Why Is Every Rainy Day “The Storm of the Century” Now?

These musings come from a reader who blogs at southgeek and describes herself as “someone who sees and greatly fears that our personal freedoms and independence are being sold down the river in exchange for imaginary security. And when it comes to security of children, well, all bets are off.”
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Agreed. But today she sent me a grumbling, discerning email about the way weather reports keep getting more and more hysterical, and that’s what I’m posting here:
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Dear Free-Range Kids: Years ago when I moved to Alabama, I first saw meteorologists on the local TV stations breaking away from regular programming whenever there were tornado warnings in the viewing area.  I thought this was great at the time, and we now know that this has been a true lifesaver.
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Over the years,however, as our tolerance for discomfort in society has grown, our “threshold level for warnings” has been inversely lowered.

As more and more information became available to us at our fingertips, our need to know more and more, in ever greater detail,  increased.  It used to be enough to listen to the forecast in the morning and plan accordingly. Later on, thanks to cable, one could flip on the Weather Channel, at least when it actually was local weather 24/7, and…take note of any changing conditions.
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Along with the internet came our ability to check the same radars that the meteorologists had access to…. Not a bad thing at all,  but I have been observing some subtle changes.
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During the weather segments without any threat of severe weather, they will now micro-analyze every speck of green on the radar. “This little shower here will approach the blah blah area and you can expect it to rain shortly.”
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The weather has become one more thing with which to generate hysteria, and the media milks it for every click it can.
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The weather app on my phone used to send out alerts only if there were tornado warnings in my area.  Then I started getting alerts for severe thunderstorms approaching, which quickly devolved into merely being alerted for any thunderstorm, which then became any “rain event.” 
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I just this moment received an alert that reads: “Precipitation has been detected within your Radius of 5 miles.”  Does this really require an urgent alert?
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It’s actually pouring down pretty hard right now and I, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “don’t need a weather app to know which way the wind blows.”
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Less and less of a “problem” is more and more of an issue. I bet you can name immediate Free-Range parallels.
 
Indeed, the Free-Range parallels are many. In the “olden days” we’d worry if our child wasn’t home by a certain time — usually dark. Now we  worry anytime a child is outside. In ye olden days, we’d let our kids wait in the car while we ran an errand. Now the worry is that even a five minute car-wait could prove fatal.
 
Smaller and smaller blips loom larger and larger on other fronts, too: The worry that 1 millimeter of something or other in the blood is the same as an arsenic transfusion. The belief that eating a less than perfect meal ushers in a lifetime of illness. The inability to discern the difference between something that is 99% safe, like a drop-side crib, and a crib made of asbestos with a lead lollipop on a long string attached to the crib poles, which are spaced just wide enough to poke a head through.
 
I’m not sure if the problem is that in times this safe we have to focus on something scary, so we boost the fear factor of everyday life. Or if it’s that we have been SO warned about SO MANY non-dangerous things (like “rain incidents”), we have lost the ability to make any kind of rational risk analysis.
 
Either way, if you have some great ideas about how to recalibrate our doom radar, shout it from the rooftops!
 
On second thought, please shout it from the living room, while sitting down. You know why.  – L.

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Tomorrow, scattered showers and/or The Apocalypse.

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58 Responses to Why Is Every Rainy Day “The Storm of the Century” Now?

  1. Edward Hafner January 5, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Glad someone else mentioned this. Thought I was the only one thinking it strange that the NWS Peachtree City Forecast Office (Atlanta) would end nearly every mention of potential shower activity with “…and possibility for Tornadoes. Prepare to take shelter.” That’s multiple tornadoes from any meandering drippy cloud!
    When we finally had a good old fashioned gully washer of a rain here after months of drought, I grabbed a sponge and a bucket and ran outside and washed my car with it.
    Forecasting is more precise these days (no, not 100%), but still no need for scare tactic doom and gloom with every passing front.

  2. BL January 5, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    The meaning of “winter storm warning” these days is “it might snow a little bit. Maybe.”

  3. Workshop January 5, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    I’ve noticed this as well, although I don’t have a smartphone.

    Living in the Midwest, it is useful to know when tornado warnings exist. I do not need to know that thunderstorms are in the area. Yes, I heard the thunder, I can make my own inferences.

