Chicken Littles come out to play as winter arrives


Meteorologically speaking, they need to chill.

They won't, of course. Bless their cumulus-clouded little hearts.

Rarely does this column address the windiness of weathercasts. Too obvious a target. Too fruitless a task.

Yet as Monday marks winter's arrival via the calendar and our forecasters work their Dopplers off to portray this precipitation-challenged market as meteorologically interesting, we temporarily suspend our indifference.

As Michael Emmer, a guest columnist in last Sunday's New York Times, articulated in comparing today's longwinded weather segments to years past: "Local news channels devote far more time to the weather, which in turn increases its influence in our lives." Which it needn't.

Inclement weather here is an inconvenience. Not a cataclysm. And often not quite as advertised. To illustrate their inclinations, we examined their rather excitable run-up to the new solstice as they tracked last Friday's "storm." Let's state their overstatements:

Curiously, Channel 8's 11 p.m. news led with weather -- see stock footage of a hand scooping snow! -- as Dave Courvoisier warned of Saturday's "big blast of winter" and handed off to Tedd Florendo, who was "tracking the storm headed our way." Yes, the National Weather Service classified it a "storm" -- impactful at 5,000 feet elevation in the mountains while a few flurries grazed the valley.

So? Never seen a stray, here-and-gone snowflake before?

Through Florendo's opening and midcast segments, chatter over high-elevation snow eventually segued to a seven-day forecast. That "big blast of winter" headlining the news? For those of us (i.e., most of us) who live in the Las Vegas Valley and comprise the bulk of the viewership, 11 p.m.'s lead story amounted to ... "occasional rain" over the weekend.

Equally energized over mountaintop moisture, Channel 3's entertaining Jerry Brown regaled us with "flakes flying, weather-watchers going wild!" The tease: "I'll have a wild forecast for you!" One of those wild weather-watchers? Turns out it's meteorological mate Kevin Janison at Red Rock Resort. That wild, flake-flying forecast? "Periods of rain."

(Tough to top Brown for passionate prognosticating. Admiring a showery mass moving across the map from California, he bubbled: "This is really nice. Look at those thunderstorms.")

Over at Fox-5, Darren Peck teased us with an "impressive" storm, predicting a "big impact" on our weekend. That, for us valley-dwelling weather dullards, translated to a half-inch of rain and light flurries in higher elevations of town. Added Peck: "You're not going to have enough to make a snowball." And Channel 13's Bryan Scofield referred to an approaching "snow producer," his face scrunched into a leer of anticipation like a salivating strip-bar customer when Foxy or Roxy doff their D-cups.

Exaggeration and inflated expectations sell tabloids and weather can be the National Enquirer of the newscast. Sex sells. Snow does, too. "E! News," only starring wind gusts instead of celeb lust.

As winter wraps around Vegas, we hope weathercasters inform in moderation, not indulge in exaggeration.

Chances of that occurring, however, are roughly equal to -- excuse the expression -- a snowball in hell.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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