“But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.”
― Jerome K. Jerome.
For many years , especially during the long and unpredictably stormy summer months, I was one of those gullible people who firmly believed in and trusted our local television meteorologist -- tv weatherman -- to accurately predict the upcoming weather patterns in my area. People I knew usually consulted their copy of The Farmers Almanac or their Aunt Bessy's aching bunion to forecast for themselves when stormy weather would be arriving. I trusted my fate to a well-known and respected media personality.
I used to live in a region of the country known as Tornado Alley and during the tempestuous summer season believed that my local guru would be able to help me plan my week with a bit of newfound confidence. One local authority was always impeccably dressed, sported a flashy bow tie and a charismatic smile and of course an infectious sense of humor that could allay the fears of the most nervous Nelly. Approaching cold fronts, high pressure areas and storm fronts were always handled with great aplomb by this local weather hero. His batting average for correct forecasts averaged about an impressive 90 percent.
Over time and with great personal reluctance I gradually began to realize and accept the fact that his television personna and charisma had nothing to do with the reality of events occurring outside my own front door. The weather was unpredicatble and chaos theory seemd to rule the type of weather pattern that would visit a particular area.
One reputable broadcasting station constantly bragged that they had invested millions of dollars in highly sophisticated, electronic weather forecasting equipment and that they even had the capability to accurately pinpoint the type of weather pattern a particular neighborhood would receive. Wow. Quite the promise. I felt safer with such a publicly endorsed guarantee. If they could do that then anything was possible. Was this a case of arrogance or corporate bravado?
Earlier this week the folks in my region were issued a tornado alert and informed that a series of potentially threatening funnel clouds had been indicated on a doppler radar screen. An official at the regional weather office issued a public alert around 2 p.m. The community was initially put on standby notification and then within minutes an official order to take cover was given. All this took place in a matter of minutes. People scurried indoors and took the appropriate actions to protect themselves and their families.
Local television, radio and dedicated weather radio stations issued the alert to take cover. People responded accordingly and sheltered themselves in their basements. School officials corralled children into the gymnasium and tried to keep them calmed and entertained until the crisis had passed. Anxious moments passed slowly as the thunder roared, lightning flashed, skies blackened and the wind built up momentum. A community nervously held its breath praying for the best but expecting the worst.
The storm passed without major incident dumping a significant amount of rainfall, pea-sized hail, water soaked streets and no major damage. It was a typical storm for the region. School buses had waited an extra 45 minutes for grade school students to be released. Residents on the south-east side of the city left the confined safety of their basements. It was just a typical summer thundershower. The indiviual who had issued the alert had cried wolf prematurely and set a cowering community on edge.
A local television station's news team was interested in the why's and the who's of the story. They visited the governmentally run weather bureau and spoke with the behind-the-scene person who actually issued the alert. The person was male, mid-thirties, shabbily dressed in blue jeans, sneakers, blue anorak and sported a scruffy beard. He claimed that it was his responsibility to monitor the storm system and made the call to issue the alert. He was a five-year veteran at the position and was working the shift alone that afternoon.
When asked by the reporters if he felt guitly about sounding the alert he smugly answered no and told them he would do it again if conditions warranted. He answered their questions in a guarded manner and appeared to be trying to cover his back with each carefully worded response. His glib , off the cuff replies made the news team skeptical of his sincerity and honesty. He had made a serious judgement error and was refusing to accept responsibility for his impetuous action.
Before you are totally swayed into trusting or believing your community's own weather forcasting personality remember the tale of the Wizard of Oz. Even though that person in charge seems all knowing and responsible come to grips with the fact that somewhere a behind-the-scenes person is controlling his actions and that the clever wink or enchanting smile is merely this person's attempt to gain your confidence and increase his viewing audience. Be aware. Be careful.