Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WBTV Tornado Alert Fail

This evening I took dinner, simple take out stuff, to my parents house just as a line of strong thunderstorms swept in to the Upstate of South Carolina and pressed on into the Charlotte area.

The parents are both in their early 80s, sharpe minded, active seniors who watch mainly FOX News. Both are fairly iPad and iPhone smart. Mom's on Facebook and Twitter, Dad texts when he wants help and dad still heads to the office every morning.

A little after 6 both of their iPhones chirp to life with weather alerts. At my suggestion they turn on the flat screen and change it from Fox to WBTV. 

The next 20 minutes is sobering because the message that WBTV delivers is lost in the confusion of malfunctioning on screen graphics and the non senseical voice of Eric Thomas who is talking a mile a minute. The radar image zooms in and out, then pans up and down, north then south, zoom out zoom in, pop ups burst onto the screen and then vanish, zoom zoom zoom. The colors change and the pop ups come and go. It's madness. 

Thomas is having trouble with the computer and images vanish then reappear only for a second or two. Thomas shifts from giving massive inforrnational overload to giving a just this side of a FCC barage of profanity directed at his computer.

Finally my mother says "I don't understand a word he's saying" do we need to take cover? The images continue, Fort Mill, Chester, Rock Hill, Huntersville, Shelby, Charlotte, zoom in, zoom out, pan, pan and pan again. My father points out that they are talking about Uptown Charlotte, as a live shot from CMPD headquarters fades back to Eric Thomas. 

The answer is no, we don't need to take cover. But I'm keeping a watchful eye on my iPad's wx app that's showing a live radar picture. I'm also watching outside, where there is nothing but light rain.

Thankfully we are in a hole in the line, heavy weather to the west and north, more heavy weather to the south. But here nothing.

Eric Thomas' voice a stracotto rapid fire phalanx of nonsense continues to blast from the kitchen television. Finally we vote to mute the stupid bastard while he is trying to explain wind patterns represented by radar image in colors of Christmas red and green. 

My mother wonders aloud if the colors are just for the holidays?

Sobering is the fact that neither parent has a sense of urgency, despite being in the direct line of approaching thunderstorms and two possible tornados. Facts that Eric Thomas has failed to provide to viewers. All the radar and computer technology in the world can't make up for the lack of clear and concise reporting. 

Eric Thomas has failed to inform these two people despite the fact that they were watching his weather report. To my parents the ever changing map was of little value and Eric Thomas was unable to convey even the need to pay attention to the weather. 

Much of the time the crawl at the bottom of the screen blocked out crucial information. Just when you were able to locate your home Thomas would shift the view to something else.

Eric Thomas might want to try to say more with fewer words. As far as my parents are concerned he talks way too much and is far too excitable. 

How many seniors watched WBTV tonight and sat at their kitchen table as a tornado passed over head? I'd bet a bunch thanks to Eric Thomas and WBTV.


jeff a. taylor said...

Fascinating as metro ATL had a tornado roll thru yesterday afternoon. I was in my car listening to WSB, which broke in with a weather alert, then flipped to the audio of sibling WSB-TV. Initially that struck me as dumb, as without the vid, could be useless. But the info was solid and concise: tornado sighted here, headed X, and if you are in Y and Z take shelter immediately. The cast was greatly aided by a 2nd guy who seemed to be doing color for lack of a better term, pointing out that radar had spotted debris aloft, so they were sure it was a tornado. Then back to the play-by-play guy who kept ticking off time and distances and locations that needed to shelter, all in a very calm voice. The only real misstep was a radio news babe who decided it was time to explain the difference between a watch and a warning. Not now, sweetie. The takeaway seems to be that you need a tag-team approach, with one guy laser focused on repeating the basics. Also WBTV should listen back to the AUDIO of Thomas and ask themselves if that imparted actionable info or spread confusion.

Benchmark said...

I'm a senior, but not a senior, senior (63) and watched WBTV last night. I had no problem understanding that I was under a tornado warning and used my IPad to monitor the radar for my home. I too was spared due to a split in the line. The only thought that ran through my head was, "GOSH! WBTV really needs to get their technology working!!" Its got to be really embarrassing not to be able to utilize their "state of the art" radars and such if either a. it will not run properly or b. the user doesn't know how to use it!!