    I am also capable of looking at the radar map, seeing the line of really nasty thunderstorms, and calculating that they will arrive in about 30 minutes, and last for about 15.

    I suspect that, among other things, it is a result of “rule by the experts.” We tend to look to experts to explain the tough questions. Doctors for health stuff, lawyers for legal stuff, auto mechanics for car stuff. Somewhere along the way, many people outsourced their decision-making capabilities to these experts. It’s most obvious in government (e.g., the law states I have to buy a health insurance policy that covers pregnancy even though I don’t have, have never had, nor will I ever have, a uterus – because experts know better). Lawyers have become experts at gauging risk, so we need insurance policies in case neighbors come over to climb trees without our permission. Police become experts at safety, so my child gets the “don’t talk to strangers” discussion even though the police officer is a stranger.

    Giving other people the power to make decisions for us means those experts need to account for everyone, and that means going with the lowest common denominator. So thunderstorms become dangerous harbingers of twisting wind-doom. Boating safety becomes “always wear a life jacket even if you haven’t left the dock yet.” Automobile safety is “we will install computers to control the car and keep you safe” even though the software that runs the car is hackable (but don’t worry, you aren’t allowed to update the software that controls a car you own because reasons).

    Of course there are other reasons as well. In the Western world, at least, we are living in the safest time ever. As has been documented here often, “hundreds of airplanes landed without incident today” doesn’t make for satisfying news, nor does “it rained, people got wet, plants got watered.”

    I think there are probably several pieces to the puzzle, the whole of which leads us to the situations we see now.

    My advice? Unplug. Don’t watch television, turn off your phone. Limit news consumption. Learn about how you are influenced through advertising, fear, media, etc.. Once you learn how to read a press release, for example, it’s amazing how much better you understand the world.

  4. EricS January 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    Because with the technology, and the quick news we get, it’s not so much about actual news anymore. That’s secondary. It’s all about ratings, and publicity. Which boils down to one thing…profit. Pretty much everything today, that never happened (or rarely happened) back in the day when their were no smartphones, and the internet was in it’s infancy, evolves around making money. The more sensationalism, and fear are in the headlines, the more people will read, watch or click. And that all translates to profit.

    Even the fear instilled in many parents today are to generate profit for those that spread those fears. New products to keep your kids “safe”. New books to teach you “how to be a good parent”. From experts, who aren’t parents. lol Security systems, that will keep your family “safe”. Etc…

    This day and age has allowed others to have more opportunities, and to exploit the sheeple mentality of many today. And it works. Obviously. lol

  5. Michelle January 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    We have occasional tornadoes here, but they are not common enough or long-lived enough that I feel like I need to be alerted about the possibility. (To put it this way, we get a warning that tornadoes are possible any time it rains, but I have only ONCE in my life had an actual tornado near my home.) Hurricanes are much more likely, but you’d have to have your head under a rock to not know when one is coming. You get days, or even weeks of fore-warning.

    As a result, I have turned off all weather alerts on my phone. I have a weather app, and I check it before I go out, but I’m really only interested in seeing the temperature and whether it will rain. I don’t even bother watching weather on the news. I don’t need a 5-minute spiel on the weather when I can see in 10 seconds if I need a jacket. Besides, local news is ridiculous. It’s all about trying to grab your attention and making every little thing sound life-or-death, and tune in to find out more at 5!

  6. A flood! A flood! (is possible with rain today) January 5, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    Drama sells. If you have a flair for the dramatic, then use your skills to sell dramatic stories, even when they are not. All the mainstream media does it as well as others on cable.

    “Dresser falls on boy in Utah nearly crushing him to death while twin brother saves his life!” film at 11….
    “Unsecured dresser falls on boy in Utah, twin brother rescues him from certain death, but are parents to blame?” film at 11…

    You get the point here using a real story posted on this website and gone viral (the story, not the website – Sorry Lenore).

    I would like to add here about the dramatic weather teasers is the word “historic”. Of course, it is going to be historic! We are always making history even if it is not dramatic (or memorable)! The apt word should be memorable history storm events e.g. Hurricane Andrew was a memorable historic hurricane.

    Having once worked in the weather satellite business, the models used by National Weather Service (NWS) from data collected by weather satellites, local radar and personal observations are pretty good at giving accurate forecasts. Nothing will be 100% unless you change you data parameters to such a short span, you can only get accurate data then, e.g. it will be raining in the next 10 seconds according to the weather radar map (as you stand in the rain that is not obviously going to end in the next 10 seconds).

