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Weather they're right, or weather they're wrong

In a nutshell: FoxNews Channel's website quickly simplified matters.

First of all, this is a Twitter-free zone, as is the entirety of unclebarky.com for that matter.

Otherwise I'd be starting out with something like this: "Woke up, almost got out of bed, turned on TV to see whazzup with Ike. Looks like, oops, nearly at word limit. Damn!"

Instead, your friendly content provider went back and forth through four hours of virtually continuous local station weather coverage -- 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday-- before even thinking about putting something in print. But it was still a fluid situation.

Hurricane Ike had slammed into Galveston about four hours earlier, threatening to later deposit heavy rain and winds in D-FW while simultaneously petering out and curving east. So although 6 to 10 a.m. is the focus, we're adding some of the day's later developments as time sprints away and morning morphs to night.

Yeah, it's been raining and blowing a bit hard here in Garland, where unclebarky.com central has its outpost. But by 6 p.m. Saturday, no ark will be needed.

D-FW's major TV news providers finally went into a semblance of weather remission, too. But only after the two longest-distance runners, WFAA8 and CBS11, simultaneously yielded to college football game kickoffs at 2:30 p.m. Otherwise many viewers had to miss their cartoons and other appointment viewing.

"The 33," which has a nightly 9 p.m. local newscast and a weather-holic in meteorologist Bob Goosmann, decided to sleep in for this one and stay in bed all day. Maybe they knew something? No, they've never been a player in times like these.

That made the full-blown morning monitoring a bit easier, with Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 as usual putting themselves on the map.

I obviously didn't see or hear everything, but there was ample repetition on all four stations. That's to be expected. Many people weren't even up yet as this dispatch started to take shape and kept bloating. Stations can't assume that anyone knows anything about what Ike's been dispensing in big chunks of Texas. At some point, though, the redundancy gets old as uncertainty fizzles out.

There's one truism. Many people have strong opinions about weather coverage, which rivals or exceeds religion and politics as a hot-button topic. Let's take a shot anyway.

These wind-aided impressions start with the initial 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday starting lineups, including a handful of hardy local reporters shown covering Hurricane Ike from outside North Texas.

Some of the local long distance travelers made it on the air later, most strikingly Fox4's Steve Eagar live in a white undershirt around 1 p.m. in a newly becalmed Houston. The early-to-mid-morning point people listed below do not include any of the many eyewitness reporters borrowed from networks or other Texas stations. But we will briefly get to Geraldo Rivera and a few others.)

Fox4 -- Anchors Tim Ryan, Megan Henderson, weathercaster Evan Andrews and traffic guy Chip Waggoner, who was used very sparingly. Reporters Natalie Solis in Houston, Brandon Todd in Freeport area.

NBC5 -- Anchors Deborah Ferguson, Scott Friedman, weathercasters Jennifer Lopez, James Aydelott. Reporter Ken Kalthoff in Houston.

WFAA8 -- Anchors Debbie Denmon, Brad Hawkins, weathercasters Pete Delkus, Greg Fields. Reporters Jim Douglas in Galveston, Jason Whitely in Houston.

CBS11 -- Anchors Scott Sams, Ginger Allen, weathercasters Larry Mowry, Kristine Kahanek. Reporters Jack Fink and Marianne Martinez, both in Clear Lake.

NBC5, save for a few cut-ins, ceded Ike coverage to the network's weekend Today special until 8 a.m. That's a debatable decision, and may have made the station seem asleep at the wheel in the early going.

On the other hand, the Peacock network had more reporters in place for first-hand accounts from Ike's hot spots. D-FW had yet to experience more than a drizzle -- if that -- before the NBC5 locals started weighing in.

Fox4 stayed the course from 6 to 9:30 a.m. before startlingly cutting away to a loud-shouting, half-hour infomercial from a local KIA dealership. At first I thought it was yet another wind-blown, rain-soaked correspondent -- Geraldo perhaps? -- trying to be heard while staggering around in a windbreaker before losing picture and sound.

But instead, a foghorn car peddler made his pitch as an overjoyed female purchaser blared, "I can drive to N'awlins on one tank of gas!" Let that sink in while pondering whether anyone actually watched the whole thing. What great timing.

Fox4 came back on the air at 10 a.m. with more weather coverage before later yielding to Beakman's World.

WFAA8 and CBS11 went the 6 to 10 a.m. distance with Ike. Pound for pound as the day wore on, they had considerably more weather coverage than their rivals, particularly NBC5. But were you riveted, bored or totally tuned out?

It takes guts to lower expectations during foul weather drama. Fox4's Andrews consistently did that -- and usually does -- while being the only on-air D-FW forecaster to carry the ball alone from 6 to 10 a.m., minus the KIA fender bender.

"It's just not going to be devastating or really dangerous," Andrews said shortly after 9 a.m. He was speaking of Ike's impact in the immediate D-FW area while also telling viewers that weather coverage nonetheless hadn't been "overblown."

Was Andrews the only bonafide truth-teller in the formative stages of coverage? From this perspective, yes. But Hurricane Ike was about much more than just Dallas-Fort Worth. So let's not damn them all while at the same time also lauding Andrews for again "erring" on the side of restraint.

