Delaware suffered damage and power outages, to be sure, but we got off easier Thursday than initial forecasts suggested.
For many of us, I suspect the meteorological term, "derecho", entered our vocabularies last year when a devastating storm hit the Chicago area, then, the Washington, DC--Baltimore corridor. Five Million people lost power. At least 22 people were killed.
If anything, the public last year did not get sufficient warning about the possible intensity of that storm. I understand, though, derechos are difficult to predict; everything has to line up for a "perfect storm".
With Thursday's storm proving to be a dud - relatively speaking - it may be meteorologists overcompensating for their failure to predict the breadth of last year's storm.
Now some questions:
Have you ever seen or experienced a tornado?
Does the issuance of a tornado watch affect your routine?
If a tornado warning is issued, do you actually take cover (go to the basement, etc.), or do you wait until you hear or see a tornado?
Has a storm ever downed a tree in your yard (or worse)?
(For the record, I'm from the flat Midwest and I've never ever seen a tornado. I have, however, reported on the aftermath of a tornado, as when a small twister went up Elvis Presley Boulevard - not far from Graceland - in south Memphis about half a mile from where I was living at the time.)
Here's a CBS News account about the current storm not quite living up to its billing...
Gee, I thought media types were supposed to tease and hype storms to build ratings.
I have seen a tornado. They look pretty much like the one in the Wizard of Oz (created with a vacuum exhaust and a silk stocking).
Watch? These cover the whole region and usually nothing happens. Warning? Also covers a pretty wide area. Besides, this isn't the "fruited plain." They are not a problem here.
I did have trees come down. That was from very wet, heavy snow. My siding got a little scratched. I wasn't going to bother about it but I decided about a week later to tell the insurance company. They got rid of all the branches and gave me new roofing and new siding. But they wouldn't pay for my TV antenna, so now I'm stuck with cable.
The worst part is when there's any kind of bad weather, power goes out. Maybe an hour or two. Maybe four or five days. How come the media are not going after the utilities for having such a fragile system? The media just pass on media hand-outs with statistics; maybe talk about how the utilities give out free dry ice or bring in crews from out of state. These outages should not be happening in the first place. Apparently, the utilities have all decided it's cheaper to fix it, than to keep it from breaking - and they are all monopolies, so what do they care. I guess they buy advertising, so the media never challenge the utilities.
I notice TV and radio's use of "reported on" is very slippery. It can mean anything, including reading a wire service story (the most common definition).
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 8:24am
Our morning talk-show host Al Mascitti has blasted, pilloried, and otherwise attacked Delmarva Power on a frequent basis. (Of course, since you don't listen to us - just respond to this blog - you wouldn't know!)
I've even referred to Delmarva Power as "Third World Power Company". And I've repeatedly questioned whether other investments, shareholder profits, etc., take precedence over improving existing infrastructure. Growing up in the Chicago area, I just don't recall the extent of outages we see today.
Although it occurs in radio, I'd argue the "hype" you refer to is much more rampant on local TV news, and one of the many, many reasons I decided against a career in TV news.
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 8:26am
If the storm doesn't live up to its predicted potential, that's a good thing. I'd consider that as answered prayer as man can predict [up to a point] the weather, but God created it. We literally have no control over the weather. We in our modern high-tech world sometimes can delude ourselves and think that we are the "masters of the universe". Mankind's wisdom is foolishness to God. These sorts of events should be a reminder to us that we are only a part of God's creation. It should also remind us that a higher power, most call God, created the entire universe just by speaking the words.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 9:05am
MikeFromDelaware: So, your god creates storms, scares people and if they pray enough, tones down the storm or sends it someplace else (where apparently they don't pray as much)? Your god sounds like a real sweetheart, dude. Sounds like when a hurricane was supposed to be headed toward Virginia Beach and Pat Robertson prayed and it hit New York instead. I have to say, this post sounded a bit Westboro (not typical of you).
