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The Blizzard That Never WasA Short Story

A Storm Predicted To Produce One Of The Worst Blizzards Of The Century Peters Out And Some Local News Media Outlets Just Can’t Let It Go

By Michele Markarian

Published on Oct. 27, 2016

The newsroom staff of WNJR sat in stunned, mournful silence, its usual energetic pandemonium sucked into the void of one of the biggest glitches of the 21st century. The storm, predicted to be a monster of such magnitude that it would top the Blizzard of ’78 and cripple the city for at least a week, was a qualified dud, clocking in at just under a foot of snow and barely any wind chill.

Just 12 hours earlier, Janet Della Pena had emerged from hair and makeup with that shaky kind of adrenalin that meant Breaking News Story. Sitting next to co-anchor Kip Morgan, she listened as Kip announced that the previous forecast of a few snowflakes was going to be much, much bigger. With a montage of swirling, treacherous snow as a backdrop and ominous music faintly buzzing in the background, Janet and Kip took turns informing the Massachusetts public of their impending doom.

“The governor is urging everyone to buy candles”, said Janet.

“Do not drive unless it is an emergency of dire proportions”, warned Kip.

“Here to tell us more is WNJR meteorologist Joe Wiener”, beamed Janet. Janet loved Joe for his colorful presentations and cute costume touches. Today he carried a shovel, which he planned on using to point to various cloudy configurations.

Kip shot Janet a warning look, gesturing towards his mouth, and she assumed a more appropriate, stern-yet-worried mien.

“How did this happen?” demanded Ed Miorski, the Assignment Editor the next day, pounding his fists on the table before ramming them both into his thinning hair.  

“Nobody died”, offered researcher Bill Ling, by way of saying chill out.

“No shit,” snarled Ed. “Jack is going to come down on us hard, that’s for sure.” Jack Pratt was the News Director, and not the nicest of human beings.

“Ed, it’s not us. All of the other stations reported the same thing”, pleaded Audrey Callahan. As a broadcast journalist, she was particularly sensitive to what other stations were running. WNJR didn’t like its reporters to think too outside of the mainstream media.

“Yeah, it’s not as if we were the only ones,” argued Kip.

Ed sighed. “Don’t you understand, guys? This is about trust. We want our viewers to trust us. We have created a big event, a blockbuster storm, and all we can deliver is a foot? One foot of snow? How are they ever going to trust us again?”

There was silence as everyone pondered this.

Janet raised her hand. “We could predict more snow on the way?”

Joe Wiener shook his head. “I can’t do that. Not unless it’s real.”

“You just did. Last night”, Kip pointed out.

“Yeah, but I didn’t know it wasn’t real,” pouted Joe, who took his job very seriously and was just as shook up, if not more so, than Ed.

“You didn’t know,” soothed Janet.

“You’re not listening to me.” Ed stood up and removed his fists from his head. “We need to think, and think fast. Right now schools are closed, public transportation is down, and people are going to figure out that it’s all for nothing.”

The newsroom digested this. Audrey broke the silence. “What are the other stations doing?”

“Now you’re thinking,” said Ed. He flipped a switch, and a large flat screen floating above the conference table lit up. “Bill, check out CBC. Janet, APB. Audrey, RGO, Kip, SKS. Be back here in ten – no, make it five.”

The staff bolted from their seats, feeling the familiar comfort of the adrenalin rush again.

“Well?” Ed stood before them, and cracked the can of his Diet Coke. “Whaddya find out?”

“CBC’s apologizing. I think we should do the same,” offered Bill.

“So is SKS,” said Kip.

“Pussies,” muttered Ed. “Janet? Whaddya got?”

“Same”, whispered Janet.

“Audrey? And don’t tell me the same! Jack is not going to stand for an apology!” barked Ed.

“Well,” Audrey looked reluctant, as she really believed in going with the popular news stance. “RGO is saying something about the snow. There’s some kind of potentially harmful chemical in it. They’re being very elusive about it.”

“Chemicals in snow?” Kip snorted.

“Is it a terrorist thing?” asked Janet.

“This could be huge.” Ed was trying to conceal the grin on his face. He took a big swig of Diet Coke to keep the corners of his mouth from twitching. “Kids, I want you to investigate immediately. Find out about these snow chemicals.”

“Could it be terroris –“

“Janet, if you think it’s terrorism, find out. Maybe they found a way to put anthrax in snow. Ugh.” Ed shuddered and looked at his team. “What are you waiting for? Go!”

Two hours later, as Janet was back in hair and make up, she turned hesitantly to Kip. “Do you think it’s true?”

“What?” asked Kip, as he fiddled with his iPhone.

“This deadly chemicals in the snow thing. Do you think it’s true?”

“Could be true,” said Kip. He stared at the mirror. “Could you give me more of a tan?” he asked Giselle, the woman who was slathering him with base.

“It’s winter, Miss Logan,” she said good naturedly. Kip pretended to swat her as she added another layer to his naturally pale complexion.

“Did we ever find any facts on it?” Janet was nervous about the chemical snow and wanted more information. The copy she had looked over before the broadcast was pretty vague.

“Janet, this is huge. Huge. And we’re breaking it.” Kip looked into Janet’s eyes and smiled, a big, wide contagious smile. Janet couldn’t help but smile back. Then she got hold of herself.

“Kip, we are not breaking it. RGO has already broken it. We’re just repeating what they said.” Janet furrowed her brow. She had applied for an internship at RGO when she was in college, but they turned her down. 

“Yes, but –“

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Copyright 2010 to 2020 Modern Times Magazine and Modern Communications. All Rights Reserved.

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