Friday, April 10, 2009

On Tornadoes and DTV

We had a line of severe storms move through here last night, dropping at least one tornado and bringing 70 mph straightline winds and hail everywhere. This was our first tornado warning here in the Alley, we missed an earlier one while we were gone for Spring Break.

The primary way to get up-to-the-minute info is to turn on your local TV, right? However, the new digital TV signal is heavily affected by the weather. Your converter can't form a picture without a very strong signal, and when there's a bad storm directly over the TV station's broadcasting equipment then its broadcast signal is affected. This is bad. Fortunately, a couple stations still came in clear enough to make out what they were saying, and we never lost power so I could follow the storm track on the internet (with the 5 minute delay on Weather.com).

Overall, I have not been real impressed with the Springfield weathermen. We got spoiled in Waco by Andy Wallace, the best (and most weather-paranoid) weatherman in the U.S. Rule #1 for weathermen: NEVER apologize for preemting a rerun of Grey's Anatomy. The ABC guy did that last night, saying "sorry, but we have a life-threatening situation here." And if you're a Grey's fan, never ever call a TV station to complain about your show being preempted. Watch the rerun all you want to online.

We only have one station with the 3D stormtracker weather map action. This does a good job, but the weatherman seemed only interested in telling us what was happening in Springfield proper and didn't zoom out much. Nevermind the red box on the map indicating that a tornado is coming toward Bolivar...

Probably the best job done last night was by the local NBC station that simply put up the standard radar onto the screen the entire time (zoomed way too far in) and read off the reports they were hearing from HAM radio operators and people calling in. We never lost that station's DTV signal, so I was able to feel somewhat informed.

Overall, I feel that the DTV transition has made us less safe in the event of a weather emergency.

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