Allen Loudell: It seems to me that because of media hype, people are less likely to respond to warnings and watches. The media, and the weather service, seem often to cry "wolf." The forecast says rain or thunderstorms and then you read the fine print and it's a 30 per cent chance. And while hype is notable in TV, I've often noted red watch banners here when inclement weather turned out to be no big deal. And, no, I do not listen to right-wing talk radio. If I want to be lied to and manipulated, I can always visit a car showroom.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 9:06am
No, I don't let a tornado watch affect my routine. This is all media hype, designed to get ratings for the broadcast media. It's going to rain a bit and then, so what? No, there won't be any tornadoes. I've never seen so much ridiculous panic for a few thunderstorms.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 9:10am
I actually agree with you about the "Chicken Little", "Cry Wolf" syndrome.
And Al Mascitti shares many of your views, particularly on use of U.S. military power - he decries U.S. military interventions, and would get rid of the C.I.A. and N.S.A. - and secularism vs. organized religion.
To teatime and Mr. Smith:
For the National Weather Service, it may be "damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't". The NWS has been sued in the past for FAILURE to issue a warning in a timely fashion.
Also teatime... Although we agree on media "hyping", remember the official, governmental, National Weather Service's Severe Storms Forecast Center issues watches and warnings, not private meteorological services nor privately-owned, competitive media.
By the way, how does one differentiate between "hyping" and just serving an audience which tunes in at varying, random times for storm updates? For example, when the National Weather Service issued that tornado warning for northern New Castle County last week - with projected arrival times for towns across New Castle County - I repeated that information on-the-air every 3--4 minutes at the start. Yet, someone commented on our general news site that we weren't providing that information frequently enough!
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 9:54am
Allan Loudell: Most businesses put the needs or interests of frequent or regular customers first. Radio is one of the few that favors the occasional customer.
I also can't help reflecting that much of what radio and TV say in relation to bad weather, power outages, traffic problems and other disruptions boils down to "don't be stupid." It's discouraging how often broadcasters feel the need to tell audiences not to be stupid. I'm not sure if this reflects on the audience or how broadcasters view audiences.
Yes, I have long suspected that weather forecasts are shaped by lawyers. Well, let's see what happens when somebody sues because the risk of predicted bad weather was actually minimal, or because the weather service did often cry "wolf."
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 10:06am
Billsmith: You do have an uncanny ability to read into stuff. My post simply is saying that God is the creator of all things, yes, including the weather. It's HIS science/physics, etc., at work. Does that mean that God decided we needed a big storm today? No, but the science that would explain how and why such a storm can and apparently is occuring is HIS science, he created it, and it functions as designed. Does that mean that God can't intervene? God can and has, but that is in his timing and as his will be done, whether or not we understand it or not.
Don't link me up with such folks at Pat Robertson or the Westboro Baptists. I've prayed that there'd be no property damage, injuries, or loss of life due to this storm here today, thus my earlier statement of it being answered prayer. Other followers of Christ have also prayed similar words. I know of none who've prayed--- 'May atheists, and others who reject you be hurt by this storm.' That would be praying out of God's will. It isn't God's will for folks to perish and go to Hell; it's his will that all be with him in Heaven. Surely, as a former Lutheran, you'd understand that.
Please don't take a simple statement, a button, and sew a vest out of it.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 10:26am
MikeFromDelaware: Well, according to Calvin, it is god's will for some people to go to hell. Luther never came out and said it, but he implied it.
Down in Oklahoma, you drive down most streets and you see church after church - like you see fast-food places around here. I wonder why your god hits them with big twisters - unless god has had enough of the tea party and the religious right down there.
