Friday, July 27, 2012


I remember a cartoon I saw in Mad Magazine, maybe 50 years old.

In the first panel, a couple is driving along a highway when they see a sign saying, "Fallen Rock Zone". (Such warnings were common in the years before "netting" was installed to block loose rocks and boulders from tumbling across roadways.)

In the next couple of panels, the couple proceeds, frightened looks on their faces as they warily glance side to side, afraid of impending disaster. Then, finally, they get to the long-awaited "End of Fallen Rock Zone" sign. They're in the clear!

In the last panel, the car hits a deer. Boom!

I thought about the cartoon last night after our office in Kingston and my home in Woodstock escaped the severe storms that mostly passed to our south and east. This was after a day of dire warnings from meteorologists,state government and media of significant wind, torrential rain, frequent lightning, tree damage, power outages and life-threatening conditions.

Fact is, all of those things occurred in areas other than ours. This time we drew the long straw.

More storms (although less widespread) are forecast for later today and into the weekend. Maybe we won't be so lucky on this round.

The thing is, it's already been a long, hot summer. And in long, hot summers you get the kind of storms that emerged yesterday. That's not to discount their potential wrath, only to say, been there, done that.

What struck me about this round of severe weather was the way it was heralded in advance.

From the first TV forecast to which I awoke at 6 a.m. yesterday morning to those I read in a variety of places, including our newspaper's website, throughout the day, the message was clear: Beware! Danger!

Because we didn't get hit hard, there's a tendency to complain about the "Chicken Little Syndrome", maybe to the point that when the next warnings come, they'll be ignored.

But they're not alleging "Chicken Little" in the parts of Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties were the sky did figuratively fall. Nor are they saying it in New York City, where a pedestrian was killed by falling debris.

Weather forecasting remains an imperfect science. But it's pretty darn accurate, and getting better all the time.

Had the path of yesterday's storm varied by a few miles, thousands of other people and homes would have been in jeopardy.

Those who did suffer from this storm couldn't say they weren't warned. Hopefully said warnings gave them time to tie down loose objects around their homes before they became flying objects. Hopefully residents and businesses established evacuation plans in case of a tornado. Hopefully folks had flashlights and extra water, etc., in case of power outages.

If you heeded the warnings, you were better suited to face the storm. And if you heeded the warnings and the storm didn't impact you, you didn't waste your time. Don't relax and think you're immune from the next one.

Forecasters, government and media have a responsibility to alert the public to impending severe weather. Yes, the vociferousness and repetitiveness of it can drive you nuts. But imagine what it would have been like if you weren't aware of the likelihood of severe weather.

If the red flags of "Stormageddon" prompted people to make life-saving preparations, the system worked and the battle cries were appropriate.
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