COMMENTS: November Goes Wild in the Midwest

November is an unusual month for tornado season in the midwest. So when a line of 75 twisters touched down in seven states on Sunday afternoon, the devastation was surprising enough to warrant headline coverage as Story of the Day on Monday, even though only eight people had been killed. All three newscasts led from Washington Ill, a small town near Peoria, evoking the tried-and-true iconography of tornado damage: the tattered Stars and Stripes flying amid the debris, and Christian survivors saying their prayers as they picked through their belongings.

CBS and NBC both kicked off their newscasts with a by-the-books round-up of the devastation. NBC's Kevin Tibbles hitched a ride from the Channel 5 news helicopter at his network's affiliate in Peoria to survey the debris field. Even the station's anchor team had to suspend its live storm coverage to take shelter. CBS' Dean Reynolds told us that this was the worst November tornado damage in Illinois since 1986.

ABC kicked off with human interest instead under its xTreme Weather Team logo. Alex Perez narrated the homevideo of Washington Ill resident Kris Lancaster: Lancaster cut his head because he was too slow to turn his camera off and find refuge (an amateur mistake unlike Peoria's Channel 5 professionals); he discovered his house destroyed; and then, after a tearful search, found his pet cat Titi alive in the basement. CBS also used the human touch to illustrate nature's wrath: Don Dahler, in Kokomo Ind, brought us the smiling toddler that her pregnant mother Courtney Bray saved from her crib by huddling in the bathtub. The crib was crushed as the house collapsed.

Ginger Zee on ABC (at the tail of the Perez videostream) and the Weather Channel's Mike Seidel (at the tail of the Tibbles videostream) on NBC were both called on to explain the meteorology of the storm. They failed to do the right thing and address the climatology as well. Is climate change a factor in creating the conditions for such an unusually intense autumnal weather system? Neither Zee nor Seidel mentioned global warming.

NBC evinced a special interest in Friday Night Lights with Ron Mott in New Jersey to end last week. It continued that football theme with Kate Snow in Illinois. The township's exhilaration Saturday, when the Washington Community High School's team ended the regular season 12-0, heading to the Illinois state playoffs, was punctured by the twister. Coach Darrell Crouch had his undefeated players lead the clean-up effort. Go Panthers!


You must be logged in to this website to leave a comment. Please click here to log in so you can participate in the discussion.