Allen Loudell: Comcast is especially annoying with their don't-be-stupid weather hype. About every 10 minutes, on cable channels, the audio cuts out and is replaced by this grating horn sound and then some weather service guy drones on about the weather alert - and then drones on again - and then the horn sound. All this while the program continues only you can't hear it. Most of the time, the so-called alert is about someplace else. Not only do broadcasters keep crying "wolf" over and over; they go out of their way to make it impossible to avoid their ridiculous alert. Like an increasing number of people, I use a DVR and never watch live Tivo, so they end up interrupting shows for me when the storm has long passed. Same applies to ridiculous amber alerts. Maybe these make some sense for people listening to a radio in their cars where they might see something, but how is anybody sitting at home watching TV going to spot somebody with an abducted kid? Most of what the media does seems obligatory and even Pavlovian: It's what they do because it's what they do.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 10:36am
Mostly agree with your points. Anyone who has interviewed random people in the street discovers how some people are completely clueless. (Although these are more likely music radio listeners).
But don't forget even loyal, regular listeners may tune in and out because of circumstances... in & out of the car; in & out of the office, etc.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 11:32am
When I worked at WDEL, Ops Mgr Bob Mercer instructed us to keep the public informed, but assured. Let them know what was really going on, but don't hype with "the world is coming to an end" approach like the Philly TV stations. I always found that to be the best approach.
I have seen one tornado. My wife saw the first this week. She was waiting for me at the train station when it hit Robscott Manor, which is just down the road.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 11:35am
The hyping of the 'big storm' is analogous to the media sensationalism that followed in the aftermath of the Boston bombings: non-stop, relentless, repetitive reporting of the same facts over and over ad nauseum.
The media saturates the airwaves over and over with the same story, until this goes from annoyance to unbearable. Inevitably, we have to switch the channel to 'get away' from the repetitive coverage.
The only explanation is money. Radio and TV stations make money from their commercially sponsored "Stormwatch" coverage. Even if there is no editorial reason for doing so, the profit motive kicks the station into Stormwatch every time.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 11:55am
In WDEL's case, companies / firms / businesses pay a set amount to be mentioned in connection with SnoWatch coverage, specifically closings/cancellations, not weather reports. Weather sponsors are separate and air at set times, regardless of the severity of the weather, or lack thereof. (The number of winter storms doesn't affect the dollars; some winters are "busy" with numerous SnoWatch days; others, hardly any days). Same thing for StormWatch over the summer/fall, but it ordinarily only carries sponsors here on the Internet at www.wdel.com, not on-the-air.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 1:22pm
Teatime: This shows how and why the world is moving to the on-demand model. It's reaching the point where smartphones and tablets are commonly available. PCs have been generally available for some time. So, people can check weather and news alerts when they want to, at their convenience and without redundancy and repetition. Spot news, alerts and bulletins are no longer functions for radio.
Allan Loudell: I hope you're not associating being clueless with listening to music! I suspect, no matter how much you repeat warnings not to be stupid, some people will continue to be clueless. Even people who listen to music can hear thunder and see lightning outside.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 1:39pm
Better clarify: My experience is the "news" listeners - particularly those who consistently tune in stations such as WDEL, KYW, WTOP, WCBS, etc. - especially along with public radio - are better informed.
Listening to music doesn't necessarily make someone clueless; after being saturated with news all day long, I listen to music too during the drive home, sometimes from radio, often from the CDs of music I will hardly ever hear on the radio.
But surely at music radio station remotes over the years, I've bumped into the sorts of people (more often women) who follow the Kardashians, etc., and little else.
To your point about spot news, alerts, and bulletins: Thunder and lightning is obvious, but people still often need that first catalyst to know to seek out the news.
Of course, WDEL also addresses the on-demand model with our text-alerts, podcasts, etc. And apps for listening beyond a radio. The ever-expanding part of our business.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 2:15pm
Allan Loudell: My point is a clueless person is clueless. A radio warning, or a "natural" warning (i.e., thunder) won't matter. Clueless people are clueless as an ontological state of being - not because nobody tried to give them clues. I'm sure you've seen the announcement of the Dawin Awards each year. Some people don't need a radio announcer to tell them not to be stupid. And some people will be stupid anyway, no matter how many times you tell them. Radio seems to assume there are still some left who are capable of responding to reminders not to be stupid.
