On-Camara Storm Trackers Defy Elements, Gain Celebrity Status

By DOROTHY WALKER

When big storms hit, Jim Cantore and Mike Seidel are there first. Cantore and Seidel
are on-camera meteorologists for The Weather Channel and report from where the big storms are. These storm trackers face the elements to give a great story and also give timely warnings and practical advice to their viewers.

“It’s a hell of a day at the office to say the least,” Cantore said.

They work anywhere from eight to 18 hours straight, battling snow, wind, hurricanes, thunderstorms and heat.  Both Cantore and Seidel have worked at The Weather Channel for more than 20 years and have seen firsthand the worst weather across the country.

Both storm trackers had an interest in weather at a very early age.

“I started measuring snow when I was 6,” Seidel said.

He got involved in radio and then moved to TV.

“I was always interested in broadcasting,” he said.

Cantore originally wanted to be a baseball player but his father gave him advice to study weather.

“My dad said to me my senior year ‘Jim you need to go study the weather, you’re a freak when it snows’.”

Cantore got his first job at The Weather Channel in 1986 and has been there ever since.

After more than 20 years at The Weather Channel, their jobs have changed quite a bit. Originally Seidel was in the studio every day with a regular segment. In 1996 he started doing live coverage of the storms and now he’s “the first one out the door,” Seidel said.

At first, Cantore did his job just for the excitement.

“It started as an adrenaline rush,” said Cantore.

Now he loves his job and feels he really makes a difference.

“I genuinely believe I can get people out of harm’s way with what I say and what I do. Whether that’s just pure cockiness or has a little truth to it, that’s how I feel,” Cantore said.

Dealing with the Elements

Keeping people out of harm’s way sometimes means Cantore and Seidel put themselves in uncomfortable conditions.

“It’s a lot of work when you’re out there and the weather isn’t that great and you’re dealing with the elements,” Seidel said.

He wears up to eight layers when the temperature drops. Seidel doesn’t seem to mind the cold as much as the heat. The days he covers heat waves are the most tiresome, and to him the least interesting.

“It’s not very compelling; you’re out there sweating and not all that much is happening.” Seidel said.

Not only are these conditions uncomfortable, they can be dangerous. Cantore steers clear of lightning and it is his No. 1 fear.

“If there’s lightning in the area, I’ll pull the crew in,” said Cantore.

He and his crew try to set up in a location with indoor shelter nearby. Retreat doesn’t always work perfectly as planned though.

“Sometimes we don’t get out until the last minute,” Cantore said.

Seidel avoids dangerous situations and won’t put himself in a potentially hazardous location.

“I don’t put myself in any real danger. I just play it safe,” Seidel said.

He also said that lightning is the most dangerous element he is ever near.

“The highest risk I take is standing out as thunderstorms approach and lightning is coming down pretty close by,” Seidel said.

Recognized in Public

Both storm trackers have gained familiarity with their viewers, and people regularly recognize them on the street.

Cantore said,”If you asked me 27 years ago  if a weatherman had rock star status I’d
probably say ‘I don’t think so’.”

But rock star status has its downside. The only time he doesn’t want people coming up to him is when he’s with his children. Cantore doesn’t get much time with his kids due to his schedule and prefers alone time with them without being approached by fans.

Seidel would rather not be recognized. When Seidel is at a restaurant or an airport, people will look at him and stare,“it’s kind of annoying actually,” he said.

When he did local news, Seidel was recognized constantly when out in public.

“It’s OK, but it’s kind of uncomfortable. But that’s the price of being on TV,” he said.

When it comes to fans, both Seidel and Cantore have plenty. Since they’ve been at The Weather Channel, social media has become prevalent. Their bosses require them to have a Twitter or Facebook account for their fans to follow. Cantore has more than 177,000 Twitter followers and loves giving updates about the weather.

Cantore said, “I think it’s a huge part of our communication in the future.”

Through social media, he relays weather warnings hoping that it will keep his followers safe.

Seidel, however, leaves the weather updates for the camera.

“I don’t send out much breaking stuff; I might put out a photo. When I’m in the field, I’m too busy with live shots,” Seidel said.

He would rather someone come up to him in person and say he’s doing a good job rather than send him a Facebook message or tweet.

Cantore and Seidel are the weather superheroes. They warn viewers when threatening weather is coming and confront the storms without flinching. They are weather celebrities, but at the end of the day, these meteorological giants just want to keep people safe and
informed.

“It’s just another job Seidel said. “I just happen to be on TV.”

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