The Hype of America’s Weather

I am a weather geek.

When I was a kid, I built my own backyard weather station with a mercury “min-max” recording thermometer and a wet-bulb sling psychrometer.

I took daily readings and recorded them.

I cut out weather maps from the newspaper and glued them in stenographer notebooks and wrote a daily weather commentary.

I did this for a number of years and I remember on the morning after my high school graduation, my buddies left me several inches of strongly-scented yellow moisture in my rain gauge.

In case you’re wondering, I probably had a plastic pocket protector, too.

Imagine how excited I was when The Weather Channel came into existence.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Imagine! A TV network committed to nothing but weather!!

My barometer was rising.

But like MTV, The Weather Channel changed and not for the better in my humble opinion. It became politicized and overly dramatic.

I just want Jack Webb “Dragnet” weather (Just the facts, Ma-am!)

When I worked for a radio station in Ohio, we cut a deal with a TV station and had a meteorologist do customized forecasts for our area.

This was about the time the first women were showing up on the tube doing weather and I used to call them “Cumulo-Bimbusses” (which cracked our weather guy up).

Most of these ladies looked good but couldn’t tell a cold front from a cold beer.

That’s not the case anymore.

But TV weather became more “Hollywood”.

It was as much about being flashy and dramatic as it was being accurate, quite frankly. I think the ratings game meant stations had to do things to justify their financial outlay for the fanciest weather radar.

Initially I winced when the National Weather Service started alternating hurricane names between guys and gals.

But when The Weather Channel started naming winter storms a few years ago, I gagged.

Can we be far from having extended stretches of fair weather named?

“It’s Day 3 for ‘Sunburn Stanley’ as residents see nary a cloud in the sky for yet another day.”

We no longer have storms either.

Everything is “super” this or “mega” that.

As we remember the 40th anniversary of the “Blizzard of 78” this year, I shudder to think how today’s weather crews would have reported it.

“Blizzard” is a weather term that gets miss-used. There are specific guidelines that need to be met for a winter weather event to be categorized as a “blizzard”.

It’s a severe snowstorm with sustained winds in excess of 35 miles per hour and visibility of ¼ of a mile or less for more than 3 hours with large amounts of snow. Wind-driven snow, already on the ground and not falling from the skies can be a true blizzard.

The recent East Coast weather event, blamed on the “Cyclone Bomb” just made me crazy.

Doesn’t that sound like a weather term designed to send hordes of shoppers to the local stores to buy all the bread, milk and toilet paper?

And, it’s obvious the weather is always the most ominous, threatening and deadly if it happens in or near a town with two or more television stations.

TV screens will have all sorts of info tracking across them with those nifty little warning logos blaring in the upper right hand corner.

We read “Dolly’s House of Dance has cancelled its 7:00pm recital” which thousands of people see and the actual number of people affected could fit on your living room sofa.

Our “storm team crew” will be out in their fancy parkas and nice, fur-lined boots, bracing themselves as they lean into the wind and stick their yardsticks into the nearest drift to measure how much “white death” has fallen.

It’s all so dramatic.

And over-hyped.

But I find solace in the fury of weather because almighty man is humbled by nothing more than  masses of air and delicate little snowflakes.

Nothing steel or cement involved in that process which can literally grind us to a halt.

Think aout that the next time you’re feeling all high and mighty.


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