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Published February 08 2010

Gabriel: Winter weather events rarely as good as hype

Weather folks – they prefer to be called meteorologists – like to talk about weather events.

They’ll tell us the history of the event in other parts of the country, how long it will take the event to get to Fargo-Moorhead, how long the event will be playing in our area and what we can expect from the event once it’s here.

And they like to joke that it’s a free event. It’s not, really. But unlike a touring Broadway show, everyone eventually becomes a cast member in the event.

Since arriving here, I’ve noticed the weather guys I work with like to break down weather events no differently than any other Doppler pros. But there’s one thing they don’t do: Every weather event here is not Snowmageddon. It’s not framed in a way that screams The End Is Upon Us.

This kind of dramatic posturing seems to be the norm in larger cities. And those cities’ residents follow their leaders like sheep.

A little more than one year ago in Minneapolis, the latest weather event of the century was approaching the metro area. Residents were given highly detailed reports of imminent doom. And they took note.

The lines at the stores were insane with people buying up all the eggs, butter, milk and bread they could fit into their baskets. Cross-country skis, fire extinguishers and trampolines – allowing you to jump off the roof of the house and clear massive snowdrifts – were also big-ticket items. It was panic in the stores and desperation in the streets.

Pushing, shoving, yelling, screaming; in New York City this is 30 seconds on a subway platform, in Minneapolis it’s unheard of.

The meteorologists were acting like squirrels overdosing on nuts. There they were doing live shots on the tops of buildings, on bridges and standing on the side of the interstate while interviewing snowplow drivers like this:

Anchor: “Let’s go to Lars Lindstrom; he’s standing in the passing lane of 394. Lars, how are things?”

Weather Guy: “Hi, Bill, and good afternoon folks, I’m here with one of Minnesota’s heartiest snow removal professionals, Supervisor Derek Cragley. Derek, this may be the big one. How you feeling right about now?”

Snow Guy: “How am I feeling? We’re in big trouble, that’s how I’m feeling. I don’t know how much more my drivers can take. Those 3 inches last week … my guys are at their breaking point.”

Weather Guy: “Is Minneapolis ready?”

Snow Guy: “Are you ever ready for this? They’re saying 5 inches? Tell you what, we get 5 inches after last week’s event, it’s over, man. Done. Finished. My guys will crack. I told all of them – bring your families with you in the truck.”

Weather Guy: “It’s a bleak picture, Bill. Even Minnesota’s heartiest are scared. Back to you.”

It’s a tale of two cities; the reality of two mindsets.

In Minneapolis, their extensive skyway system represents a city collectively raising the white flag.

In Fargo-Moorhead, with wind gusts of 50 miles per hour, wind chills at

20 below and snow blowing everywhere while folks go about their business, it’s the sense of satisfaction one gets when staring down the elements and laughing at the frostbite that cannot be measured.

Christopher Gabriel is host of “The Christopher Gabriel Program” from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on AM 970 WDAY. Read his blog at http://cgabriel.com and preview his show at www.areavoices.com/cgabriel