When there’s a hurricane or blizzard looming, The Weather Channel ratings skyrocket. No one wants to see anyone killed, lose their home or be buried by an avalanche, but weather events excite some people.
Guilty as charged.
Yep, I’m a weather junkie. When I see storm chasers following tornadoes in the Midwest or pointing at a blown-off roof somewhere on the coast, I get a little jealous. I would love to be in their shoes — or wet boots. I’m not much for freezing to death, so I’d let someone else cover the blizzards, but I get plenty excited every four or five years when we get an inch of snow around here.
I also feel a little guilty for getting excited as I watch hurricanes and tornadoes. Folks die in these storms. I spent more than a week in Lee County, Alabama, after last year’s massive tornado and met a lot of folks who lost loved ones and/or their homes. It was a real tragedy. I felt especially bad about the events of March 3, 2019, because my wife and I were sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship bound for the Caribbean under beautiful blue skies I had no idea what was happening in Alabama until we returned.
I’ve seen a few tornadoes, but nothing like that. Most of the tornadoes I’ve seen — probably EF-0s, EF-1s or E.F. Huttons — were just enough to provide a little adrenaline rush. I’ve seen a handful of waterspouts at the coast, including one that dropped right next to our car while we were atop the way-too-high Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, prompting my wife to provide helpful instructions from the passenger seat in the form of terrified, somewhat indecipherable screaming.
She should’ve known I wouldn’t exactly panic in that situation. The very first time she visited me in Columbus nearly 10 years ago, we saw a tornado on the horizon coming toward the river.
“What are we gonna do?!” she asked in a mere mild panic.
“Duh, we’re gonna follow it.”
She looked at me with those big brown eyes the same way she does today, a sort of “You really are as stupid as you look” kind of glance. Either she truly loves me in spite of my idiocy, or the world truly had run out of available men that year.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by stormy weather. It could be genetic. When a thunderstorm would roll in back home, my dad would often grab his guitar and play on the open-air front porch with the occasional thunderclap providing percussion on Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga.” Meanwhile, I’d be in the rain using sticks to make little rivers in the yard while wishing he’d learn some Prince tunes. (Fortunately, he didn’t — not sure I’d want the image of him performing “Kiss” or “Let’s Go Crazy” and dancing across that rickety old porch stuck in my head for the rest of my life.)
Today, when there’s a severe weather alert, my wife runs and grabs the cat and tells me, “Be careful out there!” She knows I’ll be outside until the situation calms down. When the TV weather folks breathlessly say, “This is a dangerous situation! Take cover immediately!” what I hear is “Chris, get your camera and run outside!”
Lately, hurricanes are getting a lot of attention because they now hit the U.S. every 20 minutes or so. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that sea temperatures are so high that shrimpers are now hauling in already-boiled shrimp, or “ocean roaches” as I call them.
I’d like to pull a Jim Cantore and show up on the Gulf Coast to await the next major hurricane — probably named Pi Kappa Phi by now. I can talk on a microphone, I can get hit in the head with a flying road sign and I can say things like “Back to you, Dr. Rick Knabb.” I could be the next Jim Cantore.
Not to mention I’ve already got the Cantore hair.
All three of them.