    To recalibrate your doom weather radar, from my couch I say go over to the NWS website for info, radar, maps, warnings, etc and stay away from the network or local weather if you want the real info without the dramatic flair. They only put out warning if required. The people there are the best in the business, in addition give the networks, etc, the data they need to dramatize for ratings.

    Now if you will excuse me, I will need to check on the snow flurries outside for the snow storm of the century amounts (3 inches in 9 hours) to see if it is dramatically a memorable historic event.

  7. John B. January 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    You know, in my 60 years of existence, I’ll bet I’ve lived thru at least 500 tornado warnings. BUT yet I have NEVER seen a single tornado in real life. Just a lot of wind. Of course, if I was raised in Oklahoma or Texas, it might have been different.

    Basically I’ve learned not to ignore tornado warnings but to take them with a grain of salt. I just don’t get all hyper about them as some people do because they’ve always led to nothing (in my experience).

  8. Denise January 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    I live in Michigan. We get winter storm warnings letting us know that we MAY get some snow and we MAY have accumulations of up to ONE INCH. Next thing I know the folks are clearing out the bread shelves at the grocery store.

  9. Reziac January 5, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    “When we finally had a good old fashioned gully washer of a rain here after months of drought, I grabbed a sponge and a bucket and ran outside and washed my car with it.”

    Me too…. water in the desert is not to be wasted! And hurricane-force winds are regarded as the best way to get rid of those piled-up tumbleweeds. 😀

    Modern life has become so safe and bland that even the slightest disturbance is regarded as impending doom. These folks need to do a stint in Tibet, or Antarctica.

  10. E January 5, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

    I have a weather app that notifies you if it’s going to rain and how long it’s going to rain and if it’s expected to restart. I love it. Then again, I like the outdoors, I like to spend long periods of time in the outdoors and it’s actually pretty helpful (the app I have has proven pretty accurate for rain/storms). I spent a week in a tent last year in what was AWFUL weather. It was great to know that “rain will stop in X minutes” because I knew when to be able to get out and hike and for how long and be prepared.

    It’s 100% in her control to find an app that works for her needs.

    My home was struck by lightning during a very intense storm. We had a fire in the attic and were out of our home for 3 months. Yes, it’s an unlikely event but I never take storm warnings for granted.

    No one is forcing you to run a specific app with specific settings that you don’t want or need.

  11. Douglas John Bowen January 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    My ego is pleased (and relieved!) to know that I’m not the only one who has correlated free-range parenting and “disaster weather” forecast hype.

    Per Lenore’s wise counsel, my son, his mom, and I might check for possible inclement weather, and casually recap sensible warnings (no ducking under trees in a lightning storm, etc.) just as an informal checklist. We didn’t go outside to play during Superstorm Sandy. But we didn’t, and haven’t, stopped all activity because of a little rain, or snow, or wind.

    What’s sad is that some of our friends and acquaintances have indeed gone into panic mode at (seemingly) the earliest opportunity.

  12. Christopher Byrne January 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    Yes, another observance of the growing cultural trend: Chickenlittlization.
    This observable phenomenon affects advanced (or relatively advanced) cultures where one has the luxury to worry about “a little fall of rain.” Though in “Les Miserables,” that could “hardly hurt me now,” it appears that we are also observing an evolutionary event in which exposure to rain could, indeed, be harmful.

    Evolution usually tales longer, but my mother used to say when it was drizzling outside, “Go out and play, you’re not a little sugar lump that’s going to melt!”

    Perhaps the growing amount of sugar in the American diet (on average 60 pounds a year) has, indeed transformed us into the aforementioned sugar lumps.

    Thus, these warnings are critical for survival.

    I could be wrong on this one…

  13. Heather January 5, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

    OMG yes. Every couple of weeks now, I get red banner alerts all over my phone saying “Winter Storm (name) expected to hit.” Also known as– I live in New England, and it is January, so it will probably snow quite a lot.

  14. Workshop January 5, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    As a follow-up, my in-laws remember the “Blizzard of ’78” as a time when people were trapped in their houses for days, and so whenever there is the threat of a winter storm they go out and buy “milk and bread.” Every storm has the potential to shut down the city, because they’re paranoid.

