Did We Have Any “Vertically Integrated Liquid” During the Big Storm in Memphis?

 A notice to weather people in Memphis:  If I EVER hear you use the term “vertically integrated liquid” while describing a storm be aware that I will track you down, tear off your arm and beat the hell out of you with that arm!  More on that in just a moment. 

I actually meant to post this Tuesday night after nasty weather rolled through the MidSouth but I got distracted.  As the nastiness rumbled through I did what most viewers did and “tuned into my local stations for the latest weather information”.  First, let me emphasize that I have no problem with wall-to-wall weather coverage when tornado WARNINGS are issued.  Having said that and knowing that warnings had been issued I started surfing the channels to see who was doing what in the Memphis markets.  The storm had already passed over the Midtown area by the time I parked myself in front of the tube.  I started out on Channel 3/WREG where, as expected,  they were in full-blown weather mode.  Next up was Channel 5/WMC where, as expected, they were in full blown weather mode as well.  Next on the list was Channel 10/WKNO the public TV station where they had a little weather bug in the lower left hand corner of the screen during regular programming. Next was Channel 13/WHBQ which had a bug at the bottom as well and may have had a crawl but they were still with regular programming.  Tuning to Channel 24/30 WPTY/WLMT they had full blown weather coverage as well.  Just during the time I surfed (I can’t remember the time frame but it was about 15-20 minutes)  I found the coverage that gave me the most comprehensive view on WREG & WMC.  They both showed outside shots (WMC was shooting what looked like a live shot through a windshield with wipers going at one time down by the river I think) and they showed plenty of the super duper radar as well, moving from Dyersburg, TN down to Clarksdale, MS.  Next on the rankings of coverage would be WPTY/WLMT where they did a good job keeping up with what was going on.  I have to admit I was disappointed when I tuned into WHBQ.  Maybe I just missed the cut-in by their weather people (it’s all about timing you know).  I know that WHBQ has made it a point to not go overboard with “weathergasms” every time a summer thunderstorm crops up but this WAS a bit more than just a run-of-the-mill thunderstorm with some funnel clouds reported in the area.   Nuff said there.  I also noticed something when I switched between WPTY and WLMT.  It’s the same broadcast by Brian Teigland and company but the audio was noticeably louder on WLMT than on WPTY.  I thought it was my imagination until I double checked it.  So, is this an engineering thing? Perhaps someone has some answers.

Now about that “vertically integrated liquid”.  I know that some weather folks, armed with a degree and a “seal” get all worked up when they get a chance to break out all of the toys and share their vast knowledge.  I know they can get caught up in the moment. 
I found this item on Shoptalk where a weather guy at KFSM in Ft. Smith and sister station to WREG in Memphis got all carried away.  Here is an excerpt from that Shoptalk article: Meteorologist Garrett Lewis did his best to prepare KFSM Channel 5 viewers late Monday night for “vertically integrated liquid” as severe storms raced across Benton County.

Lewis used the fancy term at least twice before advising viewers what the heck he was talking about during steady coverage of severe storms by Fort Smith-Fayetteville station KFSM-TV.

“That’s a $ 5 word for hail,” Lewis told viewers who missed reruns of CBS shows Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory to see continuous coverage of severe weather affecting parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

If I remember correctly, TV news is all about saying it “simple and plain” and last time I checked, the word “hail” is pretty simple and plain compared to ” “vertically integrated liquid”. 

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7 Comments on “Did We Have Any “Vertically Integrated Liquid” During the Big Storm in Memphis?”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    Responses two days in a row — I’m cooking here…

    Anyway Joe, I was at 3 with you when we had the crazy little ND who turned the market’s weather coverage into the clown car at the circus… meteorologist after meteorologist coming out of a weather center that doesn’t seem big enough for one of them…

    Never liked crazy clown car weather… too distracting without enough substance. Just like my old job at CNN… one night we had breaking news while I was putting stories on the crawl — the producer ran in the control room and insisted I not only put continuous items about the breaking story on the crawl, but move over to a second terminal and type in lower third fonts describing the action at the same time! This, of course, was on top of the anchor breathlessly describing the unfolding action.

