0

HUCKABY: The weatherman's life during the big storm

David Chandley is a heck of a guy — and has impeccable timing. Although he was born in New Jersey and spent his childhood and youth moving around the country he returned to his parents’ roots and entered the University of Georgia in 1980. He was a trainer for the 1980 Georgia Bulldogs who were the “undefeated, untied, undisputed and undenied champions of college football,” in the words of the inimitable Dan Magill. That’s pretty high cotton and in and of itself would put him near the top of my list.

Chandley graduated from UGA with a degree in broadcast journalism and since 1988 has worked for WSB-TV in Atlanta. I have watched him for his entire 23-year career, and his warmth and professionalism have made him one of my very favorite local celebrities.

Plus I tailgate with his mama and them, and his mother, Katherine, keeps me well fed in the fall.

Sometimes, when he is not busy informing the North Georgia Piedmont what to expect from Mother Nature, David joins us. On other days you can see him on the big screen in Sanford Stadium. David Chandley, in addition to his many other duties, is the weatherman for the Bulldog Nation — although he prefers meteorologist — which has nothing to do with the study of meteors.

If you’ve been watching WSB-TV over the past week or so, you have seen plenty of David, as well as his colleagues, Glenn Burns, Karen Minton and Brad Nitz because we are, as you well know, just now digging out from the biggest winter storm of the 10-year old century.

As the temperatures began to drop and the snow began to fall last Sunday, I found myself thinking about David. I knew that such weather events are his bread and butter. The weather people “go to the mattresses” so to speak when the S-word is in the North Georgia forecast, and I wondered about their logistics for those folks.

There they are on the tube telling all of us to stay at home and not to venture out, and yet there they are. I am almost certain that David Chandley doesn’t have a magic sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. I wondered how he got to work and how long he stayed. I wondered about his wardrobe — he always dresses well on television — and where he slept and what he ate.

I decided to go straight to the source. I called David and asked him those things, and he very graciously provided the answers. OK. Most of them. He refused to speculate on what the groundhog would do next month.

If you have ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes in the Storm Center during a Southern snow storm, this is your lucky day, for I am about to pull back the curtain for you.

It seems that David, fresh from a three-day seminar in Huntsville, drove to the “Mothership,” which is what the television people call the WSB studio now that it can no longer be called White Columns, on Sunday evening, in anticipation of a 4 a.m. curtain call on Monday. I was happy to learn that he does get to spend a few hours each day, during such events, at a nearby hotel. The snow came a little more suddenly than anticipated, and he had to actually go on the air at 1 a.m. Sunday. At 11:30 he was still broadcasting — and had to come back for the 10 p.m. newscast. He made it back to his room and caught a few winks in the interim, but as he said, “Who can really sleep in the middle of the afternoon?”

And that is basically how it went for the next five days. He spent many, many hours on the air and got very little rest — or food — in between. He came in with grub — and clothes — for a couple of days, but when that ran out nothing was open (there are no Waffle Houses in downtown Atlanta) and nothing was moving.

He, Karen Minton and Carol Sbarge were working basically the same shifts, and he said that on a couple of occasions they had the streets of Atlanta to themselves as they walked through the storm in the middle of the night to catch a few Z’s. I would happily be snowbound for five days if I got to walk through the snow with Karen and Carol.

Tuesday night they finally had a great meal at Ted’s Montana Grill, and by Wednesday they could slide over to Atlantic Station to buy fresh clothes. By Thursday he could drive home and by Friday the ice was melting, so his ordeal was over — temporarily.

He can’t get too comfortable, though. There’s another arctic blast just around the corner.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.