Friday, March 8, 2013

Can't Catch Me

At the risk of bringing the wrath of Mother Nature squarely down upon my hapless head, I'm going to offer a few observations about the latest East Coast Storm.

First, and most importantly, to the (otherwise) good people of The Weather Channel: stop naming all of the storms.

I think I speak for all of America when I say this.  It's not helpful, it's just annoying.  Really, really annoying.

In an era in which there seem to be no bipartisan issues left to be found, you have found one, Weather Channel.

I know that, on your site, you claim that "Naming storms will raise awareness."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and argue that people are, in general, quite aware when a storm is taking place.  Whether they are aware that it is "Gertrude" who has blown the roof off of their home and felled the tree that is now lying across the crumpled hood of their car or whether they know that it was "Hepzibah" who was responsible for the fact that they had to go for 5 days without power, is always going to seem extremely irrelevant, in the final analysis, to the people who end up weathering the actual weather.

You also claim that the "goal" is to "better communicate the threat and the timing of significant impacts."  Personally, over the years, I have often felt that, when it comes to the weather, previous communications were not only fine, but already a bit of overkill.

I remember, for example, a significant (albeit nameless) snowstorm in 1993.  My local news channels--ALL of them, actually--preempted all previously scheduled broadcasts in order to bring me "live team coverage" from I-95 so that I could be updated, on an hourly basis, about the fact that it was "still snowing." 

12 inches and 14 hours later, it finally stopped.  I was then treated to elaborate analyses of issues involving snow removal, from how many pounds of various melting agents had been dumped on the the mall parking lot to the number of calories burned while shoveling to the increased risk of heart attack incurred during winter weather in general.  (Shoveling snow is supposedly like moving a piano. I've moved a piano.  It's not like shoveling snow.  If shoveling snow feels that way to you, you should stop immediately because clearly, you're doing it wrong.)

In the end, I was told that a lot of things were closed or cancelled and that they would remain closed or cancelled until they weren't closed any longer, at which point the cancelled things would be rescheduled.

Everything reopened the next morning.  On schedule.

I remember thinking, way back in 1993, that I would have liked to watch TV on a snowy winter afternoon, but that ironically, I couldn't, because it was, in fact, snowing.  Which I knew.  It had been very clearly communicated to me by the air, actually, before I went inside and turned on the TV.

It's clear to everyone everywhere that every blessed channel competes for viewers and ratings, and that this is why we have to hear about the fact that it's snowing.  (Or occasionally that it's raining pretty damn hard.)

It's weather.  It happens every day.  It could be interesting and informative, at times, but updates every 15 minutes for hours upon hours that say the SAME THING are no longer useful, informative, or even remotely interesting.  To anyone.


The Weather Channel also justifies the storm-naming by pointing out that, in fact, "Weather systems, including winter storms, have been named in Europe since the 1950's."

That's nice.  Europe has also banned animal testing and the inclusion of all kinds of toxic chemicals in food and cosmetics.  They have nationalized health care in a lotta places too.

But this is what we adopt.  Storm-naming.

"Isaac."  "Katrina."  "Sandy."  These names mean something, because they were significant events.  This latest gig is just commercialization.  Of the weather.

Must we?

That said, this latest East Coast Storm has been a bit absurd for me.  I spent Tuesday and Wednesday worrying about it in NJ because, much to my surprise, it wasn't even mentioned as a problem in RI on Monday.  I checked, and the word "snow" appeared nowhere.  "Significant snow" wasn't even mentioned.

But yes, I heard "Saturn."  Over and over again.  And how it was going to be "tough to call."

My attitude is, then shut up for a bit, go get some information, and when you have something useful to tell me, speak.

My mom used to say, "How come, with all this fancy technology and radar and crap (yes, she called it "crap"), they're no better at predicting what's happening than my grandfather was?  He used to just lick his finger, hold it up to the wind, and say, 'Storm's a-comin.  My knees ache.  Gonna be a bad one this time.'"

Anyway, as far as this latest storm goes, I dodged it.  Got to RI.  Spent two days being told there would be "Significant Snow!"  "Power Outages!"  "Rain!"  Sleet!"  "Something!" "Up the I-95 Corridor!"  "Maybe!"

I waited.  And waited.  Nothing.  Zip.  Zero.  Nada.  Each night I went to bed with promises that in the morning I would be greeted with "8-12  (or 5-8 or 4-6 or  3-5 or 1-3 or a slushy inch) of snow."

Yes, it's been quite windy.  I'll give you that.  I would not want to be out on a boat just off the coast of Boston right now.  And consequently, I am not.

But as far as the weather goes, after days of concerned planning, I stopped listening yesterday.  Only to find out this morning that, in fact, it is finally snowing in a couple of places--and quite heavily--and that this might actually change my weekend plans.

I read emails from friends who hoped I was "warm and cozy."  I stared at the computer screen.

I stared out the window.  It's still not snowing.  I can see grass in the yard.  The porch had all of an inch of snow on it, and it melted.

I can't wait until summer, when I'll be able to learn that it is, in fact, hot outside.  And that this is because we're all feeling the wrath of heat-wave "Cleopatra."


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."