Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hey KDKA Radio - Why Can't You Cover Local News Competently Anymore??

We usually go over to Bocktown Beer and Grill for dinner and the Wednesday beer tasting. After that, the plan was to go out to Friendship to attend a planning meeting for Confluence.

When we got to Bocktown, it was threatening but not raining. By the time we got our beer, we could hear the loud thunder overhead. As we sat in the back, we couldn't see the storm, but it had gotten very dark outside in a hurry.

By about 6:15, we were done eating and went to the front of the bar to try some Abita beer. It was raining so hard that that we couldn't see the parking lot from the front windows. The rain was coming in sideways, and the wind whipped up for a while. Lots of lightning and thunder. The rain and lightning were so heavy that we didn't dare go to our car.

Unfortunately, some of the Bocktown staff were out on the partially covered patio. By the time they got in, they were completely drenched.

We watched the rain for a while. Then, it lightened up slightly and the torrents calmed to mere rain. Even though the storm was going east, and we were going to be following it, we figured it was probably safe to drive to Friendship. According to KDKA radio, there were severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings for our area. While the severe thunderstorms were obvious, the tornadoes weren't as the wind wasn't too bad and we hadn't seen any hail. But, following the standard news/weather check, KDKA went back to its regular talk shows. So KDKA did not view the situation as particularly dangerous. We changed the channel and listened to classical WQED instead of listening what passes for talk.

As we approached the city, we were back in the heavy rain again. Usually, we take Bigelow Blvd. to go to Friendship, but there's a tendency for rockslides in the heavy rain. I chose to go through Oakland. After all, most of the students were gone - how bad could the traffic be?

Oakland had a horrible traffic jam. It took us nearly a half hour to go about a mile. And we couldn't figure out why. We kept switching between "news radio" KDKA and WQED, the classical music station. KDKA had no specifics - their 7:30 "news" show lasted about 30 second before it went back to standard talk radio bloviation.

As we got through the Forbes/Bigelow intersection, we suddenly saw why the traffic was so horrible in Oakland - street flooding in front of Carnegie Hall. I thought I could get through it. Jim insisted that I could not. So, I pulled a U-turn (highly illegal) and got back to the road between the parking lot and the library (going the wrong way briefly; luckily, the PAT bus let me go by). Many cars were stopping, and the sounds of police sirens were louder than the thunder.

There was street flooding on that street too. However, it didn't look as bad, and past that bit of flooding was higher ground. I slowly drove through the flooding and turned left past the library to make the relative safety of Schenley Park. We drove up the hill and parked by Baker Hall at Carnegie Mellon so we could hit a bathroom and consider our options. Running the 50 yards from our car to the hall made us both completely wet.

Several people were standing by the door of Baker Hall, trying to figure out the best thing to do. We visited the bathrooms and waited for the rain/lightning to calm down. After about another ten minutes, it did. The woman who was left said she'd parked her car in Schenley Park and wasn't looking forward to walking to her car. We offered her a ride. There were branches down but it was not as bad as after the tornado in 1998. There was also minor street flooding in Schenley Park - maybe 1-2 inches rather than the 6 inches we saw in Oakland. We dropped the professor off at her car, and decided it was safer to skip the meeting and go home. We drove through Squirrel Hill to get to the parkway.

While KDKA continued favoring talk show crap over actually reporting the news, we felt lucky to find that Squirrel Hill didn't have the flooding of Oakland. The only street flooding we saw was near the parkway entrance. The rest of our trip was uneventful, and we finally got home a little before 9.

KDKA ought to be ashamed of itself for the way its "local breaking news" was so completely useless during this storm. I remember back in 1998, the same station focused on the local wind and rain damage following the Mt. Washington tornado. This time, "news" station KDKA provided almost no local news. So much for helping the public. If stations like KDKA were still reporting local news rather than blathering on, it would have been much more helpful. Luckily, it sounds like no one was seriously injured last night, but there were apparently dozens of cars stuck in flooded areas all over eastern Allegheny county.

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