Behind the Scenes @ FOX19 News

Steven Ackermann, News Director
Steven Ackermann, News Director

Good Tuesday morning.

As you are reading this, I suspect you will be looking at a collection of everything winter has to offer.  A little bit (I hope) of snow, some sleet, some freezing rain and some plain rain.   Frank Marzullo will be on FOX19 starting at 3:30 Tuesday morning with live updates and the entire FOX19 Morning News team will be on TV starting as early as needed.  Right Now, we already have our special Winter Weather coverage going on FOX19.COM, so you can check that out by clicking here.

The FOX19 Morning News starts every morning at 4:30--before anyone else in town!   As I am writing this, we are also planning to put our FOX19 ticker up overnight so you can see school closings as quickly as we have them.

THE SIRENS-The subject of a lot of mail to FOX19 (and everyone else in town) was about the sirens.  Many of you heard sirens in the wee hours of last Wednesday morning.  When you turned on FOX19, Christie Dutton was on TV telling you that there was a Severe Thunderstom Warning in effect, but no sign of any tornadoes.

So, why the sirens? In Hamilton County (and many of the surrounding counties), the sirens go off when a Tornado Warning goes up OR when a Severe Thunderstorm Warning goes up while a Tornado Watch is posted.  It's been this way for a couple of years.

The complaint goes like this:  If these are really Tornado Sirens, then why am I hearing them if there isn't a tornado?  A couple of answers:

  • The sirens are NOT just tornado sirens. In fact, they can be used for just about any kind of emergency if the local authorities determine that they should be used.
  • The distinction between a tornado and what meteorologists call straight-line winds is a scientific one. Ask the folks in Grant County, Kentucky if it mattered whether it was a tornado or just a severe thunderstorm that tore down trees and shattered buildings.

Last year, Mike Snowden (Director of Emergency Management for Hamilton County) brought together a group of emergency management leaders and a group of media managers.  I learned a lot in those sessions.  I don't think the biggest issue is WHEN to sound the sirens; instead I think the biggest issue is how the entire system functions.  In many area counties, it is difficult or impossible to zone the system-if one part of a county is under a warning, then everyone hears the sirens.  The systems are also very old and difficult to maintain.  The problem is that it costs a lot of money to replace them.

At the end of the day, none of us like being scared in the middle of the night-particularly if you have young children.   But, take one look at the damage and death this storm caused as it moved through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.  I am glad the sirens went off.

THE GIANT SNOWFLAKE-This is the other subject I hear about all the time.  Why can't we get it right?

Let me share a story about an interview I did more than twenty years ago with Dr. Neil Frank.  He was running the National Hurricane Center at the time (he later retired and became a television meteorologist in Houston, but more about that in a minute).  Dr. Frank was touring the Gulf Coast talking about hurricanes and I asked him the one thing we in the media could do better.  He said we should stop telling people exactly where his staff predicted the eye would cross the coast.  Why, I asked?  Because he said residents focused on that one spot and didn't realize that a storm could wobble 50 or 100 miles as it approached the coast.  And, people 100 miles either side of the eye could be in just as much danger.

Now, fast forward to a time when we have Doppler radars capable of zooming in to individual streets. Dr. Frank regularly made his same point to his viewers in Houston when just about any kind of storm moved through the area.

These winter storms are no different. If a storm wobbles 20 or 30 miles one way or another and that is the difference between Florence getting ice and West Chester getting snow.  Do you realize it is 37 miles from Florence to Mason and more than 40 miles from Lawrenceburg to Batavia?

A COOL SCHOOL-This Thursday, Dan Carroll takes us to Roger Bacon High School.  There are lot things that make Roger Bacon a Cool School, but the underwater hockey team is the part that I'm waiting to see.    We will be at the school around 7:30 Thursday morning, but tune in to the FOX19 Morning News at 6:00 AM and you will get a sample of underwater hockey.   

Thanks to the folks at the Newport Aquarium for lending us their underwater camera.  If you miss it or just want to nominate YOUR Cool School, follow this link to our Cool School webpage on FOX19.COM.

ALL ACCESS-On Wednesday, Tricia Macke uses our FOX19 All Access Pass to go backstage with pastor Joel Osteen.  He visited Cincinnati on Sunday and virtually filled U.S. Bank Arena.  Tricia will take us All Access Wednesday night on The Ten O'clock News.

Thanks for taking the time to read along, let me know what is on your mind by clicking here and we'll see if the Giant Snowflake lands on your driveway!