Who Profited from Irene? The Weather Channel

As hurricane Irene passes, ratings soar on the station dedicated to storm coverage

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Hurricane Tropical Storm Irene has played itself out of the building, sitting somewhere in between Maine and Canada. All that's left is the aftermath: the complaints the storm wasn't big enough, the clean up, the restoration of power, the draining of the subway stations. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is urging people to stay home from work Monday as crews work to clean the roads and restore power. And yet, someone profits from this destruction. Every time a hurricane rolls up the Atlantic Ocean, there's someone making piles of money off it. Who is it? The Weather Channel, of course. In The New York Times' Brian Stelter's profile of Weather Channel reporter Mike Seidel, it's explained that hurricane season is booming business for the channel:

the Weather Channel’s ratings are never higher than when a hurricane is making landfall. Like Home Depot selling plywood for windows or Wal-Mart selling jugs of water, the Weather Channel sells coverage of weather-related disasters. Delivering on its promise to take people into the path of Mother Nature is what makes the channel a must-carry for cable systems across the United States, and what allows it to sell so many storm-related ads to insurance companies and home improvement stores before, during and after storms.

Seidel comes across like a modern weather cowboy. Broadcasting from the worst area of a hurricane is his bull riding, and instead of staying on for eight seconds, Seidel stays on for 15 hours a day during peak season. He'll stay in a motel in the area, but spend most of his time broadcasting from the parking lot, away from the building so he doesn't use it as a shield from the wind. Shots are better if you can see the storm affecting him. Sometimes Seidal stands silently in front of the camera as winds rage while the channel flashes him across the screen--a "bobble-head" shot--just to assure people he's there. The crew is used to the difficult conditions that come with working in the middle of a storm, usually when residents in the area have been ordered to leave:

Mr. Seidel donned safety glasses on the beach to help keep sand out of his eyes, and positioned himself almost as low as a football linebacker to stop from being blown over. The audio engineer wrapped his battery pack in a condom to keep it dry.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.