Tuesday, August 25, 1998: The Weather Channel's Bill Keneely stands on a strip of sand between North Carolina's Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. Just offshore, Hurricane Bonnie lingers ominously. As his field producer frantically considers options for broadcasting through the coming maelstrom, Keneely gets the latest weather updates from meteorologists at the Weather Channel's Atlanta headquarters. It's all in a fun day's work for the on-camera meteorologist and self-professed "weather weenie": when the Category 3 storm blows in, he will be right there to bring live descriptions of the tempest to the nation.
With 12 million daily viewers, the Weather Channel has become the grand master of the complex game of covering local and national weather stories. As he follows Keneely's Weather Channel team through Bonnie's path, writer David Laskin discovers that the Weather Channel's appeal lies in a particular mix of professional meteorologists and their expertise, the drama of half-hourly live field reporting, and behind-the-scenes technical wizardry.
In 1982, the launch of the Weather Channel was greeted with derision. Today, with 70 million households tuning in, the network has silenced its critics. The channel jumped a big hurdle when it developed specialized technology that enabled it to broadcast local weather news several times every hour.
As for Keneely and the network's other "weather weenies," even before Bonnie has blown out to sea, they're thinking about the next storm with pleasant anticipation.