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Meteorologist Off Air After Weather-Alert Criticism

Code red sign at Springfield business
John O'Connor
A sign supporting Springfield meteorologist Joe Crain appears at Grab a Java, a drive-through coffee joint on Monday in Springfield.

Viewers and businesses are defending a popular meteorologist who has been absent from local television newscasts since he criticized a corporate weather-alert brand.

Joe Crain has not reported the weather for WICS-TV in Springfield since Wednesday. He noted community criticism over "Code Red" weather alerts implemented by station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group. He says the brand "doesn't recognize that not all storms are created equal" and that the alerts often worry viewers unnecessarily.

Several local businesses have pulled advertising from WICS. Support for Crain has come from thousands of supportive social media posts and petitions.

Even Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says Crain was right and that people should speak up for him.

Maryland-based Sinclair did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement Monday, WICS said there appeared "to be wide misunderstanding over the facts of the situation."

"It is our policy to not comment on individual personnel matters and we will continue to adhere to that policy out of respect to Joe Crain. The events of the last few days do, however, require us to address and clarify what appears to be wide misunderstanding over the facts of the situation. We have worked hard to gain the trust of our viewers over the years. One reason is that, to the maximum extent possible, we provide early warning of severe weather. Weather is an inherently predictive science. Our commitment is to do our best to make sure the public is informed, and forewarned, so that they can take appropriate precautions. Code Red alerts were developed because we believe they enhance the community's preparedness for severe weather. To reiterate, the decision on if, and when, to issue Code Red weather alerts is made at the local level. Our alerts from last week were no exception. We live and work and have families and friends in this community -- safety is deeply personal for us. We firmly believe in the need to provide an early warning alert and will continue to provide this potentially lifesaving information, but we have come to understand that the words Code Red may no longer be fitting. As such, we are changing the name of our early warning alert to 'Weather Warn.' In addition, we will continue to work to more precisely define the specific geographic areas of greatest concern. We appreciate all our viewers and advertisers and, as someone who lives in, works in, and loves this community, I thank my fellow neighbors for your feedback."

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