While people in other markets joke that Los Angeles has no weather problems, KABC-TV takes it very seriously.
For the past year, the station has been planning and building a tower for its own “Live Doppler 7000” radar system. It is the first live Doppler radar owned by a station in Los Angeles.
Stations in the market have been relying on the National Weather Service’s NEXTRAD Doppler data, which can be delayed up to 15 minutes. KABC, which built its tower in the San Fernando Valley, will no longer need to rely on the NWS.
In promos, KABC has been teasing viewers for days with the voice-over: “Soon everyone else’s weather will be old news.” On Jan. 31, the first day of sweeps, Los Angeles viewers got their initiation to the live Doppler, something viewers in other parts of the country take for granted.
“Weather is a lot bigger deal here than people in other parts of the country realize,” said KABC News Director Cheryl Fair. “Our climates are so diverse, you can go from 60 degrees in Malibu to 90 degrees in Van Nuys. The progression of storms really disrupts life as we know it here. A rainstorm can disrupt businesses, traffic and lifestyle every bit as much as snowstorms back East.”
She said the first rainfalls in winter cause hundreds of accidents because oil slicks accumulate for months on dry roads. Having live, up-to-the-second Doppler might make a difference in people’s commutes. The Doppler covers 200 nautical miles and will be linked to the station’s Web site, abc7.com.
Sitting in the KABC Weather Center, meteorologist Dallas Raines, who has been at the station for 17 years, was excited about the new weather gizmo, wishing he could use it Jan. 28, before sweeps. He was still testing the equipment and software when he noticed from the Doppler that a hailstorm would hit in Marina del Rey. “Within five minutes we got a call, and a viewer said, `It’s hailing in Marina del Rey,”’ Mr. Raines said. “And we could have told them. This is going to make it so much more enjoyable for me and the viewer.”
While the hailstorm was live on the Doppler 7000 computer, Mr. Raines compared it with the NEXTRAD data, which had the hailstorm still a half-mile offshore. The station’s Doppler service also offers viewers a storm-tracking chart that shows what time severe weather is going to pass through their area.
Ms. Fair said having up-to-the-second weather reports will help Los Angeles viewers better plan their day-especially those who enjoy outdoor activities. KABC executives hope weather will drive viewership as it has in other markets.
“Weather here, and people’s desire to know the weather is no different from any other market in the country,” said Bill Burton, KABC’s director of programming, advertising and promotion. “Viewers have come to expect us to cover live breaking news. This extends our breaking-news brand, covering live events as it happens. It’s all part of the bigger picture.”