Storm Coverage: Too Much, Not Enough, Just Right?

By: Stephanie Shoop - News Director
By: Stephanie Shoop - News Director

Viewers weigh in on WITN's storm coverage Sunday. Learn why we did what we did.

It's not often you watch a tornado form on live video, from cloud to ground in the region where you live.  In fact, for most of us, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime event. That's exactly what we witnessed Sunday, as the WITN Washington webcam captured the actual birth of a tornado. We had that video live on the air as part of our continuing severe weather coverage. When all was said and done, two tornadoes touched down in Beaufort County during the storms. 

There's no arguing... that tornado video is compelling. One person I talked to said the hair stood up on her husband's arms as he watched the live coverage. I just took a call, some 20 hours after the event, from a viewer thanking us for our storm updates, telling us we did a good job. E-mails expressed thanks as well. But there's another side.  

Some of you were downright angry WITN interrupted the Red Wings-Predators hockey game for severe weather coverage. You called, and you sent e-mails, choosing words like “overkill,” “excessive” and “inappropriate.” I understand how you feel, and I appreciate your passion for the sport. We take our responsibility to serve you very seriously.  We work very carefully to balance regular programming and storm cut-ins. As you saw Sunday, when there is a serious threat, we are on the air.  

Some of you suggested our coverage would have been shorter or eliminated if other teams and other sports had been on our air at the time of the storms. I love hockey. I have a fondness for the Penquins, having grown up watching them on TV and in person in Pittsburgh . I like the Hurricanes, part of my Carolina roots. And sure, we evaluate what's on, as well as its importance and impact, before cutting into programming. But yesterday, it wouldn't have mattered.  We had ideal conditions for tornadoes, and that’s what we got. One at 3:45 p.m., the other at 4:38 p.m. 

At one point, we couldn’t have gone back to the hockey game even if we had wanted to… the same storms spawning the twisters were blocking out satellite signals. Network programming on primary and backup receivers disappeared. It took 15 minutes to get the signal back and even then it was spotty for a while. 

While some of you had blue skies Sunday afternoon, your neighbors in Beaufort County faced a potentially deadly situation. WITN had to sound the alert, as hard and as long as the danger existed. It would have been irresponsible if we had not.  I hope it helps you to know that we will be here for you too, should tornado conditions threaten your area.    

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