Around town, hefty Don Schwenneker is known to many as “Big Weather.”
He’s a former Chicago TV weather broadcaster moved South in 2011. Each morning, something on the order of 250,000 to 500,000 complete strangers tune into ABC-11 to check out his take on the day’s weather.
If you want to watch him working the show with the on-air talent sporting just a couple of hours sleep, tune in Thursday mornings.
It’s when he wings it.
Typically, you see, he’s up at 2:05 a.m.
While he normally sacks out about 6 p.m., there’s evening swim meet Wednesdays with the kids, and his appointment with the bed often starts after 10 p.m.
No matter what time he’s down for sleep, the alarm goes off no matter what. It’s a reality of morning weather and television for the folks who bring it.
There’s a lot of nitty gritty behind each morning’s forecast, Schwenneker said during a 20-minute presentation that focused on much of the technology that usually brings us on-the-money accuracy. By his own admission, he’s hands-on.
“I go in every morning, I write it,” he said.
Schwenneker must be doing things right because he holds a bagful of national awards and seals of approvals from the global news organizations.
He’s also a pro in front of people. He opened up with fun and games – “I’m also one of the fattest weather presenters in the country” – and he closed on entertaining notes too.
Yet he managed to sneak in some serious weather facts, and cautionary notes along the way.
Heat is the number one most deadly weather phenomenon. People lose hydration and it can be fatal. Drink a lot of water.
Keep away from floodwater. Those roiling, stirring, fast-moving rivers of water have mixed with the city sewers. It’s a toxic cocktail you don’t want to touch.
In a lightning storm, trees are a danger. Trees get hit and explode with the splintered fury of a hand grenade. Trees are mainly water, Schwenneker said, and lightning that strikes them superheats the moisture in the sharp wood. Then … bang, people die. Don’t get near trees in lightning storms.
Durham Rotary thanks “Big Weather” for stopping up, for the safety tips, and for lifting the curtain on the magic of meteorology.
SUBMITTED BY MARK LAZENBY
Editor’s Note: As if to prove the point about lightning this bald cypress was hit on Beverly Drive in Forest Hills Friday during a storm. The picture was shared on Facebook by Sioux Watson who lives right across the street and was home when it happened.