During the thick of the storm on Thursday night, we turned on The Weather Channel to see what was happening. In Midtown Mobile, at least, the storm felt a bit like a non-event (thankfully); and local TV stayed with regular programming. The Weather Channel gave us a reliably good, albeit imperfect, picture of the storm. The names of cities and towns were almost all pronounced correctly, and we could easily use their maps to see where the storm was, and where it was heading. [As a sidebar, Americans are getting less savvy about reading maps because... GPS and its turn-by-turn directions. Birmingham meteorologist James Spann recently pleaded with Alabamians to learn basic map skills].
But there were a few gaffes, a few moments that reminded me why local coverage is so much better. Local meteorologists tend to have a much better understanding of what advice works and what doesn't. For example, one of the Weather Channel meteorologists actually told us to go to our basements in the event of a tornado. Um, we don't have a lot of basements around here. That was corrected pretty quickly by the other meteorologist on the set. In another moment, we were told Mobile was getting hammered or something like that. But as we were sitting in our living room, it was hardly raining and hadn't really gotten bad at all.
And then there was the Conecuh County gaffe. They actually took a brief second to discuss -- and then went with "CAHN-eh-cuh,' emphasis on the first syllable. They did not go with the correct "cuh-NECK-uh, with emphasis on the second syllable. This is something you wouldn't necessarily expect them to know, but you'll never forget the pronunciation from the moment you have your first bite of Conecuh sausage, which is simply among the world's best. (This article from al.com offers up the tastiest dishes featuring Conecuh sausage and is not one to read when you're hungry).
After the Conecuh gaffe, my wife suggested that Conecuh sausage will start arriving at The Weather Channel, along with notes about proper pronunciation. Wait a minute, maybe that's why they screwed it up in the first place. If I can say one word wrong and get some delicious Conecuh sausage sent my way, I might decide to accidentally on purpose mispronounce Conecuh County myself. (Or not, because I can buy it at Costco).
In any event, I'll stick with the local meteorologists whenever I can. The communities they cover are more than names on a map, they are the homes of friends and their own families. Jake Dunne of NBC-15 can talk the safest spot in his house and it doesn't involve a basement. When a tornado is close by, as it was on Christmas Day a few years ago, we can listen to John Nodar say exactly where that tornado is in a way we understand. That Christmas Day tornado was close enough for us to go to our home's safe place, along with the dog and two reluctant cats.
I haven't watched The Weather Channel much lately. When they started making up names for winter storms, I figured they had jumped the shark. Local coverage, weather apps, and the excellent information available from the National Weather Service (weather.gov) have given us easy access to weather info whenever we need it. As long as Jim Cantore is somewhere, anywhere else but here, that's all I need to know. (Sorry, Jim... nothing personal).