Tuesday, August 30, 2005


As we see the video from hurricane areas, and hear the stories of people who chose not to evacuate, I'm still waiting to hear the *real* story.

The real story is that people didn't evacuate because they've been down this road multiple times and the forecasters cry wolf and people get out and then nothing happens. At some point, people start to believe that nothing is ever going to happen.

Yesterday I was watching just as the hurricane hit land. It immediately dropped a category. That's wonderful - and understandable - but no one was talking about that until it happened.

I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't have evacuated, and I know the devastation from this is awful. But to hear the forecasters tell it, every single storm is going to be horrible, awful, the worst ever, get out now.

Well, that can't always be true. Tell people the TRUTH and they'll listen. Instead, forecasters predict every single weather event to be the absolute worst, then they're surprised when people don't take them seriously the 18th time they've heard it. People pack up, get out, and return home to find the only damage to their home is that it was broken into while they were evacuated.

I don't know what the problem is, but we need to fix it.

Is weather forecasting just not very good? It doesn't seem to be, really. How often is it wrong in your area? Tons of the time here. If that's the case, maybe we need to try and figure that out. Or, we need to make it clear that we're just not very good at it.

Are forecasters given to a lot of melodrama? Well, that seems to be the case, too. When I worked in TV, weather people got a bit overly excited by storms. There are people who go out and chase tornadoes. That's fine if that's your gig, but there's no need to alarm people unnecessarily.

I've lived in Kansas more than 20 years and I've never been in a tornado. I'm thankful. I don't have any great desire to experience that. But, to watch the weather forecasters you'd think that every person in tornado alley has barely escaped dying in a tornado at least a dozen times.

Whatever the issue is with forecasting, we need to figure it out. As long as we make every weather event something to fear, people are not going to be able to distinguish what's really worth evacuating for and what's just an overdone drama.

You can't blame people for not taking them seriously when the last few times they did, the forecasters were wrong.

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