Do we really need to turn each weather event into a drama?

In recent times, a strong breeze is almost treated as a national emergency. It's time we cooled our jets...
Do we really need to turn each weather event into a drama?
OUTSIDE BROADCAST: Teresa Mannion's famous weather report... but couldn't it have been done inside, asks Trevor Laffan?

DESPITE all the hype, Storm Lorenzo passed us by recently without too much fuss.

It huffed and puffed a bit up the west coast and dropped some water on us, but by and large it was a non-event. No doubt we’ll face a few more of these in the months ahead.

Even though it didn’t amount to much, it did give us something to talk about.

The weather is a favourite topic of ours and we love to chat about what it was like yesterday, what it’s doing today and predicting what tomorrow’s weather is going to bring us. We thank God for the fine days, curse the wet ones and blame the dampness for all the pains in the joints.

Many of us would struggle to make conversation in a Mediterranean country, where the weather is rarely discussed. There’s not much to talk about when the sun shines every day and the only clothes you need are shorts, t-shirt and a pair of flip flops. You’d get some strange looks if you started talking about soft days and the great drying out.

We see a lot of bad weather in Ireland, so we’re delighted when we get a break from it. A few days without rain soon becomes a lengthy dry spell and if the sun shines for longer than an hour and rises above 12 degrees, it’s classified as a heat wave.

We get a lot of wind too and it regularly howls down here in Cork Harbour, and on those days, we batten down the hatches, wait for it all to calm down again, then carry on as usual.

At least that’s what we used do, but in recent times, a strong breeze is treated as a national emergency.

There was a time, not so long ago, when we only knew a storm was coming when we heard the wind whistling through the windows. The old timber sash windows never made a proper air-tight seal like the modern windows do, because if they were tight enough to keep out the wind, they were too tight to open, so they were always draughty.

Doors were the same. They rattled too and sometimes they left in the rain as well. On those occasions, towels and cloths were placed strategically around the windows and the bottom of the doors to reduce the air flow and hold back the water. As soon as it was over, everything was gathered up again, washed, dried, and put away for the next event.

There were some natural indicators that bad weather was on the way and fishermen especially had their own favourites that they swore by. A quarter moon lying on its back, red sky in the morning, and seagulls flying inland, were all signs that things were going to turn nasty.

There was another sign of impending doom, but it took a bit more of an effort to get an accurate forecast from it. It was said that if a mole digs its hole 2½ feet deep, you can expect severe weather. If it’s only two feet deep, then the weather won’t be so bad, and if he only digs one foot down you can expect a mild winter.

That method wasn’t very practical if you just wanted to know whether to put the washing out or not.

These days, we have meteorological people and they’re a bit more scientific about predicting weather patterns, but even with all the information and technology available to them, Mother Nature can still be unpredictable, so it’s not an exact science.

We have apps on our phones too that give us hour by hour predictions, but are they really necessary?

We got lots of warnings about Storm Lorenzo and they proved to be largely unfounded. Some comments on social media complained that it was over-hyped while others complained that advising people to stay indoors was bad for business. Some even seemed almost disappointed that the storm never materialised at all.

Predicting storms is big business and it’s very dramatic when we see the National Emergency Co-ordination Group and local emergency groups on TV, meeting in their bunkers and issuing coloured warnings about power cuts, falling trees, and flooding as the storm makes landfall with violent winds and dangerous driving conditions.

For the last event, RTÉ showed reporters standing out in the wind and rain as they warned the rest of us to stay indoors.

David McCullough did an outdoor piece to camera to promote a segment on Prime Time, but it was difficult to hear what he was saying above the noise of the wind, and he looked like he could disappear up into the clouds at any moment.

Poor Teresa Mannion can’t do one of these reports without getting soaked to the skin while screaming at the rest of us to stay safe, but do we really need this drama?

Surely, they could deliver their message just as easily from the comfort of a sheltered spot indoors albeit without the special effects.

Or stop doing them altogether because they’re only upsetting people. They’re damned if they issue warnings and damned if the storm doesn’t materialise.

The business community, except for the bakeries making bread, doesn’t like it when people are told to stay indoors because their tills are too silent.

Insurance companies don’t want to hear about storms because they have to work round the clock to get the words ‘An act of God’ into as many sentences as possible.

So, maybe we’d all be better off if we went back to the old way of doing things, relying on the seagulls, the moles and the red sky.

At least that way, we can’t blame anyone for the bad weather and, when it comes, just get the towels and ride it out.

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