Monday, July 14, 2014

A Tornado Can Kill You

I guess the word has not gotten out about how dangerous a tornado can be, or maybe it’s just a case of poor perspective.  The story was all over the Internet this morning and even made the CBS morning news.  As we hear from this report, “Some World Cup fans in areas of New York and Pennsylvania were irate at a local TV station Sunday for cutting into the last few minutes of the World Cup final to cover a tornado warning.”  They posted several examples of twitter messages, including one that could be interpreted as a veiled threat, “I hope this weatherman has life insurance.”

Is a tornado warning important enough to interrupt the World Cup, or any other sporting event for that matter?  The National Weather Service Forecast Office uses clear  definitions.  A warning “indicates that a particular weather event is imminent or occurring” and is "issued for significant weather events which will pose a risk to life and property” indicating “forecaster confidence of at least 80%.”  More specifically, a tornado warning is issued “when there is evidence based on radar or a reliable spotter report that a tornado is imminent or occurring.”  This differs from a watch, when conditions are favorable but no clear evidence is available.

Even if nothing results, how can people sit on their sofa in front of the TV and declare that watching two other countries' national teams play soccer is more important to them than an imminent risk to lives and property?  Maybe it’s not their own lives and property, only the lives and property of their neighbors or others several miles away within the station's viewing area.  No rational person should be able to look at such a scenario and become irate.  Sure it may be irritating, but it’s only a game!

Perspective should tell us that it’s only a game.  Even if it were the US playing in the World Cup or the Olympics or if it’s your favorite team playing in the Super Bowl or the final game of the World Series, it’s only a game!  Think about how privileged we are to afford to give these games as much time and importance as we do.  Think of how we must have taken that privileged position for granted to the point where we can conveniently forget that tornados can kill while we put sports and entertainment at a higher priority.  It's fine to get emotional and excited as a viewer, but we must never lose track of the facts:  it's only a game and a tornado can kill you.

(Pay no attention to those people rioting in the streets in Argentina.  Americans are not the only ones who need to improve perspective!)

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