Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tell Me How Cold It Will Be


Raw-bone cold weather with a rip-your-face-off wind chill is forecast for the latter part of this week (around Thursday, January 7, 2010). A howling, wind-driven blast of polar air may make you think you’ve moved to Montana.

This is Texas. This isn’t supposed to happen. These days are proof that weather is a driver for local newscasts. Austin is fortunate with its cadre of highly qualified weather communicators, but not everyone will wait for the weather in the regularly scheduled newscasts. Viewers/users/consumers want their weather information now! It’s freezing! Will my greenhouse hold the heat? Should I bring my horse inside? Are we all going to die???

Fortunately, there is now another immediate way of finding information for Austin and Central Texas. Quietly, December 17th, KVUE TV (ABC) re-launched weather 24/7. On KVUE .3 Digital find continuous weather graphics with National Weather Service audio. Weather had been on KVUE .2 commercial-free for four years before being changed to Spanish-language programming from “Estrella” last fall.

Many viewers still wished for weather. “We did receive hundreds of calls asking for the return of the channel,” say Patti Smith, KVUE president and general manager. “In the spirit of offering the most comprehensive weather information to the market, it was always our goal to return it to our third digital channel when possible.” KVUE .3 launched after getting the go-ahead from parent company Belo at the end of 2009 to order and install new equipment.

“We will be making significant enhancements to the offering shortly, adding a more robust weather presence and traffic information as well,” Smith says. Traffic and other information will be part of an “L”-shaped graphic with the weather slightly squeezed into a corner of the screen. Included in the “L” will be the current temperatures and conditions in surrounding areas. “Additionally, we’ll be adding traffic information to the site, which we did not have previously. This information will come in the form of animated maps detailing current traffic around the city, and we’re hoping to incorporate TXDot cameras as well.”

“At this point, we’re still working through the technical challenges to pull this all together,” Smith says. Eventually, the channel will also include commercial breaks, providing a new revenue stream.

News 8 (Time Warner Cable), of course, has also provided local weather information 24/7 in several ways. Since its inception, there has always been “Weather on the 8s”. Further, on Time-Warner Cable digital channels 355 and 358, it’s all weather, all the time. Cable channel 359 is all weather in Spanish.

Finally, of course, weather is at your fingertips. Earlier, I mentioned the resources of all of the local television stations. KVUE seems to have the most available graphics. KXAN TV (NBC) also has good information in Jim Spencer’s weather blog. Of course, the weather law and the prophets are kept at the National Weather Service. The NWS site has radar and satellite photos, plus detailed descriptions and data. Find it at

In my mind one of the best sources of useable, local weather can be found at http://www.wunderground.com. Punch in your zip code, and you’ll find all kinds of stuff. Scroll down to see up-to-the-second data from weather stations dotting all of the Austin area coming from weather geeks with weather stations tied to their home computers. You can watch temperatures drop and wind directions change as the arctic cold front blows through Thursday. Better yet, punch up www.wunderground.com and your favorite weather channel on TV.

Bottom line: They’ll all say, it may be 20 degrees, and we’re not all going to die.

© Jim McNabb, 2010


Anonymous said...

Jim Spencer is the "Man." I prefer getting the weather scoop from him.

I hate to think about how cold it's going to get later this week, Jim, but I got a quick reminder of how much better we are in Texas than people in Minnesota, for example, where the high is expected to be 7 degrees on Thursday and 5 degrees on Friday. On both of those days, Minneapolis will suffer through sub-zero temperatures.

We defintely are doing better in Austin, the best city in Texas.

The Hypervigilant Observer said...

Another vote (Again) for Jim Spenser at KXAN. His enthusiasm for weather is...almost contagious.

Also, I, too, am happy to see the return of weather coverage to 24.3.

Thank you, GM Patty Smith!

Lex Wadelski

Anonymous said...

KXAN pioneered the 2nd weather channel but then dropped it. Basically handed the much-appreciated feature channel to KVUE.

Cream always rises, doesn't it?

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's Note: Yes, KXAN did put weather on KNVA before it started programming Channel 54 with the WB. It is, of course, a full-power TV station, not a digital sub-channel.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Jim but it wasn't on the wb/cw... kxan was first on the air in HD/digital and utlized the 2nd digital signal for a sequenced weather channel.

The CW/WB was never utilized for weather.

Thanks to the FCC, on January 1st, 2007, the secondary channel was pushed off the air until extra children's programning was forced into the mix.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you're both right. KXAN did have live Doppler on a digital subchannel when they first launched their DT signal, and KNVA did have the "Local Weather Station" going before it had ANY programming on it (before The WB even became a thought).