Sunday, December 16


Boy, did I get that one wrong.

I said in today's earlier post that at least no TV tower had collapsed in the ice storm that swept through overnight. . I spoke way too soon. Apparently one of WNEP's two Penobscot towers toppled onto the transmitter building. I didn't notice this morning because WNEP uses microwave and fiber optics to deliver its signal to many cable companies, my supplier included. I was watching Channel 16 on a cable feed.

The collapse also damaged WYOU's power lines. CBS programming on my local cable TV is being routed in from KYW-TV in Philadelphia. A bit surprising to look up at 6:00 p.m. tonight and see the Philly newscast with Philly weather and sports. And Philly commercials!

WBRE has been on and off--but I saw the Channel 28 newscast at 6:00 on my cable. Truth is, I'm not sure anyone is actually on-air over-the-air right now, and information on a wicked weather Sunday is hard to come by.

This isn't a hard news, breaking news site--that's not my purpose--but it will be interesting seeing how this shakes out in the weeks ahead.

As for me: been there, done that. I was at WCIX (now WFOR) in Miami when our tower collapsed at the height of Hurricane Andrew in '92. At 1,860+ feet it was the tallest man-made structure in Florida.


If you're in the business, you know that towers are designed to crumple straight down into one heap. "Andrew" pushed that big stick straight over. It wound up stretched across 1,860 feet of mango groves down near Homestead. It also fell over the transmitter building. Two engineers were inside. They thought they heard something--but with the storm throwing mangoes at the side of the building at 120 miles-an-hour, they didn't want to stick their heads out to look.

They were OK. But I remember the GM, Allen Shaklan, sitting in my office when news of the collapse came. He leaned forward in his chair and put his head in his hands.

For about sixty seconds.

Then he--and we--pressed ahead.

I know the local broadcasters will do the same. Some engineweers are in for some sleepless nights, but it will work itself out.

Snow Foolin'

It’s Sunday morning, and the wind is howling by my window. The nor’easter predicted for this weekend is here—sort of.

We didn’t get the feet of snow that was mentioned a few days ago as a possibility—but I’m still calling it a big victory for the area meteorologists. I think we got lucky by about a hundred miles. North of here it’s snowing. Overnight, here, we had freezing rain. I opened my sliding glass door at about 2:00 a.m. and the sleet sounded like BBs bouncing off the icy pavement. We’ve got a break right now—then the snow hits. I know there’s a difference between snow and freezing rain—but how big a difference, really? The bottom line is that the meteorologists said Sunday would be a horrible travel day. They were right.

People raided the stores Friday for their French Toast makin’s. It still surprises me that some people think any forecast of snow means they’re going to be snowed in until spring. They must have seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on cable once too often.

Some other thoughts.

As I write this several local TV stations are off the air: most notably WYOU (CBS) and WBRE (NBC). All the local stations have their towers on Penobscot Mountain, and the power is out up there. I’m not sure if WNEP (ABC) is working on its own generator power this morning, but they’re on the air. During the morning news, anchor Andy Palumbo mentioned that the power outage kept WNEP from receiving microwave signals. It’ll be interesting seeing when the other stations get back on. This is one of those mornings when you’re dying for a local forecast—and only WNEP was able to deliver.

Many years ago WBRE lost its tower when it collapsed during an ice storm. It doesn’t sound like this will come to that.

When I posted earlier this week about the pending nor’easter, I didn’t bother to mention the heavy snow predicted for Thursday. So here’s a big “attaboy/attagirl” to the meteorologists. They said the storm would start at 7:00 a.m. over most of the region—and taper off in the afternoon. They said to expect 5-6” of snow—more in what we call the Northern Tier of counties and the Poconos.

They were dead on! The snow started when they said—came down as fast as they said—accumulated as much as they said—and died down when they said.

The important thing to note is that virtually every school district in the area paid attention and canceled classes for the day; in some cases the night before. Thank God! It was hairy enough there for awhile it would have made getting home from school Thursday afternoon a nightmare.

It drives me crazy when school districts keep kids for a half-day, dismissing them early when snow hits mid-day. Why would they do that? Easy. They get state credit for a class day even if the kids spend only a couple of hours in class. It's dollars, even if it doesn't make much sense.

Another note about school closings. Whether I had a hand in developing the computerized closing system or not, it has changed the way school superintendents view snow days.

Now, when I was a boy (I know, cover your ears if you don’t want to hear a “remember when” story), I don’t think classes in my suburban Cleveland school district were canceled more than five or six times during my entire K-12 career. And delays? Classes were never delayed.

Were we tougher back then—descended from heartier stock? Possibly, but I don’t think that’s the reason for the change.

First, I think the computerized closings on TV made it easier for the superintendents to cancel or delay classes. Used to be, they’d have to get up at 5:00 a.m., decide what to do, then start calling five, or six, or a dozen radio stations. Then came TV listings—and it took only two or three calls. Today it can all be done almost automatically from a computer. “Dr. Jones,” the superintendent, rolls out of bed, checks out the window, goes to his PC, and ten minutes later he can be back in bed, dreaming of high standardized test scores.

Second reason: if kids aren’t weaker, maybe it’s that lawyers are stronger. “Dr. Jones” is thinking, “You know, Milt isn’t that great a driver. God forbid the bus slides sideways three feet and clips a mailbox. I’ll have 37 lawyers in the office claiming whiplash for 37 kids—when there were only 25 on the bus. We’ll get sued for an amount of money equal to the GNP of some emerging countries. Jeez, we can’t even play dodge ball in the gym without someone filing a personal injury lawsuit! I should take chances?” And it’s back to the land of nod.

It comes down to this: school superintendents are a bit gun-shy these days. Hell, they have guns pointed at them!

So I suggest we honor the real heroes of the last few days. Can I declare this “Hug a Meteorologist” week?