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Remembering the December Debacle of 2007

The December Debacle of 2007 was one of the most memorable days of my 14 year stint at WLNE-TV ABC6. We were expecting a quick-hitting moderate snowstorm on a Thursday afternoon and evening. To be honest, I can’t remember every detail of the forecast or storm, but I know that all hell broke loose by mid-afternoon. It was snowing by noon, and the flakes stuck immediately. Children, all of whom had been sent to school, were dismissed from school early. The ensuing traffic jam reached epic proportions throughout all of Southern New England. In many ways, this was the perfect storm.

There is concern that people stuck in cars on paralyzed highways will run out of gas. And while the snowfall is minor compared to the Blizzard of ’78, Providence police Sgt. Paul Zienowicz said “it’s almost comparable” in the fact that businesses and other institutions dismissed employees early — which caused massive congestion — and some of those people abandoned cars after getting stuck in hours-long traffic jams. – Providence Journal Blog on December 13, 2007

There were many more school buses on the road than usual in the early-afternoon, and most people either decided to leave work early, or head to work early putting the usual 4-6 pm rush hour way ahead of schedule. So, when you put all those people on the roads, and the snow is coming down at 1-2″ per hour, there is no way to effectively clear the roads. Traffic was snarled, the snow mounted, and so did the frustrations of anyone stuck in their car. Trips that normally took 30 minutes took 6 or more hours.

Some kids were left stranded on school buses until late in the evening. In fact, one of those school buses was stuck not far from the ABC6 studio, and by mid-evening our GM, Steve Doerr, made the brilliant decision to head down the street and offer to bring the kids into the ABC6 building to let them warm up and get something to eat. It was one of those times where a TV station really served the public’s need!

It was also Allison Alexander’s first day on the air. It was not supposed to be. She was visiting the station and was scheduled to start in early-January. Once again, Doerr made the executive decision to put Allison on the air because he knew the audience would be a lot bigger than normal. We spent several hours doing wall to wall coverage, it was one of the few times that we outlasted WPRI and WJAR with our storm coverage.

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Fred Campagna

President and Chief Meteorologist - Right Weather LLC AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist #756 AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist #126

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