flood rescue
© Weather ChannelA rescue during flooding in Missouri was fodder for the Weather Channel's "Storm Stories."
It's been the worst year for extreme weather since Noah had to build an ark - unless you've invested in the Weather Channel.

Tornadoes, droughts, subzero temperatures and heat waves have already brought boffo numbers to the cable outlet, with hurricane season right around the corner.

"It's all about extremes," said meteorologist Stephanie Abrams, who co-hosts a morning show with Al Roker.

Nearly 46 million people followed the network's coverage on TV or online during the freeze that covered a third of the country on Groundhog Day, and nearly 50 million relied on its services when tornadoes devastated Joplin, Missouri.

It wasn't long ago when the Weather Channel didn't go anywhere beyond the coffee room in its Georgia-based studio. When it was launched in 1982, coverage was limited to maps and radar screens, with anchors ticking off temperatures as if they were reading stock market numbers. Today, top personalities hopscotch around the world, trying to get to locations right before storms hit.

Abrams said she's collected enough miles this year to qualify as a diamond member of Delta's frequent-flier program. Jim Cantore, a Weather Channel veteran with 25 years on the job, said he's been in the studio for a solid week only twice this year. They also produce documentaries and series with names such as "Storm Riders" and "From the Edge."

Reporting from the eye of the storm has become big business.

"When I first started, it was a little easier to find places to park a satellite truck," Cantore said. "Now there are dozens of trucks on the scene."

The team scoffs at images of weather folks holding onto trees in a roaring hurricane or chasing tornadoes. Safety first. But Abrams said being on the scene makes her a stronger advocate for viewers.

"I know what it's like to live on Pop-Tarts and Sun Chips, so you can empathize with people because we've lived it, too," she said.

The Weather Channel team doesn't believe interest in weather will cool down anytime soon. Walker predicts there will be at least one catastrophic hurricane this year and Cantore said the world's climate changes will continue to be extreme.

"The question is: Have we tipped the bucket over?" he said. "Is there anything we can do to turn the climate back? That we just don't know."

Comment: That would be difficult considering we're dealing with a bigger bucket than we could ever manage to tip.

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