Snow panic starts with few TV flakes

January 14, 1999|By Kevin Cowherd

AS I TYPE these words, I am surrounded by heaping supplies of milk, bread and toilet paper, enough to make the place look like Ted Kaczynski's winter home.

If I could take a moment to address my TV news brethren, particularly those involved in the recent snow coverage, let me begin by saying: You people have to stop this.

Because you're scaring the hell out of me.

I grew up in southern New York, where the winters can be severe, and I thought I was ready for any kind of weather imaginable.

But I still freak out every time I turn on the TV and hear: "IT'S COMING! SNOW, SLEET, FREEZING RAIN! METEORS, MAYBE! AND THE EYEWITNESS ACTION COMMUNITY NEWS TEAM WILL BE WITH YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!"

Next thing you know, I'm gunning the car toward Safeway and elbowing some 86-year-old grandmother out of the way for a can of chunk light tuna.

And I don't even like chunk light tuna.

But if we're going to be snowed in for three weeks, I'm not getting caught short on chunk light tuna, my friend.

Bread, milk, toilet paper, chunk light tuna -- you have all four of them, you can last until the new millennium.

So hand it over, granny, and no one gets hurt.

The point is, everything you TV news people do during bad weather frightens me.

During the last snowstorm, I turned on the news and there was an Eyewitness Action Community News Team correspondent doing a stand-up right next to a major highway.

He had on enough winter gear to survive six months in the Yukon: requisite heavy-duty parka, insulated hood tied securely around his head, Navy SEAL-approved mittens capable of withstanding temperatures of 70 below zero, boots that could climb the Matterhorn.

And now, standing next to this major highway, he was about to tell us how the snow was affecting traffic. (My guess, even before this guy opened his mouth, was: Bet it's slowing things down. But that's just a layman talking.)

Anyway, as he was delivering his report, you could look over his right shoulder and see cars slipping and sliding all over the place. Suddenly, I was consumed by one thought: This guy is going to die!

A car is going to come along, skid out of control and splatter this guy all over the road! And we'll see the whole thing on live TV!

In fact, I got so nervous watching this guy that I jumped to my feet screaming: "WHAT'RE YOU, CRAZY! MOVE BACK FROM THE HIGHWAY! LOOK AT THAT TOYOTA BEHIND YOU! YOU'RE GONNA GET KILLED!"

Anyway, TV news people, while I have your attention, could I ask you a big favor? Could you lighten up with the shots of the salt trucks? Please. I've had it up to here with shots of salt trucks.

Salt trucks pulling into highway department headquarters, salt trucks being loaded with salt, salt trucks spraying salt on the roads -- it's all driving me nuts. So can we cut back on the salt truck footage? I'm begging you. (Hey, I'm on my hands and knees here.)

On a related note: Maybe you could ease up on the interviews with the salt truck drivers, too.

Look, we know they've been working around the clock, OK?

We know they haven't slept in 127 hours or whatever, and the last time they had a hot meal was in October.

We know they're "gonna be out here for as long as it takes."

Please, enough.

I bet you could pull footage from the Kennedy administration and the salt truck drivers were saying the same things back then.

Here's another thing.

You know what happens when I see these interviews with exhausted salt truck drivers?

I'll tell you what happens: I get really paranoid. In fact, I get so paranoid I'm afraid to get in my car. Because I keep imagining I'm driving to the store for more bread, milk and toilet paper, and a guy driving a salt truck who hasn't slept in 127 hours dozes off at the wheel and plows into me.

And as my car erupts in a towering fireball, the Eyewitness Action Community News Team van arrives to shoot the whole thing for the 6 o'clock news.

They'd probably interview the salt truck driver first.

Pub Date: 1/14/99

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