Have you noticed how winter weather warnings are increasingly over-hyped lately? “This one is a killer, folks!” or “This will be the biggest storm of the season 12-18 inches of snow” are the usual headlines but it’s become a case of crying “Wolf!”. It’s almost as if weather forecasters are trying to outdo one another with ever more grandiose visions of snowmagedon. Why do they predict such dire outcomes when time and time again, what actually arrives is not a howling hurricane but a whimper.
Some might say, better safe than sorry but this completely ignores the massive and entirely unnecessary costs imposed by disruption to business and home life. Schools closing unnecessarily cause parents to have to miss work. Businesses and offices fear the liability that could accompany ignoring serious storm warnings so they announce one or two day closures. There are real costs associated with apocalyptic forecasts that don’t materialize.
Why do they do it? There is a vast political-bureaucratic disaster industry in America. FEMA is one of many agencies who collect federal and state funds based on their ‘disaster needs’ and ‘disaster readiness’. Announcers and forecasters are liable to fear repercussions from under warning but experience little or no consequence from over warning. People are just relieved that the horrors did not materialize. What is more, a materialistic culture sees prevention of possible loss of life as the highest value. Many would, if they could, limit non-official vehicles to a speed limit of 20mph which would save over 60% of the 30,000 annual vehicular deaths. Costs to business are largely invisible so mayors and others gain valuable airtime talking of their urgent desire to protect their voters from harm and of their many programs to prevent any hurt. This is just one more example of how a damaged culture works against its own health.