April 22, 2020–OK, old timers, help me out here. Have we become intimidated by weather?
Having lived everywhere from the hurricane coast to tornado alley to the blizzardy backwoods, I’ve seen (and suffered through) my share of nasty storms. In the middle of one Iowa night my pregnant wife and I had to pound on a stranger’s door and ask to sleep on their floor because our car had gotten stranded in a snowdrift in 20-below temperatures.
But I don’t remember so many people being obsessed with weather. This came to the front recently when a weathercaster apologized on his social account for blowing a prediction that called for thunderstorms, floods, hail, frogs, and locusts.
The outlook was so dire, one colleague canceled an important out-of-town meeting in order to make it back home before the apocalypse.
Not a drop of rain. Not a single hailstone, not even one the size of a six-month-old store brand frozen pea you find behind the refrigerator.
I first noticed the sky was falling when I was director of a learning program. Whenever inclement weather was forecast–even for two days ahead–calls would start coming in from people wondering if classes were cancelled.
I was puzzled. First of all, it was just rain. Now I know in Central Texas lots of rain in a short time can be life threatening. Low-water crossings fill up, and good people in the backcountry get stranded. That happens to me where I live. But when skies look threatening, I expect people to rationally decide to skip that astronomy class, stay home for a few hours and survive on day-old organic stone-ground gourmet bread, seasoned chicken thighs, and store brand frozen peas, washed down with craft beer.
I despair we have grown so coddled we are hesitant to venture out in even typical rain events. Most of us are only actually in the weather for the 18 seconds it takes to get from our door to our car. (Disclaimer: I am not discounting life-threatening weather conditions. If you see a funnel cloud roaring down your street, go the other way. If a hurricane the size of Nebraska is lurking in the Gulf, start driving to Nebraska. And 100-year floods are devastating. That’s why they’re called 100-year floods, not every-six-weeks floods.)
Where did our pioneer spirit go? What if explorers stayed home when skies darkened? No sailor would have boarded a ship, ever. We’d still be huddled in caves drawing pictures of aurochs, munching on unseasoned mastodon thighs.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a case of having too much information. In days of yore, we didn’t have a magic weather machine in our pockets, updating us with more future radar, weather maps, and minute-casts than Willard Scott ever had in his studio. No, we would stick our heads out the window to see if it felt like rain. If we couldn’t tell, we’d ask Grandpa, who knew from his arthritis the right day to cut hay. If he was wrong, well, the hay got wet.
What will the weather be the day after tomorrow? Who cares? Go forth, and when weather happens, deal with it.
As George Burns said while explaining the secret to his long, happy life: “When it rains, let it.”