This time yesterday we had already been told for a day or two that we were on the lip of getting our first real weather of the winter -- weather that had actually been "promised" to start in the morning. I had passed a long sleepless night enjoying those hours of anticipation of snow that have always meant much to me. Do such hours -- glances at the night sky to get a sense of the clouds, listening hard for the sounds of the first flakes or pellets coming down -- mean less as a result of the marketing of meteorology?
You know what I mean: SNOWALERT4! STORMTRACK8! WINTERWATCH7! BLIZZARDBLOG12!--- whatever the names and stations in your area, the result is the same: weather turned into television, weather forecasting become another way, and in some aspects the chief one, of hyping a station and transfixing its viewership.
Ten years now on this patch of Virginia soil and trees, hills and gullies, has taught me at least a couple of things, not least among them the higher accuracy I achieve by watching the skies, the quality of light, the feel of the air against my hands and face, than I get from the exuberance -- read: keep watching, it's going to be bad and more than that it's going to be real -- weather personalities on TV.
Not their fault -- TV is what TV is, and continues to become even more so by the moment, lowering the lowest common denominator index at an exponential rate. And there are indeed times -- severe, violent, fast-moving weather -- when I am grateful for the radars and graphics and computer models and even -- less often but still occasionally -- the meteorologists (some of them) and on-camera personalities/personae (almost all of them) and their commentary.
But mostly I resent what they do, which is to set up expectations (and anxieties!) for more television -- tune in for updates -- rather than awaken the audience to the wonders of weather. In the case of this week's non-snow "event" (and there's another word they use that really frosts my French fries) we ended up, according to one of weather-things this morning with around "1/24th" (sic) of an inch... but the main commentary was about a) why the forecast had failed, b) how angry the viewers were that schools etc. had closed because of the forecast and c) even more viewer commentary about the failure of nature to live up to what television had promised them.
While I'm glad we didn't get the icefall that the TV-things began promising (almost desperately, I thought) last evening after the day's snowfall failed to arrive, I will admit to wondering about something: If the trees fall in the forest and bring down the power and cable lines during an ice-storm, does anyone know the TV weather warn-ers are still on?
Now I have to go retrieve my car from the spot up the hill and down the road, where I parked it yesterday in advance of the storm which -- walking with Holly, my Siberian, back through the forest, feeling the flakes of the first (and it turned out, only) flurries, watching the skies, enjoying the silence -- I knew wasn't going to last. There wasn't going to be much more snow than those few fat flakes for those few moments, anticipated for so many hours, and I treasured them until they passed.