Weather steals the show at local TV stationsWritten by Tyler DePerro | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It wasn’t a flood of biblical proportions, but it did cause local news stations to change June 21 programming.
“At 6:30 p.m. when we typically would go to ‘World News Tonight,’ when it was clear there was flooding and tornado warnings, we blew our primetime lineup and commercials,” Brian Trauring, news director at WTVG, said. “[Covering] severe weather is one of our most important responsibilities.”
At the beginning of the storm, Trauring said, “there was so much inclement weather we couldn’t get our live trucks on the air. We relied on phone coverage then got video in, then live shots. We didn’t go off until 12:05 a.m.”
The station also had live coverage from a helicopter, Trauring said.
“The aerial shots let viewers see how widespread the storm was,” he said.
Jonathan Mitchell, news director for WNWO, said his station’s “process began the day before” the storm hit.
“[Our morning meteorologist] Norm Van Ness came to me and said, ‘This could be a doozie.’ All the numbers were right where they needed to be for a horrible storm. We were prepared.”
Mitchell and his team met at 4 p.m. June 21 and decided to dispatch crews to “get in front of the storm,” he said. “We also had storm checkers calling sheriff departments, restaurants, etc., to take storm reports.”
When the first tornado warning came in, Mitchell said the station followed its own severe weather policy to stay on until the warning expired. “One of the touching points is that technology let us prepare for this. Fifteen years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Mitchell said.
Mitch Jacob, news director for WTOL, said the station’s decision to cover the storm for the entire evening was the right one.
“When a storm impacts our immediate viewing area, we do continuous coverage,” he said. “Our job is to make sure our entire viewing area is taken care of.”
WTOL had the same concerns the other stations did.
“We had to make sure our crews were safe; there was a lot of lightning,” Jacob said. “But our crews came back in, and we did live reports.”
Each station reported receiving numerous e-mails and notes thanking them for their coverage.
“We even got a thank you from a guy on Pelee Island who said the Canadian stations weren’t covering the storm,” Mitchell said.
Jacob said, “Viewer response has been unbelievable,” Trauring said.
“We got a few complaints from people because it was the season premiere of ‘Big Brother.’ But, we’ve gotten more positive responses.”