The cold weather is no joke - and you can take it on no less authority than that of the local television wealthermen, some of whom like to be funny.
Channel 4's funnyman, Willard Scott, who has observed that "a trained gorilla could do this job every night," says the seriousness of the cold, snow and ice - the energy shortage, job layoffs, personal injuries - has "straightened up" his usually light-hearted presentation "considerably."
But he can laugh now over an incident that last week made him cry - missing a weather show for the first time in nine years because of the weather.
He says he's made it to the WRC studios from his farm near Upperville, Va., "in a '38 Packard in blizzard conditions," but recently bought a new car, only to have the automatic door locks lock in the open position.
"To this hour I don't know how it happened," he says. "But when I'd stop, all the doors would open, like wings. All four of them. I wept and cursed. I was going to lead off the show and at ten after eleven I was on the GW Parkway."
Scott says there's nothing funny about people falling on the ice, the paralyzed Chesapeake Bay and all the other hardships caused by the recent cold. Still, Scott, a happy giant of a man, can't resist one small joke, on himself.
"I fell on the ice. A fellow called in and said he knew. It had been registered on the Richter scale."
Like other weathermen, Scott is getting more air time, first moved up to the front of the show for a "teaser," then coming on later.
"If it's really a lousy night, they may bring me back at the middle of the show and at the end," he says.
Like Scott, Channel 5's Al Roker finds this a time to change his delivery.
"The weather's not a laughing matter anymore," says Roker, who one night did a TV weather show in Syracuse dressed as a cookie monster before joining Channel 5 here a little more than a month ago.
Now the usually buoyant Roker - "I like to be optimistic. If the National Weather Service says variable cloudiness, I say partly sunny" - has "toned down" his presentation because of the seriousness of the cold wave.
"People are getting laid off," he says. "I don't want to offend anybody."
He still is likely to do part of his show from outside the studio "because it brings home the fact of what's going on out there . . . even though I caught a cold once from doing it."
That was when he stood out in Syracuse when it was "about 2 below with a wind-chill of minus 40 and in the middle of a snowstorm."
Roker says he's taken a lot of kidding since arriving from Syracuse, where "this is just spring weather.
"Everybody's blaming me," he says. "They say, 'This didn't start 'til you came.' That's kind of cute, everybody bringing far and feathers to your door."
Channel 7's Barry ZeVan finds nothing amusing about the current cold - and not because he almost got his car because he almost got his car stuck on the ice one day or because he must bear unhappy tidings almost every evening.
"For all our technology, weather does dictate our lives," says ZeVan, who points to "limited energy sources" as the main reason why there's nothing funny about the situation. TGordon Barnes, who arrived at Channel 9 last August "when Hurricane Belle came up the coast," says, "I haven't changed my style one bit since I've been here," adding. "I think weather is a serious thing. I've always dealt with it that way."
Scott says - no kidding - that below-normal temperatures will continue to plague the area through February, and that cold winters will continue through 1979.
"But don't worry, we're not entering the Ice Age," he says, sounding reassuring."It'll be all right."