Heyl: Joe said it would ... be great if we cooled it
As soon as the dire predictions began that the polar vortex would trigger plunging temperatures, Joe DeNardo began getting calls.
It doesn't matter that the iconic former WTAE-TV forecaster has been retired for nearly a decade. When a worrisome weather situation arises, family members, friends and former colleagues seek him out.
“I can always tell when the weather is going to turn bad,” DeNardo said, chuckling in his familiar strong, booming voice. “The phone starts ringing here at the house.”
With much of the nation only now beginning to emerge from some of the coldest temperatures in two decades, DeNardo, 83, of Moon has spent considerable time on the phone during the past few days. He doesn't mind. Forecasting remains in his blood.
“My problem is I have macular degeneration. I can magnify things on the computer, but it's still difficult,” he said. “But when people call, they expect me to give them an answer. I have to give them something.”
DeNardo gave viewers plenty for 35 years at WTAE, after spending the previous 10 years at KDKA-TV. His accuracy and longevity made him one of the most recognizable people in regional broadcasting, as did the popular “Joe Said It Would” commercial campaign during the 1990s.
In DeNardo's heyday, the polar vortex, credited with causing temperatures in Pittsburgh to plummet to a record-low 9 degrees below zero early Tuesday, wasn't part of the meteorological parlance.
“I heard, ‘polar vortex' and I thought, ‘My goodness; what is that?' ” DeNardo said. “All of a sudden, I figured it out. It's just the low pressure center that hangs over the North Pole.”
DeNardo didn't want to appear curmudgeonly, but he clearly is no fan of modern-day meteorologist theatrics.
“It's overhyped. In my humble opinion, they try to scare the heck out of people,” he said. “It's done to attract viewers, and it helps the supermarkets sell milk and toilet paper, but not every storm is Armageddon.”
For those panicky over the prospect of additional polar vortices plaguing us until spring finally arrives, DeNardo said people should be aware that winter weather does indeed present occasional dangers.
But they should remember that cold and snow typically are integral ingredients of winter.
“Calm down and deal with it,” he said.
It's regrettable that DeNardo will remain retired. Offering such common-sense advice, he'd be a welcome counter to most of today's forecasters, whose delivery is remarkably easy to predict.
You know: Mostly sensationalistic, with a 90 percent chance of histrionics.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.