BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – It’s the end of the world as we know it. Or seems to be if you watch the national weather reports on TV. There is no regular weather anymore, only EXTREME WEATHER. When a TV news channel used to issue “alerts” you would perk up your ears and brace yourself to hear of some special horrible event that surpasses the regular old horrible events covered on network and cable news.
But now when FOX News runs one of its ubiquitous “NEWS ALERTS!” it’s normally of this variety … “FOX News has just learned that it’s snowing in Maine, necessitating the use of snow plows to clear snow-covered streets. The snowfall is the heaviest in the history of the state going all the way back to just last week when snow fell from the sky for several hours COMPLETELY covering everything on the ground with snow.
The new barrage of snow measured two inches, 100 percent deeper than the one inch of snow that fell last month. Meteorologists said they were surprised that snow would fall in mid January in Maine and urged residents to stay inside where they will be safe from the falling snow. While the meteorologists did not see the snow coming, they did predict meteors to fall in large quantities from the sky this week, which, strangely didn’t happen.”
The breathless, semi-hysterical way in which full-time, professional weather reporters on TV badger us about floods, rain, droughts, hail, snow, hurricanes, tornados and heat waves does have the feel of Elmer Gantry warning a tent full of sinners that the end of the world is upon us and we better get straight with the Lord. And there does seem to be a powerful lot of bad weather suddenly out there, brothers and sisters. This is the worst weather the world has seen in ages, the kind to make normally rational barnyard fowl suddenly commence to running around screaming that the upper atmosphere is falling.
But is it? I’m going to share a little secret with you. Weather’s weather. It happens every day, every year and every place. In most places on the Mainland, it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Snow falls in the winter, even as far south as Alabama. Some states get dried out in the heat, like Texas, and sometimes catch fire. Other states, like Kentucky get flooded. The only mystery is why the dry, flammable states don’t run big freakin’ pipes from the easily flooded states to use all that excess water to put out the fires.
The reason it seems there is more extreme weather today then back in the old days is because now we have 24 hour news coverage and there just isn’t 24 hours worth of news to cover. There was a lot of bad weather back in the old days. In the 1930s, the weather was so bad that everything was in black and white and a tornado picked up a cow and an entire house with a little girl and her little dog inside and swept them off to a magical place with strange short people and flying monkeys. True story. But back in those days weather wasn’t news. Bad weather and flying monkeys were just something you had to deal with.
Today, you get more than three inches of water in the street and CNN’s weather dude Rob Marciano comes paddling up to you in a kayak asking how many people got wet. No one compiled national weather statistics 200 years ago. In year 1723 we don’t know if there were a lot of hurricanes in Florida or tornados in Oklahoma. But there probably were. Just because no one kept a record off the weather didn’t mean it wasn’t happening.
Now that everybody walks around with a cell phone video camera and every local TV news station has weather babes and dudes – I’m sorry, I mean meteorologists – not a tornado touches down and not a river gets flooded that that we don’t get pictures of. And so it seems to be happening more than it ever has. It isn’t. It’s just photographed more.
And put on TV more because, frankly – and this is the other dirty little secret about why there’s so much “extreme weather” coverage – covering weather is easy and cheaper than having reporters actually digging up real news. TV stations don’t have big reporting staffs anymore. They can’t afford them.
So what do we see? Canned celebrity crotch footage, sports, courts and weather. And weather is the easiest because satellite video of upper atmosphere nimbostratus cloud formations are beamed into every newsroom (there were no satellites over 1930s Kansas, either) and local network news “affiliates” send their film of floods and fires and tornados to cable news and the big networks and suddenly it looks like it’s the end of the world as we know it.
As Will Rogers said about the weather someplace (I think it was Munchkinland): “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” And whatever it changes to will become another FOX NEWS ALERT!