Actually, clueless people are the ones who seem to respond to reminders to be stupid. Every time there's a snow forecast, clueless people hit the supermarkets to buy bread, milk and eggs - despite the fact that this is when the power is most likely to go out for an extended period. But the media, when they start hyping storms of the century, seem to also have to remind people that they should have the ingredients for french toast on hand when it snows. Clueless people also seem to start buying snow shovels when it snows; don't they already have a shovel? It's not like it never snowed here before.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 3:01pm
Yup. I don't get that behavior either.
(Although I could see people stocking up on bottled water or easy-to-open canned goods or batteries before a major hurricane.)
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 6:56pm
An observation about Delmarva Power: I've noticed that most of the time when Delaware goes for several hours without power, Cecil County simultaneously only loses power for 30 minutes or less. Apparently, the Maryland electric infrastructure, which includes the Conowingo Dam, must be in better shape than Delaware's. I guess Conowingo Power must have invested quite well before Delmarva bought them out.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 7:59pm
I was deeply saddened to hear BillS does not listen to you. He should. Perhaps he'd learn something.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 8:16pm
After touring both tornado damage areas, I learned not to fear F1 tornadoes. The damage however, some of it extensive, came from trees. The ground was so thoroughly wet, that there was no counterforce to balance the force of the wind. The roots just came right out of the ground.. You may have seen the video, where a tree gets blown down, and a plastic trashcan is leisurely rolling down the street. In Robscot Manor, there was one moderate sized tree that took out a wing of the house; its root system was sticking up as high as the roof of the house.
The problem was the wet soil I was shocked there was evidence of so many trees down, but no windows in either location, were broken... If the funnel cloud photo had not been presented, it would probably be classified as a wind burst; they'd probably miss the fact that the trees were laying in all different directions on either side of the path the tornado took...
In Robscot Manor, whole streets were lined with Delmarva Power trucks. Three I think, and the trucks were lined up 2 city blocks long... It made me ponder the wisdom of regulating the cost of power, for if Delmarva had continued to be controlled, there would be no money for all those trucks. From personal experience, i would say that response time to power outages, is better under the free market system than is was before deregulation... Don't have data, but that is my memory speaking. Anyways, I was grateful for corporate America jumping in and returning those in that devastated area, back to the power grid... Proof that there are good sides and bad sides to everything. We have to be very careful in our judgments.
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 8:22pm
I was saddened to see some commentators decrying Storm Watch. If you lack power, that service is indispensable. Especially during Hurricanes, it is the ONLY way to get local information. And that comes from people in different areas calling in, describing what they are going through live, and one can sit, map out, cull from the different calls, and figure out which roads are still passable.
Hurricane Sandy coverage was awesome btw. I particularly want to commemorate the one resident who gave the hourly readings of the storm surge attacking Battery Park in New Castle. One just can't find stuff like that anywhere else.
Fri, Jun 14, 2013 4:47am
kavips: What do you "learn" from right-wing talk radio?
None of the "information" you mention is relevant or useful. If someone is sitting in the dark, all that matters is when they get their own power back and Delmarva and the rest make a point of being really vague about that. There was a storm. Trees down. Thousands without power. Stay in a safe area. The media could just record storm coverage and play it back each time. Media always "report" the same story, the same way each time.
Maybe one big reason people ignore warnings is because the media never follow their own advice. They are out on the roads in snowstorms saying stay off the roads. They are standing outside in the thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes saying seek shelter, go someplace safe.
kavips, wouldn't have expected you to come here and suck up to the media. I'd expect you to make a list of advertisers and organize boycotts of those who underwrite the constant right-wing drum-beating.
Fri, Jun 14, 2013 11:36pm
Bill, the difference in your confusion, was your inclusion of the word "right-wing" in your adjective of talk radio.
I was speaking of "talk radio." You interpreted that and inserted the "right-wing" in your reply. "Right-wing" radio is for stupid people. 50% of the population has an IQ under 100. That is the definition of IQ. The bottom tier of that, is who listens to "right-wing" talk radio. The fact that focused boycotts have now even convinced that lowest echelon, the dregs of humanity, that our nation's "right-wing" is worthless, speaks volumes to the fact that nothing was ever there in the first place....
