I’m often amused at the media and how they sensationalize every event, attempting to fill 24 hours with relevant “news”. A good storm can fill days worth of broadcast time. When hurricane Sandy slammed into the east coast, it was the worst storm ever to hit mankind. While the “on the spot” newscaster stands on the sandy beach, wearing the proper rain apparel and affixed with the most serious expression he can muster, the wind howls and the rain blows across the screen sideways, and the occasional piece of debris whips past him in the background. As he warns of the dangers posed by this most serious of storms, the camera switches to the local mayor or governor. They too, with even more serious expressions, warn the citizens to stay indoors; do not leave your houses for any reason. If you do happen to be found out of your house, the police will arrest you; for your own safety we’re told.
Meanwhile, the camera returns to mister “on the spot” broadcaster, as he braces himself against the wind, large waves forming in the ocean over his shoulder. As the camera recedes and pans a wider view, a couple of surfers are seen out on the open sea, and two lovers are seen strolling along the beach with their dog Rover, occasionally retrieving the stick they’ve thrown. Come to find out, Sandy wasn’t the worst storm to hit mankind; Katrina was much worse and happened a few short years earlier. In Galveston, Texas, they still talk of the Hurricane of 1900, which took the lives of an estimated 8000 people. It seems the news media has a tendency to exaggerate.
Last week a large snowstorm rolled into the northeast, dumping as much as three feet of snow in certain locales. As the storm waited to be named (all storms wait for names; it completes them), the newscasters were all in a tizzy. Officials were interviewed and as with the hurricane, their warnings were dire. “We’re asking all citizens to stay indoors. The dangers are far too much to risk. You could freeze! And if you freeze, you might starve to death. We are expecting heavy accumulations of snow, which will make traveling very difficult.” A man in Fargo, North Dakota is asked what he thinks of the Super Storm out east. He shrugs, as he shovels his sidewalk covered with a thigh deep blanket of snow, and says, “Where do you think that storm originated?”
As the folks on the east coast are bracing for the “largest storm; ever!”, out in Breckenridge, the ski dudes are in the lodge watching the coverage on the flat screen above the fireplace. Wearing their brightly colored sweaters and sipping hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows, they can’t figure out what all the fuss is about, “Man, I wish we had that snow. We could go do some heavy-duty bowl skiing!” “Yeah man, maybe we could fly out to New York with our skis. Do they have any mountains out there?”
The following morning a reporter is spotted out on the street, snow falling all around her. With the wrinkled brow of someone who just heard that her dog has died, she tells us, “It is really dangerous out here. We are estimating that the accumulation is three inches per hour. The authorities are recommending that everyone stay indoors; it is too dangerous to be outside at this moment.” Wrapped from head to toe with a fur-lined coat and accompanying gloves and ski hat, the frozen snot just below her nose is evident during close-ups, due to the high-definition broadcast. While she’s speaking, a snowball can be seen flying past her head and subsequently, a couple of boys run by her, shoving and laughing as they mug for the audience. As the camera pans to the left, a snowmobile roars down the street and two little kids are seen making a snowman in their front yard.
The local politician is then called on, standing at a podium surrounded by worried looking government officials, to make the usual public service announcement, “We are urging all citizens to stay inside. Read a good book (make sure it’s not a bad book), watch a movie and eat some popcorn. Whatever you do, do not go outside. Policemen will be patrolling the streets and if they see anyone outside, they will arrest you.”
In retrospect, it seems that Super Storm “Nemo”, wasn’t the “worst storm, ever!”, after all. The blizzard of 1988 was far worse and the storm of 1978 was about the same. When the media says, “worst ever”, how do they know? Couldn’t the storm that the Donner party encountered, and which led to cannibalism within the group, have been more devastating? Or what about the storm back in 1827, that fell in the upper reaches of the U.P. in Michigan? Might it have been just as bad? What did people do back in those days when they didn’t have governors go on television to warn them to stay indoors? Didn’t they still survive? Go out and chop some wood? Shoot a couple of snowshoe rabbits for supper?
So, watch your television very closely as the next storm comes your way. Tornado, hurricane, snow, rain; it won’t matter. One thing you can be sure of; an all too serious newscaster will warn you of the dangers of this most recent, “worst storm, ever!” The newscaster can be heard, “as we brace ourselves for the greatest blizzard since, well, since the last greatest blizzard.”