Our little snowy corner of the world has survived yet another “white wall of death.”
Again. As usual. And with a certain aplomb — as if we’ve done this before.
Gee, go figure.
There’s good news, too.
It will melt — and for those who till the earth and those of us who eat their fruits and wares, any moisture in our dry sea is welcome.
Full disclosure: “White wall of death” is not my term. I’m borrowing it from a friend and fellow journalist from another newspaper, The World-Herald.
It refers to our penchant for overbunching our knickers and overtelling the story when winter storm clouds loom on the cold horizon.
No, I am diminishing neither the power of the weather nor the need to know about it.
Yes, I am aware of the danger and potential for deadly consequences if one fails to heed forecasts and warnings when a blizzard is in the offing. I get that.
Plus, Nebraskans love talking about the weather. They do that partly as a conversation starter and partly because the climate around here tends to run to extremes, affecting our lives far more than folks in many other area codes.
I admit to being a bit of a weather junkie, too, mostly to determine if one baseball game will be played or the road to another is passable. I depend on my computer, tablet and smartphone to feed my habit.
I’ve also been known to skip the weatherman, step outside and see for myself just which way the wind’s blowing.
The weather report has changed, however.
We now have special days for storms, names for white walls of death and alerts from our mobile devices, cued to detect the smallest atmospheric shift.
Obviously, we should first be safe. But I’m getting the strange sensation that I’m being oversold. Sure, climate change is afoot and huge storms like Sandy are more real than ever, but is every blizzard in our backyard an iteration of impending doom?
Today we can forecast a winter storm to almost the minute, within a few miles and just about hit the snowfall and wind numbers on the nose. We can do it faster and get it to more people than ever before, too. That’s the upside, the safe side.
But continually updating the weather when nothing has changed or treating non-emergency information with the trappings of an emergency, or simply just too much volume, can turn a garden-variety winter storm into — well — a white wall of death.
We have blizzards. Some are worse than others. The most recent one, I forget its name, seemed a middling sort, enough to change our days and upset some schedules. But it was hardly the stuff of legends.
The problem with the oversell is this: When the legend really comes, who will believe it?
In the spring, when our tornado sirens blow and blow and blow again and nothing happens, we tend — even at our own peril — to pay less attention the next time they blow.
It’s nature; we’re human.
Even in an age with a Weather Channel, alerts at the ready and a mini weather station in my pocket, I still have to make my own link in the chain of reasonable.
For some, none of it means a thing.
If I know, for example, the wind is about to roar, a leaden sky is about to fall white and furious and I think a walk in the park is in order, no alert or warning or stern rebuke from a meteorologist will make a difference.
For me, who pays more attention to the weather than I should, the marketing of storm coverage is a disturbing trend precisely because eventually it changes our response to the facts.
We had a blizzard. It was big and white and clogged our roads. It sent us home early and got us there late. It caused snow days and a raging debate about snow days. It arrived and departed about when it was supposed to and left about as much precipitation as expected.
We had a blizzard. You remember those.