Sunday, July 27, 2003

TV weather wars rain radar hyperbole

You may have noticed a change in the weather. You may have seen that things are not the same. Things will never be the same. Ultimate Doppler is here.

You might wonder what Ultimate Doppler is, and how it differs from Triple Doppler, Doppler 5000, plain ol', no-account Doppler or the cows heading for the barn on a sunny afternoon.

You might even wonder what happens when the next generation Doppler arrives, as it surely must. What's more ultimate than Ultimate?

Pete Delkus will tell you. He is the chief meteorologist at WCPO Channel 9. Pete knows what he knows. He knows it because he has Ultimate Doppler on his side. (Not to mention VIPIR Doppler, which sounds like a snake, but is really a top-secret, long-range weather bomber that drops 12-inch snowstorms on cities we don't like.)

Pete calls Ultimate Doppler "the Maserati" of weather radar. He says it makes WCPO the Yankees of local weather predictors.

You can just see Pete, a former professional pitcher, lording over the rest of the local weather wizards like some weather-jock Joe Torre, leading his overwhelming Doppler forces into battle with benevolent arrogance and abandon, humbling the overmatched troops at Channels 5, 12 and 19.

Of Channel 5's Doppler 5000, Pete says, "They've got the same (radar) we have. But they bought the economy version."

Of 19's vaunted Triple Doppler attack, Pete judges, "triple means they have access to three national weather sites. We have access to 200. We could (call ourselves) whatever 200 is."

Bicentennial Doppler!

Ultimate Doppler's proper name, says Delkus, is VHDD 350 C. Ultimate is just the name given to it by WCPO's marketing folks.

The Ultimate advantage, Delkus says, is speed. Ultimate is six times faster than regular Doppler.

"See the sweep?" Pete asks, referring to the clock hand sweeping the Tri-State on the radar screen. "Most of those do one revolution per minute. Ours is six a minute. We can look at a storm faster."

It gives Delkus better accuracy, he says, and more speed. Essentially, Channel 9 gives you "more lead time for your trip to the basement" when the twister hits.

What might Auntie Em have done with Ultimate Doppler? Dorothy would never have made it to Munchkinland. She'd just be sitting in that crummy fruit cellar, dreaming about ruby slippers. But we digress.

Channels 5, 12 and 19 are in high-level executive session at this very moment, wondering how to fortify their own Dopplers, stressing over how to deal with 9's 1,000-pound gorilla Maserati Doppler. Channel 12's Steve Horstmeyer is in news director Elbert Tucker's office right now, banging a weather vane on Tucker's desk.

"We're busting our Dopplers here, but we can't compete!" Horstmeyer is saying. "You give us better equipment, and we'll kick some Delkus Doppler all over the Storm Center!"

(Dear Steve: It's a joke. No nasty e-mail this time, OK?)

Until the magical day comes when all four local stations are outfitted with Ultimate Bicentennial Doppler, we'll just have to rely on Ultimate. Or, you know, the tree leaves. When they go upside down in the wind, it means a storm is brewing.

One other thing: Can we get a Doppler Mortar to blow away the ink blot in the corner of the TV screen? Is there anything worse than watching sports and having that computer smudge hide the score?

And what about snow? Will Ultimate Doppler free us from the idiots who, on word of an impending inch or two, cram every available roll of toilet paper into the cargo bay of their SUVs? Will it keep a few schools open that now close on rumors, thereby keeping my loud, destructive children at home when I'm working?

Well? Will it? Because if it won't, what's the use?

Meantime, I'm building a bomb shelter in the back yard. For use during the next rumored thunderstorm.


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