Of our planet’s many great meteorological mysteries — including why, since I am full of hot air, no hurricane in the past 30 years has been named after me — this one is the most baffling of all: What the hell is the difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy?
I never knew the answer because, with my limited comprehension of weather patterns, I get very few brainstorms. As I have sadly come to realize, it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.
But I now have a much clearer understanding of weather forecasting, which explains why it rains every time I wash my car, thanks to my favorite TV meteorologist, Lonnie Quinn.
I recently visited Lonnie, the lead weather anchor for WCBS-TV, at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York, the City That Never Sleets.
I had watched Lonnie’s forecast the night before and, based on his prediction of a shower, which I took before I left the house, brought an umbrella. As usual, Lonnie was spot-on, mainly because the showers were spotty.
“Most people think I’m all wet, even during droughts,” I told him, “but today you helped me avoid being a real drip.”
“That’s my job,” said Lonnie, who has a sunny disposition, even on rainy days.
Since he’s famous for rolling up his sleeves, I asked him if I could roll up mine, too.
“Go for it, big boy!” said Lonnie, who believes in the right to bare forearms.
On a roll, he said he was born and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut, about 50 miles from my hometown of Stamford.
“My brother Jeff was born in our house on Jan. 11,” said Lonnie, who’s 54.
“That’s my birthday!” I said. “The only other person I know of who was born on that date was Alexander Hamilton, which means I will either have a hit Broadway show or be killed in a duel.”
“You deserve a show,” said Lonnie.
“Not as much as I deserve to be shot,” I replied.
Too nice to argue the point, Lonnie said Jeff was born during a blizzard.
“Me, too,” I said. “I’ve been perpetrating snow jobs ever since.”
“But this storm was so bad that my mother couldn’t get out to go to the hospital,” Lonnie said. “My father delivered the baby upstairs and tied off the umbilical cord with a shoelace. Not long afterward, a cop arrived on a snowmobile. The next day, there was a story in the local paper. The headline said, ‘Hero cop delivers baby.’ That was the family’s first big weather event.”
“So how come your brother isn’t a meteorologist?” I asked.
“He’s smart,” Lonnie answered. “He went into finance.”
Lonnie, a multiple Emmy Award winner and a former soap opera actor, said his mother is smart, too, but she doesn’t always watch his weather forecasts.
“I’ll say, ‘Mom, did you see me on TV last night?’ and she’ll say, ‘Oh, honey, the news is so depressing, so I didn’t watch.’ Of course,” Lonnie said, “I know she watches regularly. And I know she’s proud of me.”
So is his 5-year-old daughter, Lily, one of his three children, the others being son Nate, 20, and younger daughter Savy, 3. Lonnie’s wife, Sharon, is director of international communications for the National Basketball Association.
Said Lonnie: “When I take Lily out for ice cream, she’ll say to the person behind the counter, ‘My daddy is a weatherman.’ When the person says, ‘That’s nice,’ Lily will say, ‘He’s on TV!’ And when the person asks what channel, Lily will say, ‘I don’t know.’ But I know she’s proud of me, too.”
And I was proud of Lonnie for educating me on meteorological terms such as “partly sunny” and “partly cloudy.”
“What do you think the difference is?” Lonnie asked.
I thought for a moment and said, “The spelling.”
“I didn’t see that one coming!” Lonnie exclaimed as he gave me a high five. Then he said, “When it’s partly cloudy, only part of the sky has clouds and there is more sun. And when it’s partly sunny, only part of the sky has sun and there are more clouds.”
“I often have my head in the clouds,” I admitted, “but now you have cleared them up for me.”
“Glad I could let a little sunshine in,” Lonnie said with a bright smile.
“When it comes to TV meteorologists,” I told him, “you rain supreme.”
— Jerry Zezima