Toeing the Line: Local news is on storm watch once more

The water is coming! The water is coming! Spectacular amounts of it! Quick, round up two of every animal and meet us at the ark at dusk. This thing that’s bearing down on us is gargantuan! It’s monumental! It’s…it’s…Stormageddon!

If you were watching the television news in these parts, by midweek the stations were dutifully setting the catastrophic scene for StormWatch ’14, the anchors breathlessly hawking team coverage of the coming deluge that was certain to wreak untold havoc on a parched metropolis. Or so they hoped.

Floods. Mudslides. Gridlock. Panic. Chaos. Soaked socks. To hear the feverish yammering that’s been assaulting us, you would have thought it was bombs that were poised to fall from the sky rather than the natural phenomenon of H2O droplets. Liquid that we desperately need, mind you.

They’re chortling at us in the rest of the country, of course. As well they should. We enjoy consistently a perfect and mild climate for months, then as soon as there’s a little actual weather aimed our way we collectively lose our sunbaked minds.

This is not to minimize the potential hazards that often result when a bone-dry area gets pounded with more rain in 24 hours than it’s experienced in the previous seven months combined. No doubt, this is what’s going down as you read these words. It doesn’t mean the drought is over by any stretch. It merely means the smug sense of eco-entitlement that we all carry around gets doused for a spell – literally.

The threat of rain. That’s how it was described all over TV this week. Not the “promise” of rain or the “arrival” of it. Because make no mistake, any water that isn’t in a plastic bottle or a swimming pool or pouring from a fixture is cast as a sinister menace no matter how desperately we need it.

At least, this is how it comes across on the news. It’s man versus moisture, baby. Any phenomenon — natural or otherwise — that dampens our clothes, threatens our flower beds, slows our commute and eliminates our outdoor-seating option must be terminated.

But that isn’t why the local newscasts are duty-bound to classify any downpour as Mother Nature’s declaration of war on our lifestyle. It’s because they have a vested interest in scaring viewers with gloomy prophesies of doom. Frightened people, after all, tend to stay home and watch lots more news.

This is why the coverage starting this past Wednesday afternoon looked and sounded something like this:

Anchor: “Our very own Wally Waterman is on the scene with the latest on the ominous overhead aquatic nightmare racing toward Burbank. Wally?”

Reporter: “Thank you Sleet. I’m here in front of Porto’s on Hollywood Way, where the threatening clouds are rousing consumers to panic buy and hoard chocolate croissants. This reporter has never seen anything like it. Ever. Back to you in the somewhat safe, relatively secure studio.”

Anchor: “Thanks Wally. God be with you. Speaking of ‘with you,’ our Sharon Snow is with us in front of the Galleria in Glendale. Sharon, how’s the coming disaster shaping up over there?”

Reporter: “Sleet, I could swear I just felt a raindrop on my cheek!”

Anchor: “Sharon, are you certain it was water? Could it have been something more benign like, say, the odorless drool from a flock of pigeons?”

Reporter: “This is no bird saliva. It’s the real deal, Sleet. Wait…I just felt another drop! And another!”

Anchor: “You had best seek higher ground, Sharon. Forget your job. Save yourself.”

Reporter: “Whatever you do, ladies and gentlemen, please, do not go outdoors! Repeat: Do not…”

Anchor: “Sharon? Sharon? We appear to have lost her. Hopefully, not permanently. Now for the latest from the sidewalk in front of my home, we check in with Misty Mason. Misty, what are the chances that I’ll be swimming across my living room by tomorrow morning?”

Reporter: “Sleet, I’d say it’s about 80%.”

Anchor: “Well that’s significantly better odds than in France, where they have only about a 5% chance of showers, if you know what I’m saying.”


RAY RICHMOND has covered Hollywood and the entertainment business since 1984. He can be reached via email at and Twitter at @MeGoodWriter

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