing to provide emergency assistance?"
"Nothing yet, Harry. We weren't told to do anything, so we haven't done anything. But, we're all here in the command center just waiting to answer telephones if anyone calls."
"Thanks, Ethel, keep us posted on the fine work you've been doing. Now, live on Second Street is Kiki Vertigo who's been interviewing residents about their response to the snow."
"With me right now, exclusively on Second Street, is resident Homer Bigeloo who has a snow shovel. Homer, what are you doing?"
"I'm shoveling snow."
"Have you been shoveling long?"
"I don't like snow."
"How long haven't you liked snow?"
"A long time."
"Thanks, Homer. I'm Kiki Vertigo, live on Second Street. Back to you, Harry."
"Another great interview, Kiki. Right after this message from Mendocino Frozen TV Dinners, we'll be back with an abbreviated 'World in 60 Seconds' edition, and special 15-second reports about the nuclear war in the Middle East and the breakthrough discovery of a cure for cancer."
(Walter Brasch, an author and retired university professor from Bloomsburg, writes "Wanderings" for each Sunday edition.)