    I’m from farther north, where the “blizzard of ’78” was a really bad snow storm and we got an extra day off school.

    I’ve also lived in Dallas, where the threat of snow shut the city down.

  15. WendyW January 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    <>

    This is one that drives me nuts, and not just with weather; sports broadcasts are full this, too. The whole dramatic “THIS hasn’t happened since (3 yrs. ago)!” Really? THAT is worthy of being “news”?

  16. WendyW January 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

    For some reason the quote I tried to use above did not carry over. I was referring to this:

    I would like to add here about the dramatic weather teasers is the word “historic”. Of course, it is going to be historic! We are always making history even if it is not dramatic (or memorable)!

  17. shdd January 5, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    We MAY get 2 inches in Montgomery County, MD tomorrow and the texts are headed by the words “Major Snowstorm.” I grew up in New Jersey and the only time school was ever closed was in the late 1970s in September there was a hurricane that knocked some electricity poles on the ground. We never closed for snow even over 1 foot.

  18. lollipoplover January 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    My kids (and my husband) are obsessed and fascinated by weather, but don’t use weather app. The send out too many false amber alerts and discourage forecasting and planning for changes.

    My daughter’s ski club cancelled because of rain and warm temperatures. They rescheduled a day later because the forecast called for an attic blast and the snow making equipment could do it’s job. My husband plows snow. He has to check forecasts to see if he needs the plow on. His favorite is weather underground. My kids check it too to see how they are getting to school (they don’t bike in snow and ice) and plan accordingly.

    It’s almost like apps replace common sense and basic reasoning. Local news stations hyping every winter storm warning to cause mad rushed on French toast ingredients don’t help either.

  19. Edward Hafner January 5, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    Quoting this from WaPo: Snow forecast from NWS DC/Baltimore – “Expect IMPACTS to travel from Wintry precipitation.”
    As if snowflakes the size of pianos will be crashing down on our nation’s capital!
    Who comes up with these things?

  20. delurking January 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    I find it pretty convenient to have accurate forecasts available. For example, just before New Years I was at a ski area and it started raining. Pulling out my phone and noting that the rain was likely to last less than 15 minutes allowed us to just wait it out and then ski the rest of the day.

    If you don’t want the weather app on your phone giving you notifications, turn off the notifications.

    Note also that there are watches, advisories, and warnings, that signify different levels of probability of the event occurring, and are associated with different severities. More accurate forecasting has enabled the use of these finer distinctions. If you are simply lumping them all into the category of “danger warnings”, then you are missing the point and attributing hysteria where there probably isn’t any.

  21. delurking January 5, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Edward Hafner,
    Both the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam Webster have definitions for “impact” that have nothing to do with force.

    People, there is no great conspiracy to make weather seem more dangerous.

  22. Beth January 5, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    I’m in Wisconsin, and it’s the same here with snow. The possibility of 3 inches becomes a winter storm watch, then a warning as it comes closer. Everyone is constantly checking school closings. We get all the advice (what to keep in one’s car, how to dress, home water pipe maintenance, etc) all winter long and triple when it might snow a little or a lot. And, like Denise said, as soon as the weather forecasters start all this, the grocery stores are packed.

    I lived in Washington DC for awhile, and I sort of got them freaking out over a snowfall (which, they did). But in WI we are used to it, and the overreactions from weather professionals are ridiculous.

  23. donald January 5, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    “Over the years,however, as our tolerance for discomfort in society has grown, our “threshold level for warnings” has been inversely lowered.”
    This applies in many areas and not just weather

    Trigger Warnings
    Decades back we had Racial hate speeches. I’m glad we put a stop to this. However we wave gone too far the other way. We also have freedom FROM speech. Sensitivity base censorship has gone overboard.

    Fear of creeps.
    All child molesters are creeps but not all creeps are child molesters. Ok I can agree that we still need to be cautious of creeps. However we have widened the definition of creep (and potential sex offender) to any male that is a social klutz especially if he owns a white van. I love this clip from The Big Bang Theory.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0h0qZCjR_k

    Furthermore, we protect children so much that we discourage them from developing social skills. Therefore our society is MANUFACTURING MORE CREEPS!

