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There was so much hype about the “Storm of the Century” that when it failed to meet dire expectations, the let down was palpable. By Monday night it had been downgraded by Huffington Post to “Top Five Most Historic.” I grew suspicious watching the marathon on MSNBC—when weather coverage stands in for political coverage I wonder if it isn’t still some form of political coverage. Is the weather being exploited so politicians can posture and the networks can spike ratings and meteorologists can feel like movie stars?

Is this “news we can use” or another exercise in fear? Where is that sweet spot between safeguarding the old and infirm (and the young and the reckless) and staging a massive control experiment? It was excessive, and at times it it felt obsessive.

I thought back to the Blizzard of ’66, when school was closed for an entire week, the drifts so high they reached the top of Bedford Elementary. We climbed up on the roof with our saucers and slid down again and again until we were exhausted and starving.

My parent’s VW Beetle was buried. My Baltimore neighborhood morphed into a wonderland, the snowy bed covers obliterating boundaries and banishing traffic.  We built huge forts fueled by grand schemes. Our imaginations were tokin’ on the same stuff the Pharaohs must have been smoking when they first envisioned the pyramids.

All those wet snow pants and snow-encrusted scarves and mittens draped over the iron radiators to dry—an accidental humidifier. Those were happy times we now call disasters.

If the city fathers and mothers are just doing an unprecedentedly good job harnessing the snow emergency militia and coordinating social services, I say Bravo!  Lives will be saved. But something absurd and insidious is also afoot, driven by political agendas and the media.  Last night government officials appeared on a continuous loop, reminding me vaguely of the days after 9/11, in part because the storm paparazzi kept making that reference as they walked the empty streets of Manhattan. And I swear there were more than the usual numbers of commercials between storm-hysteria updates.

Here’s the one fun thing about watching live television coverage of a storm: it’s more zany and unpredictable than a reality show. I watched a reporter, clad in red, giving her update in the street as a car spun out of control in the background, stopping just short of flattening her like Wile E. Coyote. She stood there, oblivious to her near-death experience.

Another news reporter, soliciting a little local reaction from the owner of a small Indian restaurant somewhere in Brooklyn, suddenly lost control of his story when the lady started talking about a customer taking refuge there after fleeing domestic abuse. The reporter capped it off quickly, his producer likely jammering in his earpiece, “off topic, off topic, stay on the weather, dammit!

What does it say about us when a natural cycle of nature is treated like a foreign enemy? Do we think we can market, package, manage and profit from everything, including nature?

I woke up the morning after in the Midwest, where temperatures are unseasonably warm. The experts are already starting to warn of an insect and pollen tsunami this Spring. But I was worried about the catastrophe at hand. I reached for my phone and checked Huffington Post. The headline read:  “UNPREDICTABLE.”

Those poor meteorologists are gonna have hell to pay.

Holly Smith-Berry
Holly Smith-Berry
Like you, I’m a shape shifter, living as many roles as an umbrella has spokes: marketing exec, entrepreneur, parent, daughter, friend, sister, yogi, writer. Most of my career I’ve worked in the Housewares Industry developing new products. Sometimes I’ve taken them all the way from the gleam in an inventor’s eye to America’s kitchens.
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  • Teresa

    Fantastic Holly. I could not agree more. I feel like we are being so over protected by the government that we are getting progressively weaker all the time. I too remember the blizzard of 66 in Baltimore and a lot of 3 in storms that we did NOT get off school for. We put on boots and scarves and walked (imagine that) to school. I know I am sounding like my parents here, but it’s true , we expect our kids to be less able to cope than we were. I’m not sure that’s a good thing!!!

    • Holly Smith-Berry
      Holly Smith-Berry

      Hi Terri, thanks for your comment…sometimes I feel like that grouchy old man character from SNL years ago, the one who’d say things like “We walked twenty miles to school in a blizzard with shoes and we LIKED it.” Ha! I’m with you, Sista. Love, Holly

  • Dinah Aaron

    Holly, I also recall the Blizzard of 66, with the same memories of Bedford Elementary and the neighborhood you have! The anticipation of and perception of Snow Days was so much different back in those days!! I appreciate those memories so much more, since I now live in Arizona – where snow days are something we watch on TV (to your point!). Around here, when there is a thunderstorm, our news is taken up by weather coverage…..I guess its all relative!

    • Holly Smith-Berry
      Holly Smith-Berry

      Hi Dinah,
      I thought about you when I was recalling those days at Bedford. Arizona sounds like a good choice about now. So happy to have you following me…If there are topics you’d like to see covered, let me know. Thanks, Dinah.

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