published Friday, May 18th, 2012

Courter: Hixson grad co-hosting new weather disaster show

Twenty-six years or so ago, Kyle Hunter was a just-out-of-high-school guy with a desire to work in television. I first met him at WDEF-TV 12, where I was interning as a reporter and he was the morning weatherman and later a director.

At that time, weather was the middle segment of the newscast, sandwiched between news and sports. If it was a heavy news day or it was fall football season, weather might get squeezed a little to add time to the other segments.

Today, weather dominates many newscasts because people are into it. Viewers like it so much, entire shows have been built around weather and its power, which we have unfortunately experienced all too closely of late.

Hunter, whose resume also includes a stint on the "The Price Is Right," is currently an on-air meteorologist at Fox 5 in San Diego as well as a geoscientist. Saturday night he will make his debut on a new show on History Channel 2's (formerly History International) "Serial Killer Earth."

The show features a panel including Hunter, a geologist and a physicist who examine natural disasters. It attempts to not only look at what happened but try to explain how it happened.

The show takes a more scientific view of natural disasters, Hunter said.

"We say why did this happen?" the 1986 Hixson High School graduate said. "We look at the weather and ask how does it work. What severe weather components came together, and what might make a house or a building less vulnerable?

"We look at it on a scientific level as opposed to glossing over it and showing pictures of the devastation."

The show uses actual footage taken by news agencies and real people caught in the middle of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.

The first episode is "When Lakes Attack."

One episode in the 10-show first season looks at the gigantic EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., last year.

"I do storm chasing every year, and I was a quarter mile from that one," Hunter said.

I asked Hunter, who said he'd heard as a child all of the claims that the mountains would prevent tornadoes from happening here, if his group could explain why our own area has been hit by tornadoes recently.

"One of the most often-asked questions I get is about whether climate change has anything to do with a weather event," he said.

"No one can pinpoint why any singular Earth event happens. Tornadoes can happen anywhere. The idea that the mountains would protect Chattanooga is an old wives' tale, sort of like lightning doesn't strike the same place twice. It very often does."

Hunter said while he's served as a guest expert on a number of shows in the past, "Serial Killer Earth" is the first opportunity he's had to take a principal role in a series.

He said the show, which will air Saturdays at 10 p.m., originally had a different name and that he's not especially fond of the new one.

"It kind of makes the Earth out as a foe, which I'm not too keen on, but I get what they are going for."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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