Friday, July 25, 2008

Of Hurricanes and Blow Hards...

I am digressing today to talk about Dolly -- not Dolly the dalmatian, but Dolly the hurricane.

Am I the only one noticing that media folk covering hurricanes seem disappointed if the hurricane is not catastrophic? Smiling Dog Farms is located in southeast Texas, and we have a certain vulnerability to hurricanes. If the right hurricane, with the right strength, made landfall at the right place, we could be affected.

But statistically speaking, that is not likely. We are only in danger if all the possibilities line up in just the right configuration. It's like having all the right numbers lined up on your lottery ticket. It happens, but not often.

We started tuning into the Weather Channel on Monday, when we first heard there was a tropical storm in the Gulf. We wanted to know where it was projected to make landfall, and how strong it was. What we got from The Weather Channel was high drama. Monday and Tuesday were filled with non-stop hype... "the winds are up to 40 mph... this could (emphasis mine) develop into a Category One hurricane by the time it reaches land". I will be driving to the grocery store later this afternoon. A diamond-studded meteorite could fall from the heavens land in the back seat of my car. Somehow, I see an analogy.

Throughout the whole Dolly ordeal, the weathercasters were pushing "worst case" scenarios. When the outerbands of the storm began to reach land, the Weather Channel aired their Ace reporter, bracing himself against the wind in his rain gear, leaning forward and speaking in short bursts to catch his breath against the onslought, our hero putting himself in harm's way just so we can see what lots of rain and lots of wind look like -- the same obligatory "set piece" shown for every hurricane, every time!

After the storm blew through South Padre Island, landing as a Category One -- the mildest of hurricane categories -- this same guy actually said -- I am not making this up -- that although it made landfall as a Category One hurricane, it was almost a Category Two. You could just hear the wistfullness in his voice. If only the storm had worked itself up those extra few wind gusts to qualify at the next level.

The cameraman took the lens off our intrepid reporter long enough to show some of the horrific damage from the cataslismic hurricane -- we were there to watch as a streetlight bulb blew out! It was shocking film, all right. And then the reporter opined that this must be the worst hurricane damage to South Padre Island since 1960. Which may certainly be true if this is the only hurricane to make landfall at South Padre Island since 1960.

The truth is that Dolly was a minor hurricane, as hurricane's go. Up until the moments before landfall, its winds were not sufficient to even qualify as a hurricane. It was merely a tropical storm. And yet those of us living in south Texas were barraged by friends and family from other parts of the country, wondering how we were faring in these dangerous times!

The truth was that we never skipped a beat. It barely even rained! Let me also add, here, a "hats off" to our local newspaper, The Wharton Journal Spectator, one of the very few media outlets which did not allow itself to be drawn in by the hurricane hysteria. Their front page article -- not even the main story -- in Wednesday's paper was, Dolly not expected to say 'Hello' to (Wharton) county.

That was the truth. I wish The Weather Channel and their Ace on-the-scene reporter would save their drama for serious weather catastrophies!

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

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