Mike Clay held the interest of the packed-house audience at the Friends of the Island Library’s Travel and Lecture Series on Thursday, Jan. 12.
With a mixture of weather science and humor, he spoke about broadcasting the weather at the area’s lone all-news television station, Spectrum’s Bay News Nine.
Before the speech, part of the Friends of the Island Library Travel and Lecture Series, Friends President Denise Johnson told the crowd that Clay had refused his speaker’s fee.
“Think of me when you pay your cable bill,” Clay joked.
Clay got his start at a radio station in Waco, Texas. He made the jump to television at a cable station in Seattle, Wash., and in 1997, his boss there got a job at Bay News Nine and convinced Clay to come with him. He and Alan Winfield were the first two meteorologists there. He said Winfield has since retired, although he fills in as needed.
“We have had the same staff since 2000,” he said, noting the days of changing jobs to move to a bigger market are gone.
Clay said he loves living in paradise, although it’s at the mercy of two weather phenomena – hurricanes and lightning.
“We have had extremely quiet hurricane seasons for the past decade,” he said, “but conditions change and we will have heavier storm activity in the future.”
He stressed the importance of getting out of the way of storms, saying the most dangerous part of a hurricane is storm surge, not wind.
“You run from water and hide from wind,” he said. “When you live here, you need a plan for yourself and your family.”
He said Manatee County residents are fortunate because higher land isn’t far from the Island and the county’s emergency management staff knows what it is doing.
Clay said social media is a problem during storms because people who don’t know what’s happening are speculating and others online think that what they say is true. He said people should only trust the experts and get their news from reputable outlets.
He said while weather observation get better, they are still limited in being able to forecast what the weather will do, especially a tropical storm or hurricane.
As for lighting, he said when you see lightning or hear thunder, get indoors. Don’t think you are safe in a covered patio. He said most people who get hit by lightning get hit as the storm begins or after it appears over.
“Obey the 30-minute rule,” he said, “stay inside until 30 minutes has passed since you heard thunder.”