'Today's' Al Roker on this year's wild weather: 'We'd better try to get a handle on it'
Regarding those who might say Hurricane Irene ultimately wasn't as bad as predicted, the veteran weekday weatherman for NBC's "Today" and co-host of The Weather Channel's "Wake Up With Al" tells Zap2it, "It's like when people say, 'Oh, it was a minor fender-bender.' You know what? It's not minor if it's your car.
"Some people say Hurricane Irene was 'hype.' I'm sorry, it was not hype. Fifty people died, and you're talking billions of dollars in damage."
Roker adds, "I think that because you didn't see this Hollywood special-effects extravaganza of windows blown out and people having to live in caves, some people may say, 'Nothing happened.' Well, I beg to differ. From the coast of North Carolina up to New England, something did happen."
And it didn't happen only then. "We've had 10 or 11 billion-dollar weather disasters this year," Roker reflects. "That's unbelievable. I mean, 48 out of the 50 states have had states of emergency declared. That's crazy.
"Just here in New York City -- but also holding true for upstate and New Jersey and parts of New England -- we've had a blizzard, tornadoes, an earthquake and a hurricane. That's mind-boggling. And we've still got almost four months left."
The late-August weekend of Hurricane Irene challenged Roker to keep his mind on his work, though he was reasonably sure his ABC News-reporter wife Deborah Roberts and their family were safe. "They went upstate," he says, "because I was concerned there would be flooding here in the city. I'm not one of these food hoarders, but we have a well-stocked pantry. And more importantly, we have a whole-house generator.
"We were among the lucky ones who didn't get any damage. We lost power for a bit, but the generator kicked in. I remember standing on Long Island and saying on the air, 'We're going to get beach erosion, but the damage is going to be much worse inland.' And sure enough ... for a non-snow situation, I don't remember such a chunk of the [New York State] Thruway being closed."
While he has such other activities as producing the law-enforcement reality series "Bordertown: Laredo" for A&E (which debuts it Thursday, Oct. 13), Roker now finds himself engaged in intense conversations about weather perhaps more than ever.
"I think people are more inclined to finally say, 'There's something going on.' I don't want to incur the wrath of people who say, 'Oh, global warming is a liberal plot,' but I think what we have to look at is that our climate is changing. You can argue whether it's man-made or a natural event, but whatever is going on, we'd better try to get a handle on it. Or else, we're going to be in trouble."