Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside!

I live in a part of the country where weather events are hugely broadcasted. Coming from a more metropolitan area, I used to think the people in this part of the country had no life! Before moving here, murders, rapes and robberies were the primary focus of the news each night. I really thought tornadoes occurred so rapidly that you were pretty much toast if you lived in the midwest. It wasn't until I moved out here that I began to understand that a) not every area of the country has daily or even weekly murders; and b)weather broadcasting is super-big business. Back in my hometown they had come up with this thing called "Super Doppler Radar" that was supposed to narrow in on specific streets to tell you exactly what was going on where. I never really saw the point of that technology in my hometown. True, we would sometimes have severe thunderstorms, but nothing that I would consider life-threatening overall. Every TV station tried to outdo the next with their super doppler stuff. It go so bad that one of the radio stations created a comedy sketch about "Big F**king Doppler"--"We can see Ms. Mabel Kincaid is putting out her laundry at 123 Brewster's the wind today, Ms. Kincaid?" Crazy.

So now I live in the midwest, or more precisely, tornado alley. My first encounter with a tornado warning was spectacular. As the winds picked up and the rain poured down, I was trying to unlock the door but my hands were shaking so badly from fear that I could hardly make the keys work. Both of my kids--then four and two--were with me, as was my husband and our dog. The sirens were blaring and I really, really thought for a moment I was going to die. Of course, we got in, got settled in our safe place (the shower--the most interior room) and waited while my husband listened to the report. Thankfully, the wall cloud (for you people anywhere else in the country, that's the cloud that spins off tornadoes) passed to the south of us without the funnel touching down. Our littlest one fell asleep in the shower despite the commotion. Since then, we've been through a variety of interesting weather experiences, including the tornado that passed right over our house and landed down the street last summer. It was a small one that caused minimal damage, but I heard it when it went over. Too late to gather the kids and to worry. God was watching over everyone--no one was hurt and that's what's important.

Suffice it to say, though, that weather coverage is a big deal here. If there's any POTENTIAL for unusual weather, we hear about it over. and. over. On every channel. Round the clock coverage. It's like watching your very own exciting mystery unfold before your very eyes. "Well, we're getting reports all over the metro that snow is falling! Yes, that's right folks, snow is FALLING. It's on the ground. And you could fall if you leave your home, so experts warn that you be extremely careful should you encounter a snowflake. We're going to go to John Joe out on 36th street...hello, John? Have you encountered the snowflake yet?"

The problem with this kind of reporting is that every little thing gets blown into a natural disaster, and then people don't take it seriously. Two weeks ago, on Christmas Eve, we had a blizzard here. Of all days--Christmas Eve. Fortunately, I finished my shopping by nine a.m., just as it was starting to sleet. I said to my son, "We're not going ANYWHERE today." The half-mile drive home was dangerous enough. But I knew in my gut people would risk it. And they did. A fifty-car (yes, fifty!) pileup on one road. Vehicles abandoned left and right all over the streets. Interstates closed down throughout the state. It was a madhouse. And yes, John Joe the weather reporter was out, measuring the snow in the parking lot and talking about being stranded at the station. This was news worth reporting. If only the news would report THIS, then maybe people would listen when somebody says, "Hey, stay home!"

We are currently in the middle of what they're calling an "arctic freeze". It's seriously cold outside. Our average winter temps are around 40 degrees, and with the wind chill it's easily below zero right now. Some public schools have closed, but not my kids'! I would have much preferred a day snuggled in bed, drinking hot cocoa and making soup instead of schlepping two kids off to school at 7:30 in layers of pants, shirts, socks, outerwear, and all. I even considered keeping them home. Why? Because the "experts" say to stay inside today! Because the roads are "slick and hazardous"! Where did I get this information? From the news, of course.

Well, it's definitely cold outside (and inside too). But the kids made it to school without losing a limb to frostbite or collapsing from hypothermia. I managed to drop them off, go to Starbucks for my coffee, and drop a couple of prescriptions off at the drugstore, all without losing control of my car. Now granted, I wouldn't send my kid walking to school in this weather and I wouldn't encourage people to take a road trip today. But do we really need to shut down whole cities and put the public on panic alert? Because it's cold?

So yeah, baby, it's cold outside. But I'm snug with my coffee, enjoying one of my last days off, watching Gabi sleep on the comforter. I appreciate my meteorologists, especially during tornado season when they save huge numbers of lives every year. But guys, can we lay off the drama a bit? Grab a blanket, a mug of cocoa, and let's all settle down. Who's up for an episode of the Price is Right?

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