Misplaced Disappointment – Whose Fault?

Historic events only come ever so often. One planned yesterday for the East Coast (Boston to Washington) turned out to not be so historic. Snow storms can be serious and are usually a pain in the back side when we think about clearing the snow and just getting around. Fate, however, guided the snow storm about 50 to 100 miles further out to sea yesterday and the back side of the low pressure area just had a lot less chance to dump the 2-3 feet of snow that had been predicted. Feel depressed?

The major cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston called out their emergency preparedness teams and prepared their cities for the worst. Schools closed, public transit shutdown, and snow plows were on the ready. States of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts did the same on the State level. Cheering all the activity on was your local news service.

News broadcasts were breathless about the historic proportions of the coming storm. Hour by hour forecasts predicting snow fall amounts were laid out for the public. And the warnings and fervent requests that the listener stay tuned for important updates were on every station.

National and international news was put aside to make room for the next snow forecast.

The news media treated the storm like any other event they report.  The stations wanted to dramatize the approaching storm in order to attract more listeners. “Weather readers” labeled “meteorologists” by TV producers gave one more graphic description after another with absolute conviction that what they were “reading” would come to pass. Hmmm.

So, as dawn arrived in both New York and Philadelphia, life could continue almost as usual, there seemed a profound disappointment spreading. While snow storms are nothing to fooled with, they hype for this one and the public’s dutiful preparation went for naught.

Was this disappointment misplaced?

If the disappointment was aimed at the forecasters who predicted with certainty, I would say no. The TV news business was exposed for what it is… a sham. TV weather readers, especially the young women, are clearly hired as visual eye candy. The male weather readers, while less attractive, attempt to portray themselves as seasoned experts. They are given the weather to read and that’s their job.

Weather news is “produced” and the link between sensational weather reports and TV audience numbers is not missed by these producers. It’s the numbers silly.

By definition the weather is only vaguely predictable. For this storm to blow 50 to 100 miles further out to sea should surprise no one. Remember Hurricane Sandy? Instead of blowing out to sea, Sandy took a left turn an blew 180 degrees opposite, straight into land.

The problem with weather is most people can’t comprehend probabilities. The downside risk associated with not preparing far outweighs the inconvenience caused by being cautious. This does not excuse the News Media shameful behavior.

I think my disappointment was not misplaced when I blame the media for over hyping.

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