I interviewed Stephanie Abrams and Jim Cantore, the two biggest personalities on The Weather Channel before I left for my honeymoon two weeks ago. They were promoting two new shows, “Weather Proof” and “Cantore Stories,” which debuted on Sunday, January 24. I ran out of time to write this post before Mexico. So belatedly, here’s what I gleaned:
The Weather Channel realizes that people are increasingly using other sources to get the five-day forecast. So it’s seeking fresh ways to talk about the weather.
“We have to be creative,” Cantore said. “We have to find new ways to grab that viewer with ‘weathertainment.’ ”
Abrams, who co-hosts “Waking Up With Al” on weekday mornings with Al Roker for the Weather Channel, shot six episodes of “Weather Proof,” in which she tests dangerous weather-related situations. The first episode focused on how well various building materials stand up against raging flames. They also recreate being trapped in a burning building and getting out safely.
“People say all the time about, say, how golf ball-sized craters can dent a car,” Abrams said. “Let’s show that in a controlled setting. In the hurricane episode, we test to see if 12 inches of moving water can move a car.”
She has a co-host named Newton Wimer, a stunt man and a special effects guy who worked on “Fast and the Furious” and “Speed.” He’s the one who was placed in a car that went underwater and had to escape. She volunteered to do some of the tougher tests but the producers tended to give it to Newt. “He’s the sweetest calmest guy,” she said. “I’m the wild child between the two of us. He’s Mr. Safety.”
While some of this is just fun to watch, she said you can get some useful tips, too. They tested a special gel that keeps a house from going up in flames. ‘This gel just blew my mind!” Abrams said. “And it’s environmentally friendly.”
For the next season, she’d like to create an avalanche, a mudslide and a landslide.
Cantore, on his show (which had better ratings last Sunday than “Weather Proof”), visits extreme weather spots such as Death Valley and International Falls, Minn., one of the coldest spots in the continental United States. “The city takes pride in claiming to be the icebox of the nation,” he said. “It takes a rare breed to live there. These guys dig holes in a lake and jump in. They have ice shanties. It’s crazy.”
He noted that the extreme weather conditions such as a hurricane or blizzard is what people usually see on the Weather Channel. So this is a way to see a more normal situation.
Cantore visits the bayou in Louisiana, Hawaii and Death Valley. The show, he says, is 90 percent lighthearted and 10 percent serious. He’s committed to 26 episodes.
“Weatherproof” with Stephanie Abrams, Sundays, 9 p.m., The Weather Channel
“Cantore Stories” with Jim Cantore, Sundays, 10 p.m. The Weather Channel