Even while doing so, he's daringly rolling the dice and risks throwing snake eyes. It can give management the shakes because worst-case scenarios are the preferred approach if you're going to bring in the troops. But if the market has an under-appreciated meteorologist, then look no further than Andrews.

WFAA8's Delkus, earnest as they come and aggravating to some, raised more D-FW danger flags before slowly easing off the throttle. He means well. So did WFAA8's Gary Reaves, who repeatedly stood live in substantial North Texas rain later Saturday morning and afternoon. He easily survived. Douglas did, too, in far more perilous Galveston. Have you ever seen him when he hasn't been solid? Me neither.

CBS11's Mowry seemed to be somewhere in the middle with his weathercasting, and may have found a happy medium with Ike. Kahanek in turn was mostly an afterthought.

Mowry's the anointed guy now, as his station recently announced. He began in a suitcoat, later stripped down to shirtsleeves and persevered competently. There's something to be said for that.

Then there's NBC5's even newer Lopez, who barely registered during her bad weather baptism Saturday. Aydelott didn't seem to do a lot either -- at least on-camera .

Far more than its competitors, the local Peacock lateraled to NBC and/or MSNBC. CBS11 never misses a chance to showcase Mowry, and Delkus doesn't have to be asked. Both work their weather pants off when the sky threatens to fall.

But what does Lopez do? On Saturday she didn't pass any tests that I could see. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, she's got spunk. Lopez just went clunk, not that she got a fighting chance from NBC5. Chief meteorologist David Finfrock, absent Saturday, isn't exactly brimming with charisma. But he's a presence. So if you're not going to have a "Finfrock Forecast" in play Saturday, then at least give D-FW's Jennifer Lopez a chance to act. Compared to her peers, though, she at best did cameos.

Viewers are directed, if not commanded, to supplement their TV watching with frequent visits to stations' websites. This graphic has been on CBS11's Internet arm all day Saturday. It'll probably be fixed by the time many if any try to take a look. But aren't the Friday and Saturday forecasts a little out of sorts? Busy day, not a big priority. And Mowry's almost assuredly not at fault. Still . . .

Late Friday, Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera again braved a hurricane's wrath because he just can't help himself -- even at age 65. He clung to some greenery on the Galveston beach, got knocked down, got back up and later asked, "Why do we do this?"

It's a rhetorical question for which he had the usual answer during a long discourse on serving the public: "You folks at home, you want to know what the power of the storm could do to you, your home and your stuff."

On Saturday morning's Today, anchor Lester Holt popped roughly the same question to storm-challenged correspondent Amy Roebach, also being whipped around in Galveston. Actually he supposedly spoke on behalf of viewers who he says keep asking, "Wait, these are the people who are telling everyone else to leave. And there there they are in the teeth of the storm."

Roebach said the remaining journalists in Galveston were "fairly protected here" and wouldn't do anything stupid.

Holt added, "It's part of our job."

As part of his job, NBC's Jay Gray, formerly a featured nightbeat reporter for NBC5, also could be seen fighting the elements on tape shown time and again. Sometimes NBC5 and NBC just put up live shots of already battered reporters whose audio had cut out and whose video was at best a blur. Ah, silent comedy. Charlie Chaplin lives on.

WFAA8 went first and then CBS11 got around to repeatedly airing a spooky report from an intriguingly named KHOU-TV correspondent named Rucks Russell. They had dual dibs because Belo Corp. owns both WFAA8 and Houston's CBS affiliate, while CBS11 is owned by -- take a guess -- CBS. So WFAA8 had squatter's rights. And CBS11 I guess was in its rights.

Russell used a flashlight-- first capturing himself in an orange glow -- while working his way through Galveston's dark and powerless San Luis Resort.

He then found a survivor -- or perhaps you prefer another description -- who stuck around while his family blew town. He eventually busted out of his flooded home through a window, got into a boat with six friends and made it about two miles to the resort, by his account.

"Everybody fled," said the outwardly intelligent, relatively young man while Russell lit his mug with the flashlight. "But we wanted to stay and we wanted to see something powerful."

The unidentified man also told Russell that 80 percent of Galveston was underwater . "I've never done so much prayin' in my life, and the Lord really walked us through it."

"Well, you're here, you're alive and your safe," Russell added.

This may be one of those Hurricane Ike stories that transcends most others. Seriously. It definitely didn't look like any other Saturday, and Russell managed to get it through a combination of luck, ingenuity, determination and some excusable showmanship.

Those who actually have read this far -- man, it took and ran a lot longer than anticipated -- get both a look at the video and some final grades for D-FW television's Saturday storm centers. They'll be given without further comment. Because in the end all four invested to varying degrees in something that is no laughing matter or trivial pursuit for the many, many Texans affected firsthand.

WFAA8 -- B-plus
Fox4 and CBS11 -- C-plus
NBC5 -- C-minus

Here's a link to the KHOU story, which otherwise isn't on youtube yet and couldn't be found on KHOU's Web site.