Talk radio as the name implies, means talk or conversation. Just as we have conversations on this blog, if they were verbal and on air, they'd be talk radio. There is nothing bad or good inherent in talk radio... it is wise to always make that distinction particularly on a talk radio's blog...
And I was curious about a comment mentioned by you. You said listening to storm watch, none of it was relevant or useful? Is that the only reason for doing things? Because they are relevant or useful? What a sad life.
When one has no power, (No tv, no cell phone connection), and is in the middle of a horrible storm, having people call in describing what they see, if far more relevant than sitting in the dark, wondering if that next gust of wind is a tornado headed straight for them.
At such times, talk radio has far more relevance than listening to CBC talk of wheat prices rising and falling in Saskatchewan.
Sat, Jun 15, 2013 12:09pm
kavips: I included "right-wing" with "talk radio" because nothing else is available. The right-wingers who run local radio managed to keep progressive talk off the air-waves here. Allan Loudell, in a management position, specifically refused to schedule any progressive hosts. Jensen, briefly, paired himself with a moderate and apparently couldn't stand the heat and threw him out of the kitchen. Allan Loudell also refused to allow this moderate a regular slot. No progressive hosts are available from Philly either. So unless your definition of "talk radio" includes sports, talk radio is right-wing.
When one is sitting in the dark in a storm, listening to other people sitting in the dark has no value. When the storm is over, you'll know it. Go outside then and see if any trees ae down. But radio offers nothing but wind-bagging, idle chatter. Maybe hearing where trees are down offers some illusion of control or maybe misery loves to know there is company. But there is no practical value in any "information" radio puts out. Information is only relevant if you can do something with it, if it offers a basis for action.
Actually, a story about wheat prices is much more relevant than weather and downed tree gossip. People can use that information to make valid predictions and make decisions. But the CBC doesn't talk about wheat prices much, although they do talk about the provincial wheat board controversy some.
Sun, Jun 16, 2013 11:30am
Some people insist old-fashioned, terrestrial radio (now some 105 years old) needs to stay alive so people can listen to each other complain when the power's out - and when the cell-towers are down. For some reason, these people think god smites cell-towers but not rusty, old radio towers.
In any case, radio is now officially both obsolete and redundant. Google is testing Wi-Fi stratosphere balloons that give users Internet access even in remote weather and even in extreme weather.
Anyone with a smartphone of PC has access to as much, maybe more, real-time information that radio station newsrooms. Unfiltered and first-hand. With no gatekeeper imposing his own biases.
Mike from Delaware
Mon, Jun 17, 2013 1:38pm
Billsmith: That was an interesting article. What a great idea. If successful, that would help link parts of the globe where the internet may not be as accessible.
As to replacing completely terrestial radio, I'm not so certain about that. One thing not really available online other than from terrestial radio websites, TV websites, and newspapers seems to be local content, in our case local content for Delaware. But my guess is, other places that aren't major cities probably also have that as an issue. As the old political axiom goes, "all politics is local".
About two months ago, I bought an Ipod and really enjoy using it. Music via the headset sounds so good, so I'll listen to music from Lutheran Public Radio, I Heart Radio [where I've created personal stations that play music I wish to hear -I've created stations ranging from Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, The Swingle Singers, Twila Paris, Woody Herman, George Shering, etc., etc]. But for local news/weather/sports, I end up going to WDEL with my Ipod. On evening I listened to WDEL via my Ipod to hear part of the Jim Bohannan Show.
So in one sense you are correct, I'm listening to radio in a different way, instead of using my radio, I'm using my computer and my Ipod for my radio listening [other than when I'm in my car]. The other exception to that rule is when listening to the Phillies or Orioles games, then I listen via terrestial radio as it's free and I'm not willing to pay MLB money to listen to the game online.
There was an other link in that article you linked, it was about Google glass and privacy concerns, that too was interesting.
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