posted by dave on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 3:01 PM in category weather

Back in my day, we didn't have all your fancy multi-color radars and tornado sirens and SMS alerts. You know what we had? Flying debris, that's what we had. And actual tornadoes. Flying debris and tornadoes, those were our warnings. That's all we had, and we were damn glad to have them. You kids today with your fancy technologies, get off my lawn.


The meteorologists have gone insane this Spring. I suppose this is somewhat understandable, because the weather has also gone insane. And usually I tolerate crazy people. Some of my best friends are, after all, crazy. But the meteorologists, in their never-ending quest to get ratings help save lives, are in danger of hurting a lot more people than they help.

For at least two storm systems in a row now, they've hyped the potential for dangerous storms to the point of saturation. Yesterday, it was like they were pretty much guaranteeing a long series of violent tornadoes, baseball-sized hail, incredible straight-line winds, and resulting death from one or more of the above. There was non-stop coverage on every television and radio. We were all going to die, and the only chance we had to stay alive was to stay tuned to their coverage.

They built things up so much that anything short of Armageddon would be a letdown, and so a letdown was what we got.

For at least the last two storm systems, they've gone a step further. They've issued actual tornado warnings when all they've really done is decided that a tornado is more likely than it had been a few minutes ago. This is not the same as the Doppler-indicated tornadoes that they used to issue warnings about. Nope, this is nothing more than half assed guesstimation.

A storm 50 miles to the west looks scary. It looks like there could be a tornado there at some point. So they go ahead and issue a tornado warning, not just for that area (which would be bad enough) but they also issue one for areas up to 60 miles away. It's like, maybe a tornado will form there, and then that tornado might last long enough and travel straight enough to endanger people 60 miles to the East, so they issue a warning for the people 60 miles to the East.

Meanwhile, 60 miles to the East, absolutely nothing is happening. The tornado sirens go off, people start to freak out, but then (as was the case for the last two storms here) absolutely nothing continues to happen. Maybe it gets a little windy. Maybe is starts raining. But no tornadoes.

Eventually people are going to stop freaking out when the tornado sirens go off. They'll know that, odds are, those sirens mean nothing. This is the danger that our meteorologists are putting us in. Those warnings are supposed to be, duh, warnings. They're supposed to mean that a tornado is coming, not that maybe a tornado is coming so be extra careful and stay tuned.

The meteorologists are becoming boys who cry wolf. And it's going to be a damn shame, when they have a real warning to give, and nobody believes them anymore.

Why not just go ahead and issue a worldwide tornado warning right now? Throw in warnings for blizzards, earthquakes, and alien invasions while you're at it.

I know there's a fine line, between providing as much warning as possible, and jumping the gun. Lives are at stake, after all. Ratings, too. I hope the former aren't being risked to boost the latter.

comments (2)

The Joplin tornado that killed 125 people (and counting) struck about an hour away from my family. I totally, totally get what you're saying, but just the thought that it could have been my 2- and 3-year-old nieces or my sisters or my mom sucked out of the house and crushed under a car or a tree or a wall or thrown on top of a building if the tornado had taken a slightly different trajectory makes me very, very grateful for overly-cautious meteorologists and trigger-happy siren guys.

I do get what you're saying, though. I really do.

I think that, if they end up being right, then they can't be considered to be overly cautious.

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