  24. Edward Hafner January 5, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

    Hi there, delurking.

    I grew up in Northeast Ohio. Spent over 20 years there. I never recall Dick Goddard telling me a snow storm was going to “Impact” me. He just told us how much snow to expect and to be careful on our way to school and work in the morning.
    A conspiracy to make weather dangerous? Nope. A lunacy? Yup. (Looked up lunacy by the way, just so you know.)

  25. ROD FOOTE January 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    Hey, Lenore, glad I found you again. I was a big fan of yours when with the Daily News and the brief life of The Sun. I recall the hell you caught for letting your 10 year old son ride the subway solo and I thought “what’s the big deal? I was riding solo from age 7.” I also recall when we swapped song parodies on “Love Potion #9.” Anyway, glad I found you again, looking forward to your special words.

  26. Dee January 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Related – it was “cold” here yesterday (in New Orleans, that was in the 40s). My son groaned because he said that would mean no recess or inside recess (same difference to him). He told me that they ought to go to New England (where he’s been) if they think 40s is cold! And he bet that they didn’t shut down recess in New England for 40-degree weather.

  27. BL January 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    It’s snowing here in Central PA right now OMG IT’S THE POLAR VORTEX WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIEEEE!!!!!

    Or not.

  28. Jill January 5, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

    That picture of lightning triggered my fear of being struck by lightning. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.
    Just kidding! But really, we’ve become a nation of wimps. Somehow we’ve become fixated on the idea of something terrible happening to children. Just about every unpleasant scenario becomes worse if we add children to it: Car Breaks Down on Lonely Road (with children inside.) Tiger on the Loose (near a school.)
    I would have LOVED it if an escaped tiger was prowling near my school when I was a kid, but now children aren’t allowed to walk to school in the rain. It’s sad how our society is fetishizing children, and I don’t use that term lightly.

  29. Gina January 5, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

    The weather is the headline story EVERY SINGLE TIME it rains in the Phoenix area. We are so used to it, we don’t even turn on the news until 5 past the hour.
    I know this is the desert, but we all have seen rain before. And even wind.

  30. Buffy January 5, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

    Those in snowy climates get used to hearing about the upcoming (weekly) snow-pocalypse. Can rain-pocalypses be far behind?

  31. Bob Davis January 5, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

    Here in the Los Angeles area, where months can go by without any “rain events” and not even any significant clouds for the super-duper weatheradar to track, some of the local stations make the meteorological reports more interesting by having attractive young women in curve-hugging attire presenting the maps and temperatures. Or as my wife calls them, “Weatherbimbos.”

    Regarding TV “news” in general: the term “If it bleeds, it leads” meaning plenty of “police blotter” reports of violent crime. And sometimes one might suspect the producers of being “closet pyromaniacs”, because bush fires and buildings ablaze make for eyecatching TV. Car chases can preempt regular news if they happen during the news period. One wonders how stupid a person must be to think that he or she can evade the police for very long, but we have enough morons in Southern California who try to outrun the law to make this an all too common occurrence. On the other hand, discussions at County Board of Supervisors meetings can have much more effect on our daily lives, but don’t make for “action news”.

  32. Vicki January 5, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

    Yes, this! I get so annoyed by the hype and hyperbole of weather announcements these days. I live in Canada where the local radio station makes every snowfall sound like the next weather event of the century is about to hit us. I also get annoyed by the announcers’ editorializing, such as happened this past summer: we were experiencing pretty severe drought conditions, yet almost on a daily basis the weather announcer would say “Yes, folks, it’s going to be another beautiful sunny day!” If I were a farmer, I would have wanted to reach into the radio and throttle the guy!

  33. MichaelF January 5, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    Every snow storm is SNOWMAGEDDON and if you aren’t out buying milk and bread by the cartload there is something wrong with you!!

    Or so the news wants us to think, after all it keeps us tuned in rather than out.

  34. donald January 6, 2017 at 1:27 am #

    Q. Why does the news love doom and gloom
    A. Because people tune into that. If they can’t get it from TV, they go online. They will click on any sort of clickbait that has fear, outrage, or sex in it.

    As long as we keep blaming others and don’t look at ourselves, things will continue to get worse.

  35. sexhysteria January 6, 2017 at 3:28 am #

    I depend on weather forecasts to find out when the UV is so high I can’t go outside.

