A Cold Wind Blows Through Oswego

Fred Vigeant, program director at WRVO in Oswego, N.Y., talks about the nasty blast of winter weather that stuck there Monday.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Like much of the country, we have unusually frosty weather here today in Washington. The wind chill right around six degrees and falling, but that's downright balmy compared to what our friends at NPR member station WRVO in Oswego, New York, are enduring. The station's studios are right on the windswept shore of Lake Ontario, and today much of the city is shut down after more than two and a half feet of snow pummeled the area.

Schools and government offices are closed, but the lights are on at WRVO. Fred Vigeant is the program direction and Mr. Everything at WRVO today. Fred, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. FRED VIGEANT (Program Director, WRVO): Thanks for having me, Neal.

CONAN: And I understand you live nearby, which may have been the only way you could have gotten to work today.

Mr. VIGEANT: I hold the cap that I have a residential position on this campus, so - the station's on a campus, and I had no excuse but to show up since everyone else was under 43 inches of snow, so.

CONAN: And when you got in today, I understand you were all alone at the radio station. Have you managed to get any help?

Mr. VIGEANT: Yes. Finally, we've upgraded to two full-time staff members and a student intern, so we're at what we normally call a skeletal staff. But this morning, answering phone calls, doing all the on-air and production, it was crazy.

CONAN: People also rely on the station, I assume, for information about, well, the weather.

Mr. VIGEANT: Usually, yes, so we had our meteorologist join us every newscast, and that was basically our newscast, since I was without a news department for most of the morning. The weather was the news, and one of the weird things, the bigger story for us was not only the cold weather but the lake effect snow, that we got several inches. A nearby village got - Mexico got 54 inches of show as - excuse me, 57 inches by noon today.

And so we had nothing else to talk about but snow and cold weather. But the snow band is so narrow that there are several communities where it's a nice, sunny, cold day. So they had no idea what we were talking about.

CONAN: What you were talking about at all. And I was - the people at WRVO were kind enough to invite me up there not so long ago…

Mr. VIGEANT: In July.

CONAN: In July, yes. But I did notice that the studio is a parking lot away from Lake Ontario and that there were ropes strung between the buildings on the campus of SUNY Oswego there for people to guide each other so they don't get blown away.

Mr. VIGEANT: That's just an old wives' tale. I don't know what you're talking about because there's no ropes in between buildings.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. VIGEANT: We are near the deepest part of the lake, so it never freezes, but with the wind constantly pushing against the lake, it forms this ice ridge right along the shore. It's an incredible sight.

CONAN: And how big is that ice ridge at the moment?

Mr. VIGEANT: I haven't been able to get too close to it. The state police that work on this campus are pretty - they try to keep the students and staff away from it because they don't want you to fall in, so - but walking to work this morning, snow was about a little over waist high, and I'm a six-foot-tall individual, so if that gives you any idea. It wasn't a good day to crawl to work.

CONAN: And the thermometer said?

Mr. VIGEANT: The thermometer this morning said I believe it was -6 degrees, but the wind chills were bottoming out near -20 with 50-mile-per-hour winds.

CONAN: Wow.

Mr. VIGEANT: So it wasn't the easiest trek to work today.

CONAN: And this type of weather, is this unusual even for Oswego?

Mr. VIGEANT: This much concentrated snow and really cold weather all at the same time is a little unusual, but I mean we get snow. We do measure it in feet on occasion, but this was a big one this year.

CONAN: And what does the forecast say? Is it going to get better anytime soon?

Mr. VIGEANT: It's supposed to stay like this all week, actually. Luckily again, I work on campus and I live on campus, so I think I'll be continuing my one-man show for the near time, the soonest time.

CONAN: Hang in there, Fred.

Mr. VIGEANT: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Fred Vigeant is program director of WRVO in Oswego, and he joined us today from their studio on the windswept and freezing shores of Lake Ontario in way upstate New York.

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