Commentary: Surprises Are Only for Birthday Parties

We had a convergence of local weather and Katrina's legacy this week.

The local weather part comes from three days of rain and storms that were forecast, then fizzled.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service and our local meteorologists said we were going to get rain in the Tri-State, significant rain and the possibility of severe weather.

It never happened.

In fact, by Thursday afternoon, it was pretty clear the forecasters' collective batting averages this week weren't major league quality. Folks were getting testy in their e-mails and phone calls, questioning why we made such a big deal out of nothing.

Were we engaging in Chicken Little tactics to get viewers and online users?


The conditions were right and the pattern of development for the storm system indicated bad weather for us. It's our job to let you know what to expect in terms of weather, good and bad. The fact they we were wrong this week doesn't change our focus, or make us second guess our coverage.

Which brings me to what this has to do with Hurricane Katrina.

How many times in recent years have you thought to yourself, or commented to others, that you wished the media would just stop the "wall to wall" coverage of hurrricanes? The endless forecasts, position and landfall reports of storms that most often, end up fizzling out, at least somewhat, before they hit land.

Media reports indicate that because of extensive coverage and warnings, about 80% of the people in New Orleans left town as Katrina approached.

Seeing the conditions in the city in the storm's aftermath, what do you suppose would have happened if most of those people had stayed? Would we be talking about one of the worst natural disasters in American history, or in the history of the world?

I can't even imagine the misery that was avoided because of modern technology and current severe weather reporting practices on air and online. Surely, tens of thousands of lives were spared because of the widespread information that was available.

Whether it's a hurricane bearing down on you in the Gulf, or a tornado or severe thunderstorm here in the Tri-State, you can't take action to keep your family safe if you don't know what might be coming. Surprises are nice at birthday parties, not so nice when it comes to severe weather.

So, we'll pick ourselves up from this week's coverage of the event that never happened, and get ready for the next round. Because there will be a next round, and we will make a big deal out of it.

We hope you understand. The lesson of Katrina, and the threat of whatever big outbreak of severe weather is waiting in our future, are why we're watching for you, 24/7, nights, weekends and holidays.

You can count on it.