I used to dread answering the newsroom phones at Keloland during serious storms because 90 percent of the time those calling were upset about our weather guys cutting into their favorite programs to bring weather alerts. There would be nothing I could say that would calm them down, especially if they were not in the direct path of the storm. They couldn’t care less if the folks up in Roberts County needed to take shelter, “Get The Amazing Race back on the air, dammit.” I would usually listen to them moan and groan; then try to explain our weather department’s reasoning for the program interrupts. “You don’t want viewers to be uninformed about potentially deadly weather do you?” More often than not, though, that didn’t help and the callers would likely resort to colorful expletives to express their displeasure. My rule was if I heard any of the George Carlin words you can’t say on TV, I’d tell the caller I don’t have to listen to that and hang up.
I mention all this because, during Sunday evening’s severe thunderstorms in Southeastern Keloland, it was ME who was looking to pick-up a phone and scream at somebody. Not the meteorologists at Keloland or any of the other local stations but at Midco cable TV and that *%$#@ computer voice that overrides every channel on my cable system to bring me an Emergency Alert. Okay, I get it, but there are several problems…one of them potentially dangerous. First, during severe storms, time is “critical” and it takes forever for the automated EAS information to come on the air and then go through the warning areas. It’s audio only so there’s no radar screen to see the area mentioned and severity of the storm. If I try to switch to a local station for breaking weather information gathered by their experienced meteorologists using the latest state of the art Doppler’s, Vipers and computer models , the cable’s EAS won’t let me change the station keeping its customers locked-on to that channel until the primitively acquired already dated information runs its exasperatingly slow course..then, after a few computer beeps and buzzes, finally sets us free.
To make matters even worse was that during the height of the storm Sunday night, the EAS signal would break into programming but it was all garble..a pixilated mess where you not only couldn’t hear that horrid computer voice, you couldn’t see the warning information slowly crawling across the screen. So during that 3 or 4 minutes, we had no idea where the storm was or it’s intensity and, of course, I couldn’t change the cable channel over to Brian Karstens and that new guy to find out what was really going on. I wonder if stormy weather was to blame for the garbled EAS signal. That would be a dangerous irony.
Okay, normally, I don’t get too worked up about thunderstorms and haven’t sought shelter in our basement in years but my dear Linda who had traveled with her sisters to Omaha for a graduation party, was driving home from Sioux Center, Iowa during the thick of it. She needed to concentrate on the road, so I didn’t want to keep calling her cell. The only way I was able to keep her up to speed on the storm’s latest trajectory was with my computer set to Keloland.com. I had a drink ready for her when she finally rolled safely into our driveway..shaken but not stirred.
I tried to call the guy in charge at Midco to express my displeasure and public safety concerns with EAS cutaways that kill all other channel options and, in this case, offered only garbled unintelligible warning information…but, you know, it was a holiday weekend. Probably at the lake.
If memory serves, the month of June is notorious for tornados in this part of the world and I don’t want to be watching Trobec showing me exactly where the twister is only to have him cut-off and locked out by EAS. Houses could blow away with people still inside by the time that robot voice comes on with its slow antiquated pap. If, weather permitting, it comes on at all.
I’m keeping the Direct TV and Dish phone numbers handy just in case, oh wait..aren’t they both prone to malfunctioning during bad weather too?
How about rabbit ears? I wonder if I can still buy rabbit ears.