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  • December 2007
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Since when is a litle snow news?

I live in New England. That means that in the winter months, my neighbors and I expect it to snow, as do most of the people I know who are familiar with climate and North American weather patterns. Howeve, for some reason, over the past few years, the anticipation of a “snow storm” has become major news. I find this a bit disturbing.

 After our first snowfall this year (A whopping inch or so od the white stuff), I actually heard a news reporter refer to it as “the biggest storm so far this season”. And, no, the newsperson was NOT being funny (at least not on purpose). True, this was technically acurate reporting -it WAS the biggest storm so far in the season. Of course, it was also the FIRST storm of the season. By using grossly overblown presentation, the reporter turned a piddly little nothing snowfall into a “newsworthy” event. This bugs me because by using this extreme hyperbole, the newcaster is, in effect, lying to the listeners. Does anyone out there remember studying “Yellow journalism” in school? It is when a journalist intentionally misrepresents facts to try and present something in a way that is technically acurate, but conveeys a completely innacurate message.

So now, a couple of weeks later, we have another snow storm coming in. This time, the hype started a whole week before the storm. Newspapers, radio, TV, and pretty much every media channel I know of was raving about the “Huge snow storm” that was going to “hit the Northeast”. I’ve got new for you guys: a “huge snowstorm” implies something that will have huge effects. Up here in the great white north, a foot or so of snow is no big deal. Schools might be closed for a day – two if the timing is right, or the snow is mixed with a lot of ice, but that’s about it. This is not news. It’s normal life in  New England.

 Of course, with the media hype, the public responded as only true sheep can. In anticipation of this “killer storm”, the great unwashed masses flocked to grocery stores buying up everything that they could cram into thier carts. People were going to be ready to hunker down and endure the horrible tribulations of living through a (que dramatic music) HUGE, KILLER SNOWSTORM! A REAL NORTHEASTER! (with huge gnashing teeth……). Of course, what these people do to prepare is kind of funny – I saw one woman with a shopping cart full to the top with bags of ice – in case the power went out, she was going to fill her freezer with ice so the food wouldn’t thaw and go bad (Clue for ya lady: If its cold enough to snow, just put your food on the back porch, and it’ll stay frozen). People were buying batteries by the dozen (for flashlights, I suppose), piles of frozen food (wonder how they’re gonna cook it if the power goes out), and generally panicking.

Of course, now that the storm is here, everything is (justifiably – the roads are crappy) closed. I wonder what all of those “prepared survivors” are going to do tomorrow when they realize that everything is back to normal, and about all the preparation they needed was to make sure that they had enough chips and beer to sit in front of the idiot box and watch the weather channel tell them how bad the storm is. Of course, a glance outside would tell them that it’s just another normal snowstorm, but then they wouldn’t have any reason to panic….

Every time I go through this, I have to wonder what is going to happen if (when) there is a real snow storm or hurricane here. People are so used to getting hyped up by the stupid normal weather that they think they actually know how to prepare for a real event. I mean something that really would be news. A storm that shuts things down for a week or two. No power, roads closed, national guard, the works. Last time I dealt with a storm like that, the answer was simple: the vast majority of people simply curled up and waited for rescue. A few knew how to be prepared, and actually had rational emergency stores, heat supplies, and knew how to shut down their house so that the pipes wouldn’t freeze, but the vast majority of people simply waited for the national guard to come rescue them, and left everything they had behind. I can’t tell you how many contractors I know that cleaned up replacing ruptured pipes, soaked (and frozen) drywall, etc. I guess the general public really is stupid enough to believe what the media tells them. After all, despite a complete lack of evidence, the general public bought the hype about Iraqi WMDs, association with the Taliban, and all the other crap that Bush made up. Given that, why SHOULD I be surprised that these same people are too stupid to look out the window and realize that snow is a normal occurrence in New England.


4 Responses

  1. I like the graphic at the top.

    Gee, it’s snowing out and some businesses are closed. Big surprise up here in the Adirondacks. But it sure isn’t the “big bad storm” that everyone is talking about.

    I tend to disregard the weather reports because they are often overblown or completely wrong. My personal report done by looking at (gasp) the sky or sticking my hand out the window tells me more.

    The boy who cried wolf comes to mind.

    Well said. I agree on all counts, but especially with “the general public really is stupid enough to believe what the media tells them” and what follows.


  2. It’s funny you wrote this – Mr. Chili and I were JUST talking about the excessive hyperbole that weather forecasters use to tell us what’s happening. I swear, they must have English classes devoted ENTIRELY to the use of adverbs and adjectives. Seriously.

    I LOVE watching people in grocery stores just before a storm hits. You can tell a lot about a person by what he or she chooses to stock up on in the event of a catastrophe. My favorite are the people who leave with carts full of bottled water and toilet paper. Taking care of it on both ends, I suppose…

    Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but I use my garage as a second fridge in the winter time (lacking, as I do, a back porch). It makes me laugh that so many people, like the idiot stocking up on ice, never consider this option.

  3. Hype is an interesting thing – people exaggerate what they hear, suggest how bad it’s going to be and get into the helpless mode you described. I know snow well, having grown up in Montreal, and find it hilarious to what extent people lose their minds. I hope we here in NE don’t have to have perspective shoved in our faces if we ever get a really BAD storm, like the ice storm of 98 that shut down power for DAYS; most people will be at a real loss as to what to do.
    Media hyping has made too many things enormous deals. Yeah, winter storms are noteworthy – especially if they bring a few FEET of snow, but not for a few inches.

  4. Since you mentioned it, a friend persuaded me not to go into Montreal today because of the recent dumping (110 cm she said) of snow it received. Lotsa snow, usually no biggie. But the lack of snow clean up on streets, parking, and other peoples’ ability to drive in it- not so much in the mood to deal with today.

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