For The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, Blizzards are his Super Bowl

By Molly Stark Dean 

Being that The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore is from White River Junction, Vermont, he’s seen some gnarly winters. But Cantore, whose spent more than 20 winters at The Weather Channel, thinks 2010-2011 will take the cake. Cantore, with his passionate outbursts at the site of the rare phenomenon of thunder snow, has been with the Channel since graduating from Lyndon State in 1986.

Based in Atlanta, Cantore hasn’t spent a week at home in three months. The payoff: The Weather Channel is hitting new ratings highs. The network had its best day ever Tuesday in households (705,000) and it was the No. 1 cable news network for the day in A25-54 viewers topping FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC. We talked with Cantore yesterday as he was en route from Chicago where he covered the blizzard.

TVNewser: How does winter 2010-11 compare to others you’ve covered?

Jim Cantore: It’s been a wild ride. You know what? I think that this is a winter that George Washington would be proud of. I want to be honest with you. It’s just one of those that just never ends. Even this morning, we had freezing rain in Mobile, Alabama and South Texas — where a lot of people go to escape the cold. So it’s — as they say — it’s a good one. And it’s not over yet. I don’t care what the groundhog says.

TVNewser: Would you rather be reporting from hurricane force winds or two feet of blinding snow?

Jim Cantore: That’s a good question. Is there a (C) all the above? When they both deliver, when you’re in the Super Bowl of weather — whether it be a hurricane or an epic blizzard like we just had in Chicago and in the Midwest — it’s all good. They all have their pluses and minuses.

TVNewser: So you live in Atlanta, but how much time do you actually spend there with natural disasters happening elsewhere?

Jim Cantore: Well, actually I live in my suitcase. I do my wash in Atlanta. I literally have not been home for a week since November — and that’s when usually we get a little bit of a break. I’ve been out either doing “Cantore Stories” or the weather every week. It’s been nuts.

TVNewser: With NBCU a part owner of the channel, are you finding yourself being pulled in different directions on CNBC, MSNBC, NBC?

Jim Cantore: Oh yeah, absolutely. You got to share the wealth. But it’s totally worth it, because we have access to so many more resources from them as they do us. So when weather is the star, we’re the star for them. When the weather is the star, we get to tap into that wonderful resource. It’s a great marriage.

TVNewser: You’ve been outspoken about some of the programming decisions, for example, the airing of a movie over breaking weather news. Have those things been ironed out?

Jim Cantore: Well, I don’t see any long-form programming. When the weather breaks, it’s what we do best. It’s what we keep doing. In my opinion, the weather has been just phenomenal. We’ve always been great at it. This past storm should be a great example of that. We’ve had the most crews out that we’ve had on any storm. We had an armada of crews out to cover in the field. It’s just amazing. We’ve never had any that big before. It was great. Did you catch the thunder snow event? That really captures the passion we have in the field. It’s kind of like watching Aaron Rodgers throw to Donald Driver on the 85-yard line touchdown to win the Super Bowl. You’re going to get that kind of reaction from a sportscaster. That’s the analogy I can make. That lightning was that touchdown pass. This year we’ve had more snow lightning than I’ve ever seen in any winter ever. We’ve had more dynamic storms like that with thunder and lightning — and even thunder sleet, thunder freezing rain. You’ve got it all.