Saturday, June 02, 2007

All Eyes Are On....

If I hear that phrase ONE MORE TIME from a meteorologist talking about a tropical storm or a hurricane, I'm going to scream.

I'm going to be doing a lot of screaming.

Last Friday was the official start of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, and just to make it official, we had a tropical storm around town: Barry. Now, I won't say anything bad about Barry, as it brought us some desperately-needed rain. We've been under drought conditions for a long time, and there have been wildfires burning in southern Georgia and all over Florida, to the extent that we've had unhealthful air warnings due to smoke. During this time, these same TV weather people, who go ape trying to scare the crap out of us during the hurricane season on the slightest excuse, were saying that "we sure could use a tropical storm to make up for the rain shortfall".

That was actually a fair assessment, even if it sounds illogical to those of you not in Hurricane Alley.

Ah, but let June 1 roll around, and the same boring old cliches are brought out, the same stock footage, and the exact same recordings of emergency officials saying what people should do. However, lots of people don't do anything at all, even when a serious storm threat is hanging over our area. There are a number of possible reasons for this:

-They're just plain stupid.
-They think "it can't/won't happen here". See the above.
-They're under the impression that using masking tape forming an "X" on their windows will somehow shield them from 100 mph winds. See the first entry.
-They can't afford to, or are not physically able to. There are quite a number of people who fall into this category, and practically nobody says or does anything about it. The public officials who allow this to continue? See the first entry.
-They're sure that they can get all the supplies and do all the work at the very last minute. Once again, see the first entry.

I could go on (and keep on referring to the first entry), but what I'm driving at is this: The TV weather people have got a lot to answer for, because they're boring millions of people to tears with the same old drek every time a storm comes up. They're so bored, in fact, that they've been lulled into an inactive stupor. Who needs an entire summer of reruns when lives are at stake?

Am I being hypercritical? Probably, but hyperbole is almost always funnier than reality.

Can't they inject a little more personal style and individuality to all this 24/7 coverage? And how about some brutal honesty? That would keep people guessing. Change the usual verbal exchanges and video, and it'd be a lot more likely to make an impression on people.

For example:

Instead of saying: "People who choose not to evacuate in time may find themselves stranded."
How about: "If these people don't get off this barrier island NOW, they're frigging well going to DIE, Jim. Maybe they deserve to, if they have so little sense."

Now, THAT'S brutally honest. Mind you, islanders are strange and stubborn people; I ought to know, but at least Aquidneck Island is big, with plenty of safe spots, not like some barrier island whose apex is two feet above sea level. Still, this might save a few lives, and any number saved is good.

Now, what about the poor fools that they have stationed around various points where the storm may strike, standing outside to report conditions. I do kind of like that, as you can directly see how it would be if you were stupid enough to be standing out there unprotected. Oh, I wouldn't do it, but I'm still curious. I think that they should be allowed to be more blunt and less professional, and to complain bitterly that they have to do this in order to keep their jobs. Clearly, these people have no union. "The winds have gotten up to 65 mph, and the rain is flaying skin from my face. I am SO going to sue the station. Nobody should be out here, so screw you guys, I'm going home." Not so polite, but it does at least demonstrate that anyone with sense would not be outside with a swutting video camera, recording the carnage as it happens. They know no better because the news people are enablers, with their crews outside. Well, then, it must be safe for us, eh? Let's cut this crap out right now.

Naturally, there'll always be private individuals out there with cameras and video, and the TV people might as well point out that some of them are going to get killed. "Linda, he's standing too close to where the waves are breaking- oh, there he goes. What an idiot!" There's a term for this process: "Natural selection". You! Out of the gene pool, NOW!

Lastly, let's get a hold of the IT professionals who are constantly tweaking the computer programs used to make the forecasters' visual displays and lock them in a Chuck E. Cheese somewhere. I don't need to see sixteen different versions of the radar image, just show me where the stupid storm is! Show us the eye, rain, wind speed, and direction, and leave us alone with all the other flashing colors. People are having seizures out here.

Besides, among all their other bad thinking, the weather people are missing out on a money-making opportunity. They're always revising the forecast, especially about when & where the storm will make landfall. You know good and well that they have a betting pool going at the station on this, so why not let the public in on it? Charge five bucks a guess, lie like crazy about how many people entered, pay the winner and keep the "overhead" for yourself.

Mostly, pray that there won't be another Katrina. But for heaven's sake, prepare as if there will be, and that it's going to come your way. Oh, you can count on the TV weather people to be all over the place, but as for a major rescue response? Keep in mind who's in the White House. Then refer way back up to the first entry on the list of explanations above. It does seem to apply to a lot of people, doesn't it?

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