A Little Meteorology Can Be a Dangerous Thing

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And that’s what I know – a little meteorology.  Because I’m not a meteorologist, I’m a marketing guy.  Although after nearly 20 years working shoulder-to-shoulder (keyboard-to-keyboard?) with scores of meteorologists, I probably know a good deal more about meteorology than the average person.  At least I hope I do.  But I don’t try to guess or estimate or forecast.  And I’m particularly (annoyingly) suspect of weather-related exaggerations.

Case in point, New Yorkers endured a substantial storm last Thursday evening that resulted in the downing of thousands of large and much-beloved trees, dozens of injuries and – tragically – at least one casualty.  My sister and brother-in-law were there for the weekend and, given their lifelong exposure to similar storms a few times each year in southeast Texas (as opposed to once every 20 or 30 years in NYC), they were a little surprised at the intense reaction by both the local media and the population in general.

And then there was the rampant Twitter hoax on Thursday night that resulted in who knows how many people thinking there’d had been a significant tornado outbreak in or near the city.  We’ve talked about this before – weather hoaxes based on misinformation that’s not only inaccurate, it can actually cause more harm because of the potential for panic.  Two “small” tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in the region, but that’s reliable data and not something designed to generate more hysteria.  I.e., something like this:

Twitter hoax material: the1976 F1 tornado near New York City. Photo: NOAA

Ummm, no.

It’s important to remain rational yet vigilant, regardless of where you’re located or whether it’s been a “quiet” season – no matter what time of year it is.  For the record, the Atlantic tropical season has been anything but quiet this year.  We’ve had 11 named storms – well on our way to the 17 we predicted much earlier this year – only two of which have had an indirect and relatively minor impact on the U.S. mainland.  That’s not quiet, that’s fortunate.

As our lead hurricane forecaster Chris Hebert often reminds us, it only takes one storm.  Don’t let your guard down.  And, most of all, make sure your source is reliable.

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