On the East Coast, it ain't a real Hurricane until Al Roker, Anderson Cooper, or one of The Weather Channel's Storm Specialists, or Hurricane Hunters, or whatever title they carry (does it require a license? A badge, maybe?) are standing on a street corner in Fort Pierce or Boca Raton, on a nearly submerged dock in Key West or somewhere in the Indian River, being pelted by branches and palm fronds, beaten back by firehose-velocity rain, peppered by hale, demonstrating the storm's strength by meeting it head-on, standing tall, Samson-like inside the eye, weathering.
What divergent path led these meteorologists to become what are essentially human weathervanes? All those years studying barotropic systems, memorizing what maximum sustained surface winds mean what for the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, poring over data on the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and the Fujiwhara Effect, only to be handed a microphone and told: “Put on that poncho and these safety glasses, go stand outside and tell us how bad it hurts.”
Any dedicated East Coast—especially Floridian—surfer born before 2008 will fondly remember the cool jazz muzak leading into The Weather Channel's “Local on the 8's”, or, more likely, the “Tropical Update”, as you cleaned and reapplied wax or fixed those dings you'd been "drying out" since the last time you surfed, which during the summer could have been months. Meteorologists would eventually march out in their best pressed suits to gesticulate wildly in front of green-screened bursts of color reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting, and you knew waves were on their way.
But deep down, we all know that the real metric for measuring a storm’s power and potential for surf isn’t a green-screened weather model. It’s how long anchors like Jim Cantore, perhaps the world's first famous weatherer, are able to stay vertical in the maelstrom.
There have been documentaries and myriad primetime news specials about Cantore’s place as “America’s Weatherman”. Cantore earned his nickname, “The Reaper,” because anywhere he appeared, hell was sure to be close behind. According to a special feature on Cantore in Popular Mechanics, “[Cantore’s] presence is so synonymous with severe weather that Weather Channel president David Clark jokingly calls him ‘the face of impending doom.'”
Of course, more important than what a floundering weatherman says about incoming surf, is what it says about the danger close behind. There’s something of Reality TV in the choice of weather stations to send their troops once more unto the breach as disasters strike, but it honestly seems to be the only way the dangers of these storms really sink in with the general public. Earlier this week, as Hurricane Matthew made its approach to the Southeastern Seaboard, it wasn’t the hundreds reported dead in Haiti or the billions of dollars of damage done to much of the Caribbean that lit a fire under East Coaster’s asses to get the hell out of the storm’s way. Nor was it the impassioned, desperate please of newscasters and politicians in TV Studios or Government buildings/bunkers. Nay. It was one of the Weather Channel’s poor minions wearing a blue slicker and snowboard goggles, one of the brave, unfortunate few weathering the storm so we don’t have to.
See more examples of commendable weathering: