Friday, September 09, 2005

Big light in skies slated to appear in East

Interesting – as the Weather Channel (oh, I’m sorry – it’s The Weather Channel) has been wall-to-wall with Hurricane Katrina coverage, most of us here in northern Arizona have probably overlooked a new feature the network has added to our local forecast (they still call it “Local on the 8’s”, even though as often as not, it seems like the forecast starts at 10 past the hour).

Regardless, amidst the temperatures from around the state and the 36-hour forecast, and the sunrise and sunset times, TWC has added the “AM and PM commute” forecast for a variety of cities in the region.

This is a pretty amusing concept in northern Arizona. Living in the “largest” city in this half of the state, Flagstaff, my daily commute is approximately 8 minutes each way – less if I catch a bunch of green lights; more if I have to wait for a train to go by. Particularly bad weather would indicate I should leave 15 minutes for the ride in to work.

But TWC also gives the commuter forecast for places including Ash Fork, Arizona, whose labor workforce population is estimated at 255 people. Most of their commutes can be measured in feet. (Besides that, Ash Fork gets all of 12 inches of rain per year, which makes the commuter forecast just a mite bit predictable.) And we’re given the commuter forecast for Wupatki National Monument, which affects all 15 or 20 National Park Service employees who work there.

All this is not to say that there aren’t interesting elements to a northern Arizona commute. Here in Flagstaff, I typically drive home on San Francisco Street, one of the “major” arteries through the historic downtown. This affords an excellent opportunity to observe the behavior of tourists, who apparently believe downtown Flagstaff is actually Disneyworld’s Mainstreet USA, and thus their only concern about casually stepping into the street is the fear of bumping into a large costumed character, as opposed to say, a Volkswagen.

The drive also takes me past the location of a Phoenix TV station’s Flagstaff bureau. Typically, the Flagstaff reporter will be set up on the busy street corner to do a stand-up introducing whatever vital story he’s uncovered for the day. Despite a general disdain for local TV stations’ live shots, I’m always vaguely curious as to whether my humble little car is in the background of their shot as I drive by. And thus, I wonder whether I should honk.

Back in my college days, several of us would watch one of the TV stations in eastern Iowa, as meteorologist Denny Frary would scroll through the various live pictures from “weather cams” around the region. One of those, for some reason, was always trained on the street in front of the Collins Plaza Hotel in Cedar Rapids, as though the best way to illustrate that it was partly cloudy in Cedar Rapids was to demonstrate that the street was, in fact, dry.

Finally, after months of watching the same shot of street lights shining down on the street, we decided to liven up the weather broadcast. Briefly, we considered staging an armed robbery as the forecast was going on, but instead settled on the idea of holding up signs reading “FREE DENNY FRARY”.

It didn’t dawn on us that the signs would probably have to be billboard-sized to be legible. But then again, it didn’t matter, because it also didn’t dawn on us to have someone videotape the newscast that night. So we have no idea whether we livened up anyone’s PM commuter forecast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to set the record straight - I have not yet been freed, despite the heroic actions of those brave college students of long ago. However, I was allowed out on a field trip to the Denny's on the southwest side last Friday after the 10pm newscast.