In a recent post, I tried to make the point that the National Weather Service would serve us better if they were a little more timely with trimming their dire forecasts and warnings when later data indicates they should. I also posted a comment on the local NWS Facebook site to that effect.
The issue didn’t perk up any interest around here, but the Facebook post certainly did, on several fronts. Most common were reminders to me of the mission of the dedicated people at the National Weather Service–which is to alert us folks about the approach of consequential weather.
I don’t doubt there is a mission behind their efforts. I simply made the point that they have jobs they’d like to keep–a mission of itself. That particularly didn’t go over well.
Eventually, the conversation ended with something like:
What kind of idiot complains about being warned of the likelihood of life threatening conditions…?
And here is where we butt heads with that foil of all social media commentary–the intransigence of ad hominem.
I am not an idiot. Without a doubt, I could prove statistically that results are more consistantly less than more extreme as forecasted. I’m not getting any grants here, so I’m not going to do it. Maybe somebody already has. One of the great benefits of social media is that you’re never really alone–somebody, somewhere has had the same thought as you.
If I went back to that FB conversation now I would undoubtedly be reminded of the terrible situation in Buffalo. Those were truly life-threatening conditions and people lost their lives. There are reasons for that.
The biggest reason is both economic and political, those running hand in hand as always (sure I learned that from my Marxist history education at NIU, but so say Calvin Coolidge “The business of America is business” and Brad Pitt in Killing Me Softly “America is not a country, it’s just a business”). Politicians from Washington to Beijing are a little shy about mandates, these days. Faced with the onset of a blizzard that had been certain for days, the mayor of Buffalo issued a travel ban at 9:30 in the morning. After rush hour. After working people were out there trying to get to jobs they could not afford to jeopardize. After stores were open for one more holiday shopping day.
Others ventured out after the ban. They needed food. They were having babies or other medical issues. Their power was out and they needed shelter. Emergency people could not get to them. The arteries could not be plowed, mainly because there were already too many abandoned vehicles in the way.
Many others simply didn’t buy it or wouldn’t be told. No amount of warning would make a difference. They were Buffalonians, godammit! Survivors! Unlike unvaccinated Covid victims, they died with not even a nurse to confess their bad judgement to.
Despite all indications, nobody was able to fully express the danger of the situation to some people. There are a lot of reasons for that. Politics, business as usual, bravado, lack of comprehension, and one more… hyperbole.
We’ve all heard the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” When you use nothing but superlatives, they will wear on people. When an actual extreme event comes around, there is no longer language available to do it justice. When the likelihood that we in Wisconsin would see bizzard conditions was clearly diminishing, we were not advised. When Buffalonians were warned of more extreme blizzard conditions, the ball was dropped.
Aesop was not an idiot, and neither am I. If you need to express the scale of something, everything can’t the the biggest. That’s all I’m saying. How do you tell a Buffalonian (had to use that one more time) that this is going to be different?
Maybe by not setting the bar so high, is all I’m sayin’.
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