There’s a funny episode of the Honeymooners (Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and the adorable Audrey Meadows) where Ralph (Gleason) is on the $50,000 dollar answer show (aka today’s Who wants to be a millionaire?).
Editor’s note: In the late 1950s, fifty thousand was like a million today.
Ralph has all but quit his job to study morning, noon and night in his selected category “Popular Songs”. No sooner does Ralph miss the first gimme song (Swanee River), that he blurts out song after song including “Goodnight Irene” in a vain attempt to win some money.
You see Ralph was so full of data on his brain, that he was unable to relate to an easy question like who is the composer of Swanee River?
So with that piece of trivia as a background, I am happy to report that Irene is gone and unless you were flooded out somewhere in the 13 original colonies, Irene will be forgotten. Left behind, 35 people are dead, most having drowned in the inland flash flooding.
I spent considerable time this weekend tracking Irene, following forecasts and live reports from the trenches.
To me, the data intensive news coverage of Irene at times overwhelmed the human error factor. We as meteorologists can look at sophisticated models which simulate the atmosphere, but we (at least I can’t) can not predict with complete accuracy the strength, position and most importantly the effects a storm will have until right before or during the event.
We can “speculate” what those effects will be and get the overall flavor of the event but in the end, we can’t state with preciseness how point A in City B will be impacted at Time T. We can try, but that attempt is wrought with inherent unpredictability.
I chose to concentrate my energies almost exclusively on Myrtle Beach last week. After all, almost everyone who watches WSAZ-NEWSCHANNEL 3 has vacationed, knows someone who has vacationed or knows someone who lives near the Grand Strand.
For 4 days I stayed on message, and provided data I felt was important to Myrtle travelers. By sticking with one theme, I felt much more capable of resonating with my viewers/readers. At the end of the Myrtle briefing, I indicated with a few drawings that Coastal North Carolina and northward were in for full fledged hurricane conditions.
Sure I had calls from people who wanted to know about Jacksonville, NC and Virginia Beach, Va. Friends in Philly called to ask about the conditions they could expect in the Quaker City or at the Jersey Shore. To these folks, Myrtle was a total non-factor so my broadcasts failed to address their needs as completely as those bound for the Grand Strand.
I felt my Myrtle Beach blogs (see them archived here) and TV reports had good value and served viewers/readers well. Face it, predicting the weather for one location is a lot easier than trying to cover thousands of miles up and down the shore.
For my Philly friends, I sent out a 2AM Saturday update to suggest the storm would not be as impacting on the Delaware Valley as originally predicted.
For those bound for the Strand, at 12AM Saturday I reiterated on my blog it was “business as usual” if you are heading Myrtle adding the suggestion to “take the western route through Conway on Route 501 rather than Route 17 out of North Carolina.”
Lessons learned you asked? Sure, the most important of which is to keep reading your viewers. Serve them with what they want, not what you want.
That’s especially important considering we are just now entering the prime time for hurricanes so chances are good we will do the tropical storm drill again!