Back in June, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began looking into fake weather reports to the National Weather Service. Someone had been sending in tornado sightings, floods and a number of other violent storm reports. Because the computers hosting the National Weather Service Web site are here in Kansas City, it was the job of our local FBI office to find the culprit.
“It’s a federal crime to provide false information,” says agency spokesman Jeff Lanza. The only activity he’d confirm in the case was “some emergency response mobilization” in Wisconsin. But so far, no arrests have been made.
We at the Department of Burnt Ends have a lead for them. There’s one local who is regularly accused of exaggerating the weather: KCTV Channel 5’s Katie Horner.
We called Horner to see if she’s the mysterious Wisconsin weather vandal.
Burnt Ends: Hi, do you have a second?
Katie Horner: It’s almost time for me to go on actually, OK? We’ve got breaking news, and the studio’s in live mode. But if I can whisper, I’ve got a couple of minutes.
Lately, people online have been reporting bogus weather. We wanted to get a better handle on what you go through reporting severe weather.
Well, I love my job. I pretty much just go through a mode of, if it’s a warning and it’s life-threatening or property-threatening, we go on-air. I truly am not thinking, Gosh, I hope I’m not pissing off too many people right now.
It’s not like you’d report on anything of suspicious origin, right?
Our tools are very certain. We have a good handle on it by the time we go on-air.
Is it fulfilling work?
Yeah. I was someplace a day or two ago — and this happens on a daily basis — where a small child will come up to you. And then the mom comes up and says, “My daughter wants to tell you something.” And they’re like, “You saved our lives.” And, you know, oh my God.
You ever miss that feeling?
It’s not that I miss it. For some people, it’s a drug. They need the attention all the time. But that’s not it at all.
Not like you’d kill for it.
Right. That’s not what it’s about. But after you’ve been slammed by 10 angry people and you get a small child that says you’ve made a difference, it helps. That’s my job. It’s the duty of our station.
Ever been to Wisconsin?
I’m just getting organized right now. I do see on Doppler right now a couple storms across the Northland but nothing big yet.