  36. AndreL January 6, 2017 at 3:50 am #

    Somebody just need a better weather app, or to properly configure the severity threshold that triggers a notification alert. This doesn’t seem to be a case of overblown risk, just of someone who cannot properly cope with tons of information and would have not have information at all.

    Weather forecast has immensely improved, from a statistical point of view, over last 25 years. Better satellites, better computers (weather and climate modelling are the golden-clients of the most power supercomputers on Earth) etc.

  37. ezymel January 6, 2017 at 4:18 am #

    I live in the NorthWest WA and we don’t have the severe weather alerts like in the SouthEast, MidWest, the Plains, etc. I also believe we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of weather conditions. We get some pretty windy days and do get weather alerts of this. If there are thunderstorms and heavy rains, we are alerted. The problem is day in and day out, constantly you hear about the same weather and nothing in particular. Who really cares if there is a slight temperature change or drizzle turning to showers. Here in WA you can always expect that. When I used to live in Las Vegas, NV, most of the time it was hot and sunny with some monsoons thrown in. When it rained hard which was rarely, you would get alerts of flash flooding. I can see where that becomes important. Every day is just about the same but the media still bombards you with all kinds of weather reports, however, lots of times you get heat warnings, sometimes severe, forest fire warnings, etc. I would say that most times, the media can add good things happening with people and places; not always weather, weather, weather.

  38. James Pollock January 6, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    Judging JUST by local TV news, I’m not really seeing much of a difference.
    The stations here have a very low threshold for going into wall-to-wall storm coverage… about an inch of snow on the ground does it. But… it’s been like that my entire life.
    It’s not difficult to understand why… the TV station normally gets its money one of three ways… it gets paid to carry network programming, plus can insert a small number of ads into the network programming. Or it pays to buy programming, and sells all the ad slots. Alternatively, it can create its own programming, and sell all the ads. Producing scripted television is fairly expensive and so it only makes sense to do it when many, many stations will be buying it. Local storm coverage, on the other hand, is fairly cheap to produce and draws in an audience from all the people who decide to stay home. So the TV stations tend to focus on how awful it is outside, and how much smarter it is to stay indoors (and glued to a television, of course.) It’s fairly transparent about this, but this isn’t a new development. Back when I was a kid, it was a mixed blessing… on the one hand, extended weather coverage meant that there was no school. On the other hand, it meant that the local station ran weather coverage instead of the cartoon shows that I, as a youngster, would have preferred to watch.

  39. Beth January 6, 2017 at 9:40 am #

    @AndreL, that is still no reason that forecasters need to overreact and fearmonger regarding normal everyday common weather.

  40. Steve January 6, 2017 at 10:31 am #

    It seems to me that we hear a lot more now about the wind chill. It’s 10 degrees out there — but with the wind chill it feels like -5.

    Except that it doesn’t feel like -5. Because when it’s -5 there’s also a little wind, so it feels like it’s -20. My point being that it feels exactly like what it is, because we’re all used to the wind level.

    But with the constant need to make everything seem worse than it really is, wind chill levels are being pushed on us to make the weather seem worse than it really is.

  41. BL January 6, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    @Steve
    “wind chill levels are being pushed on us to make the weather seem worse than it really is.”

    Except when they throw in the “heat index” so that it’s never never never a moderate, tolerable temperature. Never ever.

  42. Puzzled January 6, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    I’ve always been curious why we never hear in the summer that it feels cooler because of the wind, and we never hear in the winter that it feels warmer because of the UV. That said, what am I supposed to do with “real feel” temperatures? Okay, it feels like -5. How do I know what -5 feels like? Last time it was -5, you said it felt like -20.

  43. JTW January 6, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    Same here. Light snow predicted for tonight, weather service announces a “weather emergency”, advising everyone to stay indoors.
    And that’s for a predicted few millimeters of snow, not a full scale blizzard.

  44. Donna January 6, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

    “I just this moment received an alert that reads: “Precipitation has been detected within your Radius of 5 miles.” Does this really require an urgent alert?”

    I can think of instances where I would like to know that. Say, I had not put my convertible top up because it was sunny earlier or the dog is out and I would prefer to not have him wet and muddy or we are walking out the door on an otherwise nice day and now we know that we might want to grab a umbrella.

