Meteorologist Jim Cantore is uncharacteristically cloudy on the date: On either July 13 or 14, he begins his 34th year at the Weather Channel. But the man who has long been television's face — and, at times, the wind-beaten and prone body — of storms from Irma to Katrina to Michael is quite exact on what can happen during the hurricane season that began June 1 and stretches to November 30.
"Weather can be both beautiful and beastly in the same hour," he says. "It kills us that we can't control it."
What we can do, says the man who has seen 98 hurricanes in his tenure and spends an average of 30 to 40 days in the field from August to mid-October covering storms, is stay prepared. You already know to have a supply kit at the ready and to fill your gas tank when those computer satellites envision a sea of troubles ahead.
Cantore also suggests one important pre-storm call: "Get your insurance adjuster to explain all that jargon in your policy."
Cantore's fascination with meteorology began in childhood — the Weather Channel is his only job after graduating from Lyndon State College in Vermont in 1986 — and in his years of experiencing the unpredictability of squalls, he's also seen a marked increase in the stakes for his own safety.
"We used to [stand in storms] at the top and bottom of the hour," he says of his on-air life before the 24-hour news cycle. "Now the agenda is to be out there for the whole storm. It's exhausting and presents a lot more dangers." (Hence the body armor he wears when things get roughest.)
True, such bravery has earned him nicknames like "the John Wayne of weather," but he's also a target of ire for, in a sense, bringing the bad weather: "People say, 'It's never good when you show up in my city!'"