    Just showing the picture and having the anchor talk with maybe a banner font would have been enough — just like an easy to read map or radar on one side of the TV screen, showing the current location of a storm — along with a graphic saying where it is and where it’s heading. Simple, to-the-point and easy-to-understand without eliminating other programming.

    I know weather coverage is hot right now — what with the impending sale of the Weather Channel. Heck, CNN spent a couple of months tearing out an old set in the main newsroom a year and a half ago to install its Severe Weather Center… up until then, the weather folks had a cramped half-a-room office for weather updates when they weren’t in front of the chromakey next to the news desk. But — just like everything else — TV will beat the dead horse of severe weather coverage long after Seabiscuit has given up the figurative ghost — and it’ll start to turn off even more people than it does now. Is there any hot trend that TV news hasn’t overdone?

    And with that, I turn it back to your regularly-scheduled blog.

  2. Jack Church Says:


    Amen to banning the term “veritcally integrated liquid”. As a former weather hack, later sales person for super duper 5 mega million doppler weather radar systems I can tell you first hand that 99.9% of the viewing public have no idea what the weather boys and girls are talking about when they use the term “vertically integrated liquid.” In fact I have attended many weather conferences over the years and sat in a room filled with on air weather folks and had the VIL term thrown out and overheard several folks say, “what the heck is VIL”. Plain and simple, it means HAIL, HAIL and more HAIL. Please be assured that until they shovel the last load of dirt on top of my grave I vow to never use the term “vertically integrated liquid”. My fear in using the term is that Grandma & Grandpa will walk across the yard out to the storage shed looking for that long lost dictionary to look up that fancy term they just heard the TV weatherman or woman use on TV and by golly they get killed walking across the yard by softball size HAIL!! The point being, I always prided myself on being able to talk weather like I was a guest in your living room and not a guest lecturer at Harvard or Yale. Come on folks, talk to your viewers in plain english and not in fancy scientific terms.

  3. Richard.... Says:

    “Vertically Intergrated Liquid” for the word hail? What about snow?

    Shoot, I still haven’t figured out what a “snow shower” is. I know what snow flurries are and what a rain shower is. How does snow shower?

    Someone please enlighten me!

  4. Joe G. Says:

    We had a reporter who, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, described a rain storm in Phoenix saying, “We are experiencing vertical humidity at this location right now.” I thought it was darn funny actually.

  5. Hi Joe –

    Thanks for the blog post. I thought you’d enjoy seeing the clip which I placed on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfUgi4C81HI

    “I think if you can’t laugh at yourself, you could be missing the joke of the century, couldn’t you?” -Dame Edna Everage

    If possible, I’d like to keep my arm 🙂

  6. John Says:

    Just thought I would point out a few things. First off, VIL does not mean the same thing as hail…VIL is a radar term of the total amount of reflectivity in a storm…It’s, in it’s simplest explanation, the amount of LIQUID in the shower/storm…Since hail is more reflective than liquid water, if radar shows an extremely high VIL, then there is a good possibility that hail is involved. I’m all for a meteorologist using it on tv because that mode of radar is not showing hail, it’s showing VIL (which, as explaned, is totally different) but it’s important that they clarify what it means.

    For the person asking about snow showers, it simply means that the snow is broken up. If it’s steady rain happening all over your region, then it’s rain. If it’s raining in one place and not raining 5 miles away then raining 5 more miles farther, then that is rain showers. Snow means snowing everywhere, snow showers means it’s snowing is some areas while other areas close by are not getting snow…On radar, showers (whether they be rain or snow) appear very spotty, whereas non-showers appear as a solid color covering a good portion of the radar map without any breaks

  7. Jason Says:

    I second the last post. VIL is not “hail”. In fact, a storm with high VIL values may produce little or no hail. Hail can artificially inflate VIL values (because hail is more reflective than liquid water), so one can infer the possibility of hail from high VIL…but nothing more.

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