That’s the way it was…..February 26, 1979

By Steve Dunford

This is a column that I did not plan on writing.  I figured I would have spent tonight in my recliner watching the red hot Cardinals.  When I have something that is burning, I have learned that I need to sit at the keyboard to get it out of my system.

There was a total eclipse that went through the northern states and Canada.  Below is a clip from Walter Cronkite on CBS news telling “the way it was” on that day.

Long time legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. He closed every news cast, with his catch phrase, that’s the way it is. (BBC Photo)

One thing that was interesting on the video, was the Canadian Broadcasting Company did a story with a caged rooster.  After the eclipse passed it crowed.  I am interested in the reaction of the animals.

I was nine years old at the time.  I remember the eclipse was 1/4 around here, but the biggest story was the blizzard of 1979.  For those of you that have followed this page for a while realize I am a weather nerd.

I am going to rewind a couple days.  The eclipse happened on a Monday.  I had to look up the date to refresh my memory.

Don McNeely when he gave the weather, heavy rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast.  He disagreed with the National Weather Service forecast, which was in Cairo at the time.  He said we could possibly see some snow.

Legendary KFVS-TV meterolgist Don McNeely. (Southeast Missourian photo)

We woke up to several inches of snow.  There were two feet plus in some places.  There were very high winds.  We had thunder snow and intense lightning.  The graphics were not great in 1979.  When Channel 12 broke in they would put a cloud on the screen.  The series of beeps for the crawler across the screen existed back then.    I remember Mike Shain saying bulletin bulletin bulletin several times.

Several people lost power in Southern Illinois.  We lost it Monday afternoon.  We attempted to go down to my grandparents who had a fireplace.  There were drifts four feet high.  I felt for my dad as he had to pack me to the car.

The roads were impassable.  We had a big Monopoly game.  With two brothers cooped up in a house, there were a few game boards turned over.

I remember on the day of the eclipse,  the local radio and TV stations were bleeding over each other.  I loved the game shows Tic Tac Dough and the Price is Right.  I remember watching Bob Barker and Wink Marindale on the CBS affiliate out of Philadelphia.

I was playing with the radio and TV that day.  I was amazed of all the stations I was pulling in.  WLS-FM was coming in.

The video of Walter Cronkite helped me recall the events of that day.  When you watch the video, check out the KFVS feed of cars that were abandoned on I-55 around Jackson Missouri.

While composing this, I believe the memories came back to me.  What I am about to say, I do not mean to cause alarm.   My entire life I have lived by the boy scout motto, be prepared.

When I watched the Dukes of Hazzard as a kid, I was mesmerized by Boss Hogg’s car phone.  There are very few of us that does not have a wireless device.  If there was that much havoc with radio signals that day,  just think of how it could affect cell coverage.

Here is two advantages that I will have in eclipse coverage.  I still have a land line.  The number is 937-0253.  I also have cable internet.  I might have service, and faster speed if lines are overloaded.

I am going to do my best to be the eclipse information source for you.  From that Friday on, I will be monitoring the situation.  During the flooding it was the most rewarding but at the same time was the toughest to cover.  It was hard seeing pictures of people that I know were in danger.  I thank you for the confidence you shown in me.  I want to further earn your trust in the upcoming story of the century.






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