StormTeam 10 explains decision to cut into preseason football

Tornado warnings prompted long-form coverage on WSLS 10


ROANOKE, Va. –  

To our WSLS 10 viewers,


On Thursday evening, meteorologist Jeff Haniewich and I broke into programming to cover a pair of tornado warnings in Giles County. This was an unpopular decision, based on the fact that the first NFL preseason football game of the season was airing during that time on our channel. Looking back, we wouldn't have changed how we covered Thursday night's tornado warning.

I can empathize with those of you who are frustrated with us. Jeff and I love football. We root for horrible teams, but that's besides the point. We understand that at the end of the day, you want to sit back and watch football. You deserve that. We're thankful that you chose to turn on Channel 10 to do so.

TV stations across the country run into this problem of covering up big sporting events, TV shows, etc. with important weather information. (Trust me. I've seen this first-hand in both Raleigh and in the Tri-Cities, TN/VA television markets.)

Q: If TV stations face backlash, why do they continue to cover up programming?

A: Simply put, it is our job to inform, alert and in some cases, protect those who watch our channel. We cover more than 20 counties, not including independent cities. At this point in time, broadcast technology is not to the point where we can just pick one county to broadcast weather warnings to.

Q. Ok. Fair enough. So did you HAVE to stay on for so long?

A: While TV stations have the obligation to cut in for a tornado warning, it is up to the individual TV station as to how long they stay on. It is FCC regulation that we stay with you to warn of possible tornadoes. Given our understanding of how rotating thunderstorms work, we felt the need to stay on for an extended period of time. These storms breathe in and out and are evolving by the second. While there were radar scans that showed the storm weakening, it could also breathe in, strengthen within a matter of seconds and (God forbid) drop a tornado. We saw this happen in Bedford not long ago. That's why we stayed on as long as we did.

Q: Why didn’t you split-screen earlier then, if you knew you were going to be on long?

A:  Fair enough. We're always working to improve how we do things and maybe this is something that we can talk about internally. That way, we keep people informed that need to be while still giving you the opportunity to watch the game. Our production staff has informed us that it takes time to confirm that split-screen will work for the given situation.

Q: Did you really feel the need to repeat yourselves, and to show weather technology that no one cares about?

A: We repeat ourselves, because storms are constantly evolving. We also know that people may be tuning in at different times. We have to respect that. As far as the technology, that's how we track storms. Things like velocity and correlation coefficient are important for us to determine the strength or weakness of the storm, so we bring those products up on air. I will admit that I can do a better job of explaining these things and perhaps spend less time explaining them. Again, we're human and always working to improve how we do things. So, thank you for your feedback!

Please understand that we're not here to a) hear ourselves talk, b) get more air time or c) annoy anyone.

We've explained above why we cover storms the way we do. While this won't make everyone happy, hopefully it will give some of you a better understanding. As a matter of fact, we dread covering up your programming. However, it's something that has to be done to ensure safety and awareness to the people that we serve.

Finally, I'm fairly new to this area. Ask anyone in the Tri-Cities, TN/VA television market, though, and they will tell you that I am honest, transparent and approachable (just as the rest of StormTeam 10 is.)

If you have any further questions, feel free to message me on my Facebook page or send an email to cmichaels@wsls.com. This is not an invitation to cuss me out or call me names, because quite frankly - that doesn't affect me and is a waste of time and energy. I would also never do that to any of you. I do, however, want you to know that I'd like to build a strong bond with you all. That way whenever severe weather impacts you, you have someone, and more importantly a team, that you can rely on and trust.

Thank you for taking the time to read this long wad of text. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. 



Chris Michaels


About the Author: