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A Blizzard of Coverage by Local Stations

As the blizzard began to barrel down on New York yesterday with varying intensity, stations gave viewers information on the storm ending their Christmas holiday with varying results.

The best of the bunch was WABC, which provided top-of-the-hour updates until 3 p.m. with meteorologist Bill Evans. After that WABC, which had no sports commitments, went full throttle with complete c0verage. The seriousness of the impending storm was shown when Bill Ritter was brought in to co-anchor coverage. Ritter was joined by weekend anchor Sandra Bookman. For the next four hours, Ritter and Bookman took viewers on a tour of the snow with reporters stationed throughout the region. The meteorologists’ hands were all on deck as well, with Lee Goldberg and Jeff Smith as part of the special broadcast.

Part of WABC’s coverage was to take Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference live. Another feather in their cap—they would be the only station to carry it in its entirety. Ritter and Bookman, along with seven live reporters and Goldberg and Smith returned for an expanded 11 p.m. newscast.

WPIX, like WABC, offered viewers top-of-the-hour updates starting at 4 p.m. Perhaps fittingly, displaced top anchor Jim Watkins, now on weekends, was at the helm of the WPIX storm coverage. Handling the storm specifics, together with Watkins, was Mr. G (Irv Gikofsky).

Ironically, WPIX’s first update was in the final seconds of Bloomberg’s news conference.

“You heard his summation right there, so you didn’t even have to watch the whole thing,” Watkins told viewers.

Beyond the hourly cut-ins (in prime time as well), Channel 11 didn’t provide any special extended coverage–just the usual 30-minute newscast at 6 p.m. and their one hour at 10 p.m.

WCBS got into the act once the Jets game and subsequent NFL post-game show wrapped up. Channel 2′s Eye on the Storm coverage was anchored by Rob Morrison (moving from weekends to weekdays on Jan. 3) and nightly anchor Kristine Johnson. They were joined by John Elliott in studio, while meteorologists John Marshall and Elise Finch reported live from separate parts of New Jersey. (Weeknight forecaster Lonnie Quinn was a no show.) 

At 11 p.m., Dana Tyler sat behind the anchor desk with Johnson for a one-hour special edition.  

It’s a mixed result for WNBC as the storm got going. They did run a nonstop crawl with weather-related information starting at 4 p.m., but refused to break into their regularly scheduled programming–Brian Boitano’s Skating Spectacular.  Channel 4, with David Ushery anchoring, brought no urgency to the table. They had the usual 30 minutes at 6 p.m.

With the Sunday Night Football game postponed, WNBC did recover slightly, coming on with Ushery and meteorlogist Janice Huff for an additional half-hour special report. Ushery then alerted viewers that they could head to digital outlet New York Nonstop for continuing coverage, ahead of the 11 p.m. newscast on WNBC.

WNBC stopped during their late newscast for an abbreviated version of Mike’d Up. In a bizarre display, host Mike Francesa did his Sunday night sports show over the phone. Francesa was snowbound from his Manhasset, N.Y. home. While the audio quality wasn’t top notch, what made it even worse were the constant call waiting beeps breaking through while Francesa was speaking.

After that, WNBC, with Ushery and Huff, resumed the blizzard reporting for another 15 minutes.

WNYW had the Giants game beginning at 4 p.m., but prior, or after, did not keep viewers in the loop. Fox 5 is quick to use the resources of sister station WWOR/My9 whenever possible. But this time, there were no updates or reports given from WWOR or WNYW anchors Channel 9.

Not until the 9 o’clock hour was a crawl on the top of the screen seen on WWOR, or a tease on WNYW for the Fox 5 News at Ten.

On the radio, WCBS-AM chief meteorologist Craig Allen did his exemplary work, splitting time with veteran colleague Todd Glickman for 16 hours in the “Weather Center.” 

So the TV winners were WABC and WCBS with an honorable mention to WPIX.

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