The weather is a popular topic this time of year in Colorado. Snow and frigid temperatures are the norm so everyone like to guess “how many inches of accumulation” or “how many degrees below zero with wind chill” we’ll see with a given storm. If the snow or the low temps last long enough our moods are affected by what we call “snow fatigue”. Summer cannot come soon enough.
Winter weather is a favorite headline on the local news as well. Last week Colorado had its first major snowstorm of the season and the networks went bananas. They love to increase your blood pressure with labels like “Breaking News!” and “First Alert Forecast!” Fully half the stories covered in thirty minutes of news this time of year have to do with the weather. Which leads me to the following annoying conclusion: the news over-reports the weather. Their hype would have you believe we’ve never seen the white stuff in Colorado before. Their forecasts are often more extreme than what Mother Nature delivers. And the “news” stories they attach to the forecast seem designed to increase worry and stress levels. This is a perfect example of sensational reporting.
My favorite news stories about the weather involve on-the-spot reporters. Last week these brave souls went to the grocery stores the night before the storm to see how quickly the shelves were being cleared. You’d have thought the world was coming to an end. It was all delivered with a sense of “better get your supplies now”, as if Colorado was about to enter the next Ice Age. In the end, barely 36 hours later, there was less than a foot of snow and plenty of bread and milk left on the shelves. I guess we got lucky – again.
I find the weather news entertaining when some junior reporter is elected to stand out on the road to talk about accumulated snowfall. I get to sit in my pajamas in front of the fireplace at ten at night while this person is huddled on my television screen in several layers of clothing, alone on some dark highway. To add insult to injury, our news channel leads the story with a split-screen between this reporter and the in-studio weather guy. And they always go to the in-studio weather guy first. I can never fully concentrate on his forecast because I’m thinking about Junior out there in the snow and sub-zero temps, waiting for the cue to deliver his little two-minute report. When they finally get to him his speech is a little slurred and his teeth are chattering and you wonder if his hat or microphone will blow away before he’s done talking.
Admittedly, a good portion of our weather reports are useful. Forecasters in these parts are good at what they do, especially considering the Rocky Mountains just to the west of us can alter weather patterns on a dime. There have been times when the forecast calls for snow to start at 2pm, and darned if the snow doesn’t actually start at 2pm. Or they’ll predict a wind chill temperature within a few degrees of actual. Now that’s what I call sensational (to use the secondary definition of the word!)