February 5

National Weatherpersons Day (US)


“Doppler radar didn’t predict that one, did it?”

The disheveled intruder steps over the body of Ray Hanson, the lead anchor for 6 o’clock.

That shooting was a gesture, to make everyone realize he’s serious.  You know you are the real target.

The studio’s on lockdown.  You’re broadcasting live.

“I’m very sorry for your loss, sir.”

Although you’ve spoken quietly, avoiding your “forecast voice,” the intruder reacts angrily.  “Loss?  How does somebody lose something as big as a house?”  The man paces, turning his head frequently to ensure none of the other hostages make a move for his gun. My house.  Gone.”

The gun waves in the air, his unshaved face twitching.  A stale smell rises off of him, penetrating the shield of your cologne.  He hasn’t bathed in a while.  Or slept in a while, either, judging from his wavering focus.

“I did the best I could with the information I had,” you assure him.  “Eight of the nine forecast models showed no rotation winds in your area.”

“What about the ninth!”  A shaking gun hand punctuates his words.  You’re afraid he’ll shoot you by accident.  You’re afraid he’ll shoot you on purpose. “I needed a warning.”

A warning really wouldn’t have helped.  The poor guy’s house would have been hit, either way.  But he won’t listen to reason.

“I’m very sorry,” you repeat.  “Mother Nature surprises all of us sometimes.”  You wonder if a vague admission of guilt might soothe him:  “It’s an inexact science.”

The gunman offers a dry laugh that seems to lower the “feels like” temperature in the room by 5 degrees.  “Science,” he scoffs.  “You never get anything right.”

The pool of blood around Hanson’s body spreads across the floor.  The dead man’s co-anchor, Tamara, cowers behind the desk and whimpers.

Despite all the tension, you’re freshly aware the cameras are still rolling.  As the station’s Chief Meteorologist, you feel the need to defend your profession.  “No forecast can be 100 percent accurate.  However…” — You break contact with the gunman and make a theatrical gesture to indicate your computer equipment. — “…our station has Double Doppler capabilities, ensuring the best weathercast in the tri-state region.”

“Not 100 percent.  Not by a long shot.”  The intruder’s expression shows an awful confidence.  You know he has the power to kill you, but you sense something more.

He’s not just crazy.  His mania has elevated him somehow.  A destroyed man, but he’s gained some sinister new ability.  He’s anxious to bring it down on the world that betrayed him.

“Pull up the map,” he says, waving the gun.  “Do it!”

The green screen stays blank behind you, but you press a button that fills a chroma-key map onto the monitors.

“Larger,” the intruder says.

You adjust the roller-button on your remote.  On the monitor, the tri-state map shrinks inside a map of the United States.

“Now, put some arrows and things on it.”

“I can’t do that from here,” you stammer.  “Can I move to my control desk?”

The man nods, and points the way with his pistol.

You sit at your swivel chair and grab the computer mouse.  You lower the icon window, click on a few random jet-stream patterns, then add the sun and rain clouds in scattered locations.

Suddenly, the gunman pushes your chair out of the way.

“Let me try,” he says.  He scrolls through the icons, finding the worst graphics — those indicating hurricane winds, tornadic activity, extreme flooding.

Oh God. You’ve shown him how to use your computer.  He’s insane, and you’ve shown him…

Quick cut-and-paste, repeated clicks.  Soon the map of the country is covered with dreadful graphics.  He’s even added multiple instances of an earthquake graphic you’ve never needed to use.

He zooms back to the tri-state map.  None of the city or town names are visible under the barrage of weather icons.

The mouse pointer moves to the Prediction Slider.  The gunman raises the bar to 100 percent.