published Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Escaping hook echoes; embracing family names

'Take cover now'

Unscripted, live television may not always offer the best theater, but it's must-see TV when lives are on the line.

Chattanooga was fortunate to dodge a giant weather bullet Monday night, and faced another one Tuesday, three years after tornadoes ravaged the area, but television meteorologists did their best to keep people safe by providing continuous storm warnings and protective tips.

Oh, it could be a bit comical, with one station having occasional human shadows walking in front of the camera and another practically daring the weather gods to defy the station's new equipment by not having a tornado on the ground when it was indicated.

But social media indicated the warnings were heeded all across the Tennessee Valley, where a few downed trees and power lines were the extent of Monday's damage.

Here, on social media, was a photo of an empty closet, a place of refuge for an individual or a family. There was a snapshot of two sleeping children and a dog standing guard, evidently in a basement since the lawn mower sat in the background. And there was the selfie of the couple huddled together in a dark corner, fearing but hoping against the worst.

If television meteorologists overreact -- and given the warnings and the lack of damage Monday night, they sometimes do -- they do so in order that lives may be saved.

After all, what's one more warning to leave a mobile home in the threat of a tornado against headlines of "Seven killed when twister slams trailer park," one more description of a "classic hook echo" against an inability to pinpoint killer systems, or one more instance of seeing your particular neighborhood in the line of an approaching storm against a 10-mile long path of destruction.

Of course, there always will be viewers who are incensed that weather warnings interrupt "The Voice" or "Dancing With the Stars," but devotees can catch up with these shows on their cable system's library when the clouds finally part.

So, sure we get a few gray hairs from the pronouncement of "100 mile-per-hour winds about to hit (fill in the blank)," find that scarf we thought we'd lost when everything is flung out of the closet and lose the companionship of Kitty under the bed for a couple of hours, only to learn nothing has "touched down" or spread its "debris field" in our yard, but we do so with the knowledge that a group of meteorology professionals are trying to keep us safe.

Relatively speaking

J.B. Bennett, locally, and Georgia state Sen. Jason Carter, regionally, find themselves on a similar page in trying to both separate themselves from -- while making sure they're still associated with -- current or former office-holding relatives.

Bennett, who is running for Hamilton County Circuit Court judge, Division 1, is the son of Hamilton County Assessor of Property Bill Bennett, who has been elected to his post five times and who previously served for 14 years on the Hamilton County Commission.

The Chattanooga attorney, who is opposed for the judgeship by attorney Catherine Cate White, noted in a meeting with Times Free Press editorial page editors that he was proud of his father's service but that he was running the campaign on his own.

However, earlier this week, many Chattanoogans found in their mailboxes a card on which Bennett and his father stand on either side of one of his campaign placards. Photoshopped in back of them is a sign reading "Bill Bennett Field" from a baseball diamond somewhere in the Scenic City.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the campaign card or Bennett referencing his father's name, which has been devoid of controversy, but it's a careful line a candidate has to walk.

The same is true with Carter in Georgia.

But he, unlike Bennett, has a relative with a record with which many in the electorate may find fault. Jimmy Carter, his grandfather, was widely viewed as an ineffective president of the United States. And, despite some successes in brokering elections abroad after his presidency, now often comes across in interviews like a grumpy old man with a sackful of grudges.

Now, the younger Carter has to -- and should -- personally embrace his grandfather but, as a Democrat, be careful not to stray too far from the political center in conservative Georgia.

Saying the race is "about the the future and not my family," he attempts to dodge the connection but increasingly has tapped into his father's network with out-of-state fundraisers and email blasts for donations.

How well Carter walks the line won't be known until he faces incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal in November. Bennett will learn his fate in the Republican primary election next week.

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