Monday, March 17, 2008

The Talking Weather Heads

Saturday afternoon and evening brought a series of storms to the Carolina Low Country.

Sheets of rain and mighty fists of wind pummel my SUV somewhere outside of Summerville. Red and amber flashing tail lights come and go with each swift pass of the windshield wipers.

Slowing to 40 mph the wind pushes my SUV sideways again and again. Without warning leaves and limbs are suddenly everywhere and all west bound traffic comes to a rapid stop somewhere near Jedburg on I-26.

This is not a gradual work zone slow down to a crawl, this is a complete and dead STOP! After ten minutes I'm bored and punch the FM radio button killing my iPod.

No sound as both my often heard NPR station somewhere at 88.1 and the No. 2 button are dead air. I push the seek button and the numbers rush by until the radio locks on to 103.5 WEZL, they are carrying the Channel 2 WCBD simulcast weather frenzy show.

Twenty minutes have passed and I am still parked on the rain soaked and debris littered pavement in the eerie post storm quiet, waiting in total darkness for the traffic to start moving again, I decide to shut of the engine and pass the time listening to the insane play by play on 103.5 as the storms move across the low country.

Beyond their bumbling and ridiculously repetitive "storm safety facts" I begin to count how many times they feel it necessary to remind us that the picture that I am not seeing is from "Live Storm Team 2 Viper Radar".

Without the video images I'm forced to focus on every word which makes me realize how helpless I am and how useless these talking weather heads are.

"I've never seen so many storm cells at once ... errr except during Katrina" one of Storm Team 2 weather guys says.

I punch *HP just as the third SCHP crown victoria rolls by. The cheerful voice on the other end tells me with a light chuckle I'm going to be sitting for a while. She continues that there are several very large trees across the road in both directions. While she is telling me this grim news I notice that the East bound traffic is only a trickle.

"Let's go to aaaaaa Jim no Bill ahhhh Bob yes Bob!" the weather heads are still at it and I turn up the volume.

"Bob can you hear me? Bob? Bob?"

"It seems we are having some difficultly reaching Bob... can we put up the safety facts again

Of course even though I still can't see the safety facts I have already memorized them.

Stay indoors away from windows

If you don't have a basement
(that's funny) move to an interior room like a bath room (nope don't have that) or under a stair case (not that either).

If you are in a car (I listen intently to the information that might save my life) lay down in a ditch or low lying area.

I have many ditches to choose from, but laying down in one would most assuredly result in death by drowning, as they are filled with rain water measured in feet not inches.

Bob or Bill breaks in:

"We have reports of baseball size hail throughout the low country". Keep in mind that a baseball has a diameter of 3 inches.

"You'll notice this cell right here,... wait ok right there see the amazing hook echo, this is a distinguishing feature of a possible tornadic rotation. So if you are in Hollywood, John's Island, Kiawah Island, Folly Beach you have just minutes before you are under the gun".

I am of course relived that I'm not under the gun.

Bob who is in the mobile Storm Center 2 Viper Truck is finally reached his voice trembling with fear: "This is most amazing outbreak in the low country since hurricane Hugo!!"

Sitting there in my SUV waiting for the traffic to get moving again I have placed my life in the hands of a couple of talking television weather heads in Charleston some 20 miles away.

I figure the best thing I can do is roll down the windows and have a listen for myself, just in case I need to bail from my car should that tell tale "freight train" sound be heading my way. But there is nothing to hear but the steady clanking of the diesel freightliner at idle parked next to me and chainsaws 1/10 of a mile ahead.

Two hours and thirty minutes later I roll across a 100 yards of saw dust, broken branches, and needles. The smell of freshly sawed pine and rain fill the air. The pavement ahead is nearly dry and the sky clears, reveling a Carolina crescent moon high in the sky and I'm thankful that the talking weather heads have called it a night.

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