For this family, Tasselmyer sent from the cloudy skies above

February 27, 2003|By KEVIN COWHERD

The snow was falling in large ugly flakes and my mood was even uglier when I picked up the phone yesterday and called the great Tom Tasselmyer.

This is how we refer to the veteran WBAL-TV weatherman around my house, as the great Tom Tasselmyer.

Throughout this horrible winter, the man's name has been invoked almost daily by everyone in my family.

It seems my wife and I don't leave the house anymore without one of us shouting to the other: "What does Tom Tasselmyer say about today?"

My kids, who will normally quote an adult only if he's Adam Sandler or the lead singer of Green Day, actually begin conversations with: "Tom Tasselmyer was just on, and he said ... "

As of yet, there is no shrine to Tom Tasselmyer in my home, although I can envision a tasteful nook off the kitchen with kneelers, votive candles and a small bronze bust of Tom, or perhaps a full-color poster of him pointing at a Doppler radar map or the five-day forecast board.

Anyway, here was yet another miserable day of snow yesterday, with traffic backed up on the Beltway as if a mushroom cloud had been sighted over Baltimore.

The schools were closing early and people were freaking out as usual, rampaging through supermarkets in search of supplies for the grim ordeal that lay ahead.

(Explain this to me: The government issues a terrorist alert, and most of us don't even lay in an extra bottled water. But mention that 2 inches of snow is coming, and we're out hijacking Wonder Bread and Dairy Maid trucks.)

Still, when I reached Tasselmyer at his home in northern Baltimore County, he seemed calm enough.

As WBAL's chief meteorologist since 1989, he'd been tracking the storm since early morning and had already been on the radio predicting 2 to 4 inches, with more snow overnight and maybe more snow today and tomorrow and possibly every day for the rest of our lives.

What with the 900 inches or whatever that we already had on the ground, it was a bleak forecast, indeed, and I wondered if people were beginning to shun him.

Isn't it the Amish who are big on shunning?

Or I could see people turning on their local weathermen this winter like crazed Rottweilers, as if the weathermen were somehow responsible for Maryland suddenly turning into Vermont.

Look, we may be big Tasselmyer groupies in my house, but we know he's not God. (Although he does have great hair.)

Besides, Tasselmyer is used to accepting blame for the weather.

"I hear it all the time," he said with a chuckle. "People say: `Could you make it stop?' or `Please don't make it come here.'

"People think you have more information than you have, or that you have this deep, dark secret [about the weather] you're not sharing."

Oh, yes, I have heard of people like that.

In fact, there's actually a clinical term for such people.

And the clinical term is: They're dopes.

Actually, as Tasselmyer pointed out, predicting the path of a big storm is incredibly tricky business, as is trying to pinpoint how many inches of snow the storm will dump.

Tasselmyer said he hates the fact that inch-counts have become a big part of winter storm forecasts. But it seems that the more snow people have dumped on them, the less they care whether the weather guy got the inch-count exactly right.

"In the big [snowstorm last week], we were able to say that between 20 and 30 inches would fall, and nobody questioned that 10-inch range," he said. "If we had called for 1 to 2 inches in the beginning of the year and [people] got 3 inches in their area, we'd be getting the e-mails and phone calls."

Look, Tasselmyer is so big in my house, he could be off by 3 feet on a storm, and we'd forgive him.

But when I asked if he was equally big with his friends and neighbors - the guy's been on the air more than Dick Vitale lately; people must try to talk weather with him 24 hours a day - he laughed.

"In my neighborhood, you almost get the sense that it's the unspoken thing that they don't talk about the weather with me," he said. "It's almost eerie that way."

But when a big storm hits and he's out shoveling snow in the driveway with all the other stiffs, he figures he's an endless source of amusement for the neighbors.

"There's nothing more pleasurable than seeing the weather guy shoveling snow," he said. " ... They must be pointing and laughing and having a good time."

No wonder Tasselmyer sounds like he's as sick of winter as the rest of us, although he adds that this pattern of cold weather with precipitation "could last a few more weeks."

Which means we'll still be seeing a lot of him on the air.

I should probably start on that shrine.

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