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Contributor Notes: Stephen T


Welcome to the first in a series of posts where I will share some of the notes that TWC Classics contributors have sent me over the years.

These notes are basically their memories of The Weather Channel before I discovered it in February 1992.

The goal of the series is to go beyond video clips, screenshots, and audio clips, and give you a more in-depth look at the history of The Weather Channel.

If this series proves to be popular, I'll add my own memories from February 1992 through the early 2000s. I may even ask for your own memories and post the best ones here!

Let's begin.

Up first is contributor Stephen T (last names will not be used for privacy reasons). Stephen has contributed a good chuck of the content you see here since 2008.

Since he's the only contributor who recorded The Weather Channel while living in Atlanta, Georgia, every local forecast you see here from there was contributed by him.

Animated WeatherSTAR 3000 Backgrounds

If you've browsed the local forecast video pages for 1986 or 1987, you've probably noticed that some of the local forecasts have a static or animated background image.

This practice began in the summer of 1986, but was phased out at the beginning of 1987.

The Weather Channel said that cable viewers were complaining that they could not read the local forecast text.

However, satellite viewers loved the backgrounds, as that was all they saw with no WeatherSTAR 3000 text over it.

Satellite "Local" Forecasts

The Travel Cities Forecast began appearing "underneath" the WeatherSTAR local forecasts around September 1, 1988.

Before then, satellite viewers saw a blank blue screen (or in the days of the animated backgrounds, an unobstructed view of the animated scene with Dan Chandler's narration).

When the Travel Cities Forecast debuted, a new playlist was introduced for the national feed and satellite viewers.

The playlist remained the same for cable viewers with the WeatherSTAR 3000.

Separate Local Forecast Playlists

As mentioned above, when the Travel Cities Forecast debuted in the late summer of 1988, a separate playlist was created for satellite viewers.

This separate playlist ended a little over two years later when new technology allowed for different versions of Dan Chandler's narration (for the different WeatherSTARs in use at the time) over the same song track.

Satellite viewers heard the same track with no narration, as they watched the Travel Cities Forecast scroll by.

Prior to this, Chandler's narration was recorded into the track. Now it was laid over the track, with (usually) the correct narration, based on the WeatherSTAR system your provider had.

If the local forecast music failed to load for cable viewers, they would usually hear a song from the Business Travel Forecast playlist.

When the Extended Travel Forecast (which replaced the Business Travel Forecast) ended its run, Trammell Starks' music would play whenever a playlist song failed to load.

Extra-long Local Forecasts

From October 2, 1987 to April 1989, there was a special six minute local forecast that ran twice a week, at 4:57am Saturday and Sunday morning.

There were three songs used for this flavor. One song, George Howard's "Dancing In The Sun" was not narrated.

Another song featured the excessive narration that debuted in October 1987, and the third featured Dan Chandler's narration.

Shortly after the six minute local forecast was discontinued, a five minute version debuted (in April 1989).

This local forecast generally didn't have narration and featured the same song every time. However, sometimes a Prime Time Tonight conglomeration would play instead (presumably an error).

Rather than having "live" coverage when hardly anyone was watching, The Weather Channel taped a series of segments and repeated it during the late-night hours.

These extra-long local forecasts basically gave them the opportunity to rewind the tape and start over.

For Everything You Do

An updated "you need us, for everything you do" campaign debuted in January 1989.

Christmas Music Playlists

Christmas songs were mixed with the regular songs until a few days before Christmas through the 1989 season.

Beginning in 1990, a hard changeover occurred a couple weeks before Christmas.

Starting in 1991, some years had a two or three day changeover of music.

This was also the first year that the local forecasts with Christmas music were narrated. Before then, the songs were not narrated.

Fall Foliage Report

In 1987, there were two different reports on several weeks. One for the east and one for the west.

There were no fall foliage reports produced in 1988.

From 1989 to 1991, there was a different song used each week.

During the 1990 season, Marshall Seese and Mark Mancuso narrated one segment each while Jim Cantore was on vacation.

The 1992 season was the longest with 10 segments. All, but two of them featured "Tourist In Paradise" by The Rippingtons.

That song was used exclusively in 1993 and 1994.

"Highway 101" by Network Music replaced "Tourist In Paradise" in 1995 for the final season of taped reports. After that, the reports were a studio feature without music.

Prime Time Tonight

Prime Time Tonight debuted in October 1989, as part of a two-year contract between its producers and The Weather Channel.

The idea was to give viewers a look at the programming on other cable channels in their area during the "prime time" hours. Each network would also promote its own programming.

As far as we know, The Weather Channel was its first and only test subject.

Only Eastern and Pacific time zone viewers with the WeatherSTAR 4000 got to see Prime Time Tonight (except in erroneous situations).

The technology used to display the correct channels and times for viewers was based on the WeatherSTAR 4000 (hence why only WeatherSTAR 4000 viewers got it).

The music clips used in conjunction with Prime Time Tonight were actually five minutes long. They were comprised of a three minute track, book ended by two one minute tracks.

Viewers who got Prime Time Tonight saw the two book ended one minute tracks.

So the sequence for them was local forecast, Prime Time Tonight, local forecast. Everyone else only got the three minute local forecast.

Viewers that did not get Prime Time Tonight saw some form of national feed studio coverage like a radar recap or tomorrow's forecast before and after the three minute local forecast.

This sequence would change based on whether or not the viewer was watching in "prime time."

For viewers in the Eastern time zone, it was from 6:56pm ET to 10:31pm ET. For viewers in the Pacific time zone, is was from 10:56pm ET to 2:31am ET.

When "prime time" was over for the east coast, they would only get the three minute local forecast, while the west coast would still see the segment with the book ended one minute local forecasts.

Evidence of this sequence comes from a few late night five minute local forecasts that played these three-track compilations uncut, regardless of the WeatherSTAR.

There were six such Prime Time Tonight song clusters used from 1989 until June 1991, when another set of tracks was introduced.

The WeatherSTAR 3000 used completely different songs to cover up the Prime Time Tonight feature (except for late 1989).

There were five tracks used for this from October 1989 to June 1991. The number of tracks used from June to September 1991 is unknown.

Prime Time Tonight ended its run in late September 1991, rounding out a two-year contract between The Weather Channel and the producers of Prime Time Tonight.

We don't know for sure why The Weather Channel ended its contract, or why no other cable channels signed on, but it is assumed that it was not popular enough to justify the production costs.

Tri-State Weather

This was a studio segment that only viewers in the New York City area (and satellite viewers) would have seen (except for erroneous situations).

It aired at 4:57, 5:27, 5:57, and 6:27pm every evening. All other viewers saw a three minute local forecast over the national feed.

The segment debuted in October 1987 when the three minute local forecast was introduced.

"Locked-in" Local Forecast Music

Beginning on September 20, 1990, and lasting until the debut of the April 1993 playlist, The Weather Channel would air songs at specific times every day.

For example, during the August 1992 playlist, you would have heard David Arkenstone's "Caravan" at 5:37pm ET every day.

The April 1993 playlist brought with it an expanded playlist (more songs) that played randomly.

Although the songs were now played at random, certain songs were only played in the morning or evening.

For example, "Simple Solution" by Fowler & Branca was only played during the morning hours, while Patrick O'Hearn's "Downhill Racer" was primarily featured during the evening and overnight hours.


Let me know what you think about this article! Share your thoughts and memories on the TWCC Facebook group.