    Mostly, this sounds like you care enough about the weather to install a weather app with alerts on your phone and now are whining that you get alerts that you don’t want.

  45. jimc5499 January 6, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    Since a local grocery store chain started sponsoring the weather on a local television station, every thing is now severe weather.

  46. BL January 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    The trouble is, what happens when something really dangerous like an ice storm happens? Listeners are used to tuning out every “weather emergency” announcement as an exaggeration.

    I remember in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy the weather reporters were continually trying to emphasize “no, really, this one is actually bad!” without admitting they’d exaggerated all those other times.

  47. Donna January 6, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    “The trouble is, what happens when something really dangerous like an ice storm happens? Listeners are used to tuning out every “weather emergency” announcement as an exaggeration.”

    I agree to the extent that they refer to everything as “a weather emergency.” I disagree to the extent they just alert to both. People do actually like to know upcoming weather even if it is not an emergency. I like to know when it is going to rain, not just when it is going to flood. It is not because I view rain as an emergency, but so that I know to take an umbrella.

  48. James Pollock January 6, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    “I’ve always been curious why we never hear in the summer that it feels cooler because of the wind”

    Because wind chill is actually more affected by the relative humidity than the wind speed. “wind chill” refers to how much colder you get because you sweat, and the evaporation of the sweat cools your body. If the humidity is high, you sweat, but the sweat doesn’t evaporate and thus doesn’t cool you.

  49. test January 7, 2017 at 3:20 am #

    @Steve “Except that it doesn’t feel like -5. Because when it’s -5 there’s also a little wind, so it feels like it’s -20. My point being that it feels exactly like what it is, because we’re all used to the wind level.”

    In here, wind changes a lot. One day there is no wind, another day there is a lot of it. But basically, I know that -20 windchill require better cloth and I am less likely to enjoy long walk to restaurant. -5 windchill means I will enjoy long walk and need less cloth.

    You compare windchill to windchill, never temperature to windchill. Wind chill gives me more accurate guess on what is going to be enjoyable. I never got confused by it. It is just matter of remembering which number meant “long walk is pleasant” and which means “meh tv is fine”.

  50. baby-paramedic January 7, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    The reason we get better notices now is because of what happened in Toowoomba (and down hill in the Lockyer Valley, especially the town of Grantham) in 2011.
    The local news, BOM, none of the official resources had any warning. To be fair on them, I don’t think anyone really foresaw what was going to happen.
    Yet, a relative unknown, Higgins Storm Chasing, DID put out an alert. Not to predicting the total disaster that would happen, but a warning nonetheless.
    The government bodies got a lot of hate for them not warning about it, but this online group doing so.
    I have found since then the official resources are being more edgy about everything. They don’t want another Toowoomba level disaster happening with no prior warning to the public I guess.

    Everyone sensible though, signed up for free with the notifications with Higgins Storm Chasing. They are still the better predictors (but only do incredibly localized stuff for the most part).

  51. NY Mom January 7, 2017 at 7:17 pm #

    Two foot of snow fell on West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, NY, this past Friday, making roads impassible and trapping some kids in a school buses for a couple hours. Other kids were stuck in school.
    Nobody died.
    These things happen.
    No big deal.
    Kids need to learn how to live with weather.
    Whether or not.

  52. Becks Reay January 7, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    I was just saying this to my husband the other day! Storm Barbara was coming to the UK and I find it ridiculous that we’re naming storms now. I live in Scotland so to me a storm is really just weather. OK it’s rainy and windy, get over it.

    I’m not sure we can do anything other than ignore it.

  53. James Pollock January 7, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

    “Two foot of snow fell on West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, NY, this past Friday, making roads impassible and trapping some kids in a school buses for a couple hours. Other kids were stuck in school.
    Nobody died”

    Maybe a quarter-inch of snow fell on Portland, OR in the past week; there are two dead (that I know of, so far).

    Last month, a two-inch snowfall paralyzed the city. (The problem isn’t the snow, the problem is the very high ratio of people who have no idea how to drive in it, combined with a lack of infrastructure for removing it from roadways.) We get snow that actually sticks to the ground so rarely, and a substantial number of people can deal with snow on the ground via the simple expedient of staying home whenever it happens, and then simply waiting for it to go away.

