WLDS/WEAI News ceased getting weather updates from Storm Team 20 WICS Thursday afternoon. It turns out there was a major shake up in the meteorology department at the station in Springfield. Joe Crain, well-known on-air staff meteorologist criticized the station’s “Code Red” alert for weather on air Wednesday morning. The video of the critique has since gone viral.
He stated that the “corporate initiative” for the alerts weren’t in line with proper reporting for severe thunderstorms. Crain believed that the alerts were sensationalizing the weather, causing ire from residents and creating panic when it was unnecessary. Sinclair Broadcasting, who owns the station, quickly pulled Crain from the station’s biography page and no statement has been made about Crain’s future employment.
Crain has been employed with WICS since 2004. He is the longest tenured on-air personality in the Springfield area. Crain believes the station should move towards the National Weather Service’s reporting methods using colors and numbers instead of the “Code Red” status. The status, according to Crain, had been drawing ire from listeners for months. In a Facebook message, Crain said he is still employed by the station and could offer no further comment.
Since Crain’s absence, 14 sponsors have pulled their advertisements from the station. WICS has since changed the “Code Red” alert system to a new “Weather Warn” system. According to a report from the State Journal-Register, general manager Rick Lipps acknowledge that the ‘Code Red’ system was no longer fitting and that the station would work more precisely to define the areas of greatest concern during weather events.
The event has drawn publicity from the Washington Journal, CNN, Newsweek and several national and local publications. Lipps would not address Crain’s status Monday at the station due to company policy. Crain, too, has remained silent on social media and elsewhere since the incident.