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Interview: The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore Talks About 'Storm Stories' and Assesses SoCal

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Jim Cantore on "Storm Stories", 5pm on The Weather Channel


Jim Cantore on "Storm Stories", 5pm on The Weather Channel
You've all seen Jim Cantore, the daring meteorologist who's been on The Weather Channel for almost 25 years now. A regular staple on "Weather Center", he's been hosting "Storm Stories" (Sundays @ 5pm) for several seasons and is heavily involved with the creation of each episode.Who else out there is a Weather Channel geek? If there is a weather event happening or if there is a lull in other programming, and this happens a lot, we invariably click over to The Weather Channel to watch the radar loops, to find out what's happening over Ohio and all the other technical-newsy stuff. When hurricane season begins, few people can deny that they check on the progress of Tropical Depression So-and-So and if you have friends or relatives in the Gulf, the Weather Channel is the best place to find out what and how the weather is going to affect the people that you know.

This is how The Weather Channel's "Storm Stories" works - they identify a weather event, find people who were affected by it, get on the ground footage of the event, and piece together a story to teach the rest of us that those green, yellow, and red radar blips have real consequences for real human beings.

We had the chance to talk to Jim Cantore a couple weeks ago and he told us about "Storm Stories" as well as the advances in meteorology since he's become a broadcaster, consequences of global warming, and what Southern California can look forward to.

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For the full interview, listen here:

LAist: What kind of changes have you seen in the reporting of weather since you started as a broadcaster?

Jim Cantore: What we were to network TV back when the network started, we are now the equivalent of TV to cell phones and the internet. What can we add to the programming now to make it more interesting since you can get the weather off of your phone. Do you still need "Local on the 8s"? What can we do to make it better? The transition to HD has been huge though, we've seen a lot of interest just because of that technology.

LAist: How did "Storm Stories" get its start?

Jim Cantore: We started doing some testing with a program called "Atmospheres". We did a program on a bar pilot in the Columbia River of Oregon, about how this pilot was rescued during a massive storm and flood and how he survived. The fact that he was found and rescued was a miracle. People loved that little 15-minute story and so "Atmospheres" morphed into "Storm Stories" as a result of that. It's about victims and heroes coping with the weather. Coping with something that can be instantaneous like a tornado or flash flood, or something that's coming, like a hurricane. These are the kinds of things that we're talking about.

LAist: I recall one of the episodes that featured lightning, a bolt of lighting that came from nowhere, that has freaked me out to this day.

Jim Cantore: Oh yes, "Bolt From The Blue". I think that's a part of "Storm Stories" that I really enjoy, about how it teaches people, it's a great teaching tool. You see other people go through something and you can learn from it. Viewers really want to learn. I love how the human condition comes into play when it comes to weather. It reduces who you are, we're all on the same playing field - it's about who's lucky enough to have a hero nearby in such an event. Talk about reality TV, these are all real stories, these are real things that have actually happened quite frequently with footage of the people who are in the event. We do an interview with someone who you see getting rescued in footage.

LAist: In the last couple seasons are you finding more actual footage so that you don't have to do recreations?

Jim Cantore: Oh absolutely, we just put together an episode based on the February Lone Grove Tornado in Oklahoma with lots of footage. We talked to these people who went through this event very recently, psychologically they're not doing well - they're still dealing with it. We encourage people to write in with their stories, we want to hear what people have experienced.

LAist: Based on your 24 years of experience, what are your perceptions of global warming?

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Jim Cantore: There is no question that the earth is warming, we know that. The question is if it is progressing at a rate that the earth can not compensate for, that we don't know: some say "no", some say "yes" and I'm not ready to go either way. But being out in weather, particularly in rainfall, I've been in rainstorms with such pounding rain, it just seems like the rain is coming down harder, particularly in the last 10 years. It's not science, it's just my perception of what I'm seeing going on out there.

But no one can every argue with cleaner air, less pollution and garbage, so why not proceed ahead? Changing what we're doing could also create jobs in this economy. There's nothing but good in it. What gives a mixed message is when people are trying to bully their position over you for whatever reason.

LAist: Do you have any advice or predictions this year for Southern California?

Jim Cantore: Southern California is in the middle of an awful drought and it doesn't look like it's going to get any better. The kind of restrictions that you have are probably the worst that we see nationwide. You're going into the dry season so you won't be getting any heavy rain events. The question you face for really replenishing water is if you are going to get a freak tropical system that would direct rainfall into Southern California during the non-rainy season - that's a stretch buddy! Or if you are going to have a strong enough El Nino to bust some big storms into California to give you some rainfall.

Is it really an issue of drought? Or is it a question of overbuilding. Have we tapped the river basin to the point of demands exceeding supply during a few dry years? Also, did we need to build right up against the National Forest with trees and landscaping material not common to the area? You've got to remember that 100 years ago, 40 million acres would burn naturally. But because of fire suppression over the last 50 years, a big year would be 10 million acres but because of suppression, we're just building up a lot of fuel. I'm not a doomsday guy, but it's a question of common sense. The earth might be warming but we're not doing ourselves any favors by where we place buildings and how we build them. We can do a better job and we should.

Watch "Storm Stories" on The Weather Channel on Sundays (today), at 5pm.

Listen to the full interview to hear about tornado chasers, the fact that there has been a recorded tornado in every state, the proliferation of mobile cameras and how that will help The Weather Channel, the Weather Channel's participation in the federally-funded Vortex Project (way cool!), and many other interesting weather concepts and technology.