I Love A Rainy Night… Or At Least, I Used To


Shannon O'Donnell

(Warning: The below blog has been written by a sleep-deprived, mother-of-two/meteorologist who has been presented one too many perplexing precipitation problems within the last 72 hours)

With a really soggy night in the forecast recently, some of us around the studio were singing (badly, mind you–except maybe for Laura, as I think even Simon Cowell would agree she has a bloody excellent voice) a few bars from the old Eddie Rabbit tune, ‘I Love A Rainy Night.’ I used to just adore that song as a child. Partly because it really was a pretty great song, and partly because, as a weather fanatic from about age 7, I really DID love a rainy night. I couldn’t wait to ‘see the lightning light up the sky’ and all that.

Snow days were even better when I was a child. Growing up mainly in the Seattle area, snow storms were few and far between, but when they DID come our way–oh boy! They TOTALLY shut down the city! No one knew how to get around in such conditions, so everything was immediately out of commission. Including SCHOOL. What fun to stay home, sleep in, play in the snow, watch movies in your pjs all day. Not only did I love the extreme weather itself, I especially enjoyed all the chaos and the break from routine and responsibility that came with it.

I had decided pretty much from the get-go I was going to be a television meteorologist when I grew up… I loved the weather, I loved to talk… how great to TALK about the WEATHER for a living? How perfect was that? I soaked up my math & science courses, I watched the Weather Channel religiously, I majored in Atmospheric Sciences and worked for NOAA, and of course reveled in every storm that came my way.

I finally got my break in TELEVISION weather in 1995 at a new Seattle station called Northwest Cable News, and it wasn’t long before we got to cover our first big storm. NWCN had officially been on the air 6 days when ‘Christmas Blizzard ’95’ hit (you must say this in a big, booming, important-sounding voice… every big weather event has to have a dangerous-sounding title via the News Promotions Department, Saturday-Night-Live style). As usual, the snow shut down the city. There was a foot of snow in downtown Seattle alone, let alone the suburbs and hillsides surrounding Puget Sound. We were on the air non-stop, working 12 to 14 hour shifts, and, so there would be no excuses in our ability to make it to work, the station put us up in the hotel next door.

You’d think I’d have been in 7th Heaven. THIS was what I’d been waiting for, right? The chance to TALK nonstop about all of this weather I loved so much. What a shock to find that this was, well, not completely the case. While everyone else in Puget Sound was able to really EXPERIENCE the snow–playing in it, walking in it, hanging out in the bars all days instead of having to go to work–I was trapped indoors in a room with no windows watching the snow on a radar picture. I could have been experiencing our Seattle snowstorm in the same way from Brazil! All of the chaos and ‘out-of-sorts-ness’ that I loved about the extreme weather was now out of reach to me. The most contact I had with the snow now was sloshing through the parking lot and into the hotel after an exhausting day of non-stop chattering. And truth be told, instead of the temporary absence of responsibility I’d always enjoyed during such storms, the opposite was now true.

We don’t get too many snowy nights in the Bay Area, but we do get our share of rainy ones. Again, as a TV meteorologist, I don’t feel the quite the same affection for them as I used to. As the rain begins to pour down, the worry begins: will my 3am commute be dangerous? Will I get to experience the clean ‘rainy air’ smell myself, or just tell other people about it via the roaming radar? If I do get to work safely, I’ll no doubt get bombarded with rain questions and commentary all day (how much fell in Santa Rosa between midnight and 5? Is it ever going to rain in the South Bay, too? You said it was going to rain for my commute, but I didn’t see a single drop! What time do you think the Russian River will go over its banks? Just WHEN, to the minute, will the heavy rain start to fall?). As my husband says, instead of just enjoying the rain, I’ll have to “analyze the h%$@ out of it” (though this term usually refers to other things in our lives… maybe I’ll write a future blog about that).

Now don’t get me wrong, I still DO love my job. I can’t imagine doing anything else–TV weather is plenty of fun. I’ve been in this profession now for over a decade, and I hope to keep at it for many more years. But part of me is looking forward to the time when I’ve moved on from this career… when the rain will start to pour on down, and like most everyone else, I can get into some cozy clothes, have a warm cup of tea, curl up on the couch for a movie, hear the thunder, and watch the lightning light up the sky. When I’ll get to just plum enjoy that storm, flooding or not, record-breaking or not. When I won’t have to analyze the h^$% out it. When I can once again sing along to ‘I Love A Rainy Night.’ And mean it. Completely.

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist


2 Responses to “I Love A Rainy Night… Or At Least, I Used To”

  1. TankGirl Says:

    First of all, thank you for your dedication and pleasant demeanor in the field of meteorology.
    I just finished watching the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ around 2 a.m. last night and ended just in time for your morning news team. Mind still warped from the film, and probably also from lack of sleep over the past couple of days, I wondered if you saw the film and what your thoughts were. Are there any points in which he made that you would disagree with? (particularly in regards to the weather patterns)

    Anyways, just wanted an excuse to also say hi, keep up the good work and thank you once again for all the daily updates.

  2. tankgirl Says:

    BTW…sorry to bug ya again, my favorite song to listen to when it’s raining is ‘only happy when it rains’ by the band Garbage. You should check it out if you havent already. might not be your cup of tea, but just wanted to share that with you.

    I’ll shush up now and see if i can get some sleep.

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