After spending ten years in the KDKA-TV weather department, seven as evening anchor, a decade ago, I am still constantly reminded how personally I took the job. People often joke with me to this day about having a career where you could be “wrong” so often and still have a job! I always have the same response, “You’re right!” I smile and move on.
During those TV days I was worried about the weather 24/7/365. It became an obsession to gauge what was actually happening outside and compare it to what was presented in our forecasts.
The comments would come everywhere I went, even at a Penguins game, “Hey Larry, why didn’t you tell me the bridge was icy?” I really didn’t mind that so much. People were generally just having fun and I took that way too. Today I often joke that I am in the “Weather Witness Protection Program”, which usually draws a laugh.
I took the job seriously; however I was careful not to take myself as the weatherman too seriously. The fact is there have been tremendous advances in forecasting and technology but the reality is it’s obviously not an exact science. Yet even though we all understand that part of it we all check the weather forecasts daily. I probably say the same things everyone else says when the meteorologists are off the mark.
All of that said, the fact is it is a very important job. I can pinpoint the exact day where I really felt it. June 4th, 1998 a swarm of tornadoes touched down in Western Pennsylvania in two waves. We had enough warning to give people some life-saving advice about taking shelter. We were on-the-air on KDKA-TV uninterrupted from 5:40 pm until 11:35 pm. It was the most important night of my weather career.
Watching the video of Wednesday April 27th F-5 Tornado of Tuscaloosa and the others that devastated the South reminds us all of just how important the weather forecasts can be. It is the deadliest tornado outbreak since the 1930’s with over 300 people killed and towns flattened.
A friend of mine whose daughter was three blocks from being literally blown away at the University of Alabama where they lost 30 students, claims that radio and television forecasts gave people advance warnings that he thinks may have saved countless others lives.
When you see the natural disasters that occur around the world, I always come back to the same thought about Pittsburgh and it has everything to do with our weather and my previous profession. Even though we have what many people perceive as a sunshine deficiency here we are living in one of the safest places on our planet!
Add it all together, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, wildfires, extreme snowfalls and flooding, extreme heat waves or cold snaps, tornadoes. While we have a few of these occurrences in much smaller doses than other places, all things considered we are living in an extremely people friendly environment.
I am just as happy to remind you of that while not being “responsible” for weather any more!