    It’s MUCH colder in most of NY (and a considerable swath of the rest of the states, too) than it is here… but that just means that when it DOES get cold and stay cold here, the people here don’t know what to do.

  54. Erin Mcgeorge Lance January 8, 2017 at 1:21 am #

    I live In cali and we get those alerts!! Even tornado ones!!! I agree to much technology or a good way to clear excess inventory off shelves before tax time!!
    However I dont agree that we live in safer times, and that’s based on what I know firsthand not the news

  55. AndreL January 8, 2017 at 7:45 am #

    Wind chill and heat indexes are objective and scientific measures devised with plenty of physics and biophysics research. They are not guesses or ad-hoc values thrown around. There are plenty of detailed information on the models used to calculate both.

    Both humidity and wind play a role on the equivalent naked body perception of temperatures because of the way the body works to keep itself at a more or less constant internal temperature (enhanced circulation, shriving, sweating, blood vessel contraction/expansion etc).

    High humidity precludes very high temperatures because, for purely thermodynamic reasons, it means it would rain (hence no 130F with 95% humidity…) On the other hand, high humidity severely affects the ability of the body to shed heat. Blowing wind at temperatures above that of normal human body won’t help much.

    On the other hand, wind accelerates heat loss through convection, quickly replacing the thin layer of warmer air near the skin by new cold air. Very cold air can only exist if it is dry (the coldest days are never the ones when it snow, but dry clear sky ones).

    Actual temperatures on the 55-72 range with low winds and 25-55% humidity closely resemble the “real feel” temps.

    There is no conspiracy of biometric scientists or physicists to instill fear through empirically demonstrable natural effects.

  56. Jonathan Wilson January 9, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

    It wouldn’t surprise me if some of this is authorities being risk averse.
    If the authorities (or the media) announce a storm warning and no storm comes, people aren’t going to go and yell at the authorities/media about it (especially if there are dark clouds or rain or something that suggests maybe a storm could have come or maybe a storm came somewhere else)

    But if they dont give a warning and things do get worse then they are going to get yelled at with “why was there no warning of that severe thunderstorm that just took the roof off my house” type things.

    Here in Australia all weather related forecasting is done by the Bureau of Meteorology (a federal government department) and and they dont put out warnings for trivial things (only for things that are genuinely dangerous) and the media reports whatever the BOM gives them (and doesn’t over-report)

  57. James Pollock January 9, 2017 at 11:05 pm #

    “If the authorities (or the media) announce a storm warning and no storm comes, people aren’t going to go and yell at the authorities/media about it”
    In the longer term, you have to worry about boy-who-cried-wolf. Too many warnings about not-too-serious actual events and the public stops paying attention to the warnings, including, inevitably, when a real event comes along. (For example, back in 1979 scientists studying Mt. St. Helens started making predictions of an imminent eruption. When the eruption kept not happening, some of the people decided to stay on the mountain even as it continued rumbling… and eventually, erupted in May 1980.)

    The government can’t win. For example, last month we got a snowstorm that absolutely crippled the city of Portland’s transportation system. The TV stations and the weather service predicted it almost dead-on… but the snow didn’t start falling until around noon, and peaked at about 4:00. So, lots and lots of people went to work in the morning just like normal, and then lots of them left work at noon when the snow came. So many of them were unprepared for snow, that all the major thoroughfares in and out of the city were blocked by cars and trucks that failed to negotiate corners and hills.
    The weather service predicted it accurately. The city, county, and state was ready with crews, equipment, and material… but, because of the simply AMAZING level of gridlock, couldn’t put any of them where they needed to be. So people bitched about how the city, county, and state didn’t do anything to help people navigate the roadways (which, once again, were all blocked with bumper-to-bumper traffic all lined up behind the stalled cars, the abandoned cars, the jackknifed semis, and general chaos caused by people who went off to work in cars that didn’t have snow tires or shains, and then all rushed home when… egads… it turned out that the predictions of snow were (gasp) correct.

  58. Markus January 14, 2017 at 6:44 pm #

    Iv’e noticed the news over exaggerates most of the weather and crys wolf. And other times when the weather is really bad they don’t report it at all. Just this week they said it’s going to be the worst ice storm in atleast a decade… No ice just a light drizzle of rain. But about a month ago there was about an inch of solid ice on the roads and they didn’t even report it.This happens a lot.