Irene was another example of ‘the cult of Cantore’

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My daughter lives in Virginia Beach and, for anyone who might not have a television, there was a hurricane by the name of Irene that visited that area this past weekend. I called before Irene got there just to check on my daughter and she was okay except for one thing.

“Dad, I think we’re in for some major trouble,” she said. “I think I just saw Jim Cantore skulking around.” For all of you who might be wondering just who this Jim Cantore character is, let me inform you.

James D. Cantore (the D stands for Doppler, as in weather radar), better known as Jim, was born in Connecticut, but grew up in White River Junction, Vermont. It was there at White River Junction Elementary School that the future star of The Weather Channel got his start.

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The year was 1970 and Little Jimmy was in the first grade class of Mrs. Ruthene Lolly. One spring day, just as recess was about over, a bad cloud came up, as we might say here in the South. Mrs. Lolly called all the children in and began to take a head count. Everyone was present and accounted for except Little Jimmy Cantore.

“Where’s Jimmy?” Mrs. Lolly asked nervously. She was afraid of the weather.

Susie Forlover was Little Jimmy’s girlfriend. Cantore always had a way with the girls. Susie raised her hand and blurted out, “He’s outside in the rain!”

Mrs. Lolly ran to the window of the classroom and raised it and yelled outside.

“James Doppler Cantore (you’re in big trouble when they use all three of your names), you’d better get in here. Don’t you have sense enough to come in out of the rain?”

Little Jimmy had taken Susie’s hairbrush and was using it as a microphone, speaking into it and pointing up to that big, bad cloud. He was soaking wet, but loving it. Little Jimmy had found his calling.

The little guy has grown up now and the wind has blown all the hair off his head, but he’s still standing out in the rain. He has even taken his peculiar vocation to the most unusual heights of chasing tornadoes and trying to stand up against hurricanes.

In addition, whatever he’s got must be contagious because every news channel out there was trying to see if their meteorologists could look the silliest as gusts of Irene’s winds huffed and puffed and tried to blow them down. I believe there is a “Cult of Cantore.”

Here’s the irony. The people from The Weather Channel, Fox News, CNN, or other major networks that might be in the path of the weather disaster-in-the-making have their weather gurus or staffs standing in the middle of the rain and the wind advising everybody else not to stand out in the middle of the rain and the wind.

My favorite scene, although I did not see it initially, but by replay, was the one in Virginia Beach. As Eric Fisher, of The Weather Channel, was warning of the dire consequences of playing in the rain, dozens of youngsters, obviously of questionable intelligence, were running behind him doing their versions of Gene Kelly singing in the rain. One was a streaker. Take that, Irene!

The Cult of Cantore seemed to have had a blast with Hurricane Irene. It’s true that the damage to property will be immense and, sadly, there were more than 40 deaths attributed to the storm. Its strength, however, rising no higher than a Cat 1 after it hit our shores, lent itself to many meteorologists putting on their L.L. Bean raincoats and rubber boots and reporting “directly from the middle of the storm.”

If anyone needs proof that television programming has hit an all-time low, all one needs to do is think of all the time that Hurricane Irene garnered from our small screens. She, Irene, was everywhere, all the time. As I read on a web posting, “Does any of these other channels understand that we have a Weather Channel?”

It’s true. If one would like to see the definition of Hurricane Hype, don’t go to the dictionary; just rerun last weekend’s television programming. That is if you can stand hearing the name Irene anymore. I guess it will become one of those storms of the century that we seem to have every other month. But, Irene will never take the place of Katrina, although the media tried its best to compare the two. Well, enough about Irene.

As dry as it has been around here, there was a tendency to covet a portion of that precipitation. I’ve heard more than one say that we need one of those tropical storms to come up into the Gulf so that we might get a little relief from the drought that has turned any un-irrigated lawn into brown and crackling straw.

At the same time, I am sure there is enough sense and remembrance of our challenges with hurricanes and storms not to wish that kind of deluge upon our acres. In other words, we might need some rain, but we’re not quite ready to see the Cult of Cantore roaming our roads.

Lastly, as I speak of Mr. Cantore, I wonder if there is any weather-related event: past, present, or future, that he would like to have as a part of his resume. Let’s ask him.

“Oh, without a doubt,” he replied. “It’s the biggest weather disaster of all time.”

My interest was piqued and I asked, “What would that be?”

Cantore beamed, “The Great Flood.”

“Of what year?”

He replied, “Oh, I don’t know the specific year, but it was the greatest flood of all time. You know, that one during the time of Noah.”

These weather people. They never cease to amaze and amuse me.