The sky isn't falling. That's just rain, dear.

Should I be so blasé about tornadoes? Perhaps not, but any inclinations toward reasonability that I might have are generally blown away (pardon the bad pun) by the ignorance and histrionics of the local weather forecasters.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for tornadoes. I remember the one that touched my parents’ house when I was a child. A house a mile away was blown to bits, but all it did to our house was delicately lift the cap off of the chimney and set it down in the yard. I’ve seen tornadoes ravage my home state, seen friends’ houses destroyed, spent time frantically calling friends to find out if they and their families were okay.But I only get upset or worried when there’s a need to get upset or worried.

This snippet of text, taken from a satirical column in the Huntsville Times, sums our one of our local weather forecasters up well:

Thursday, Feb. 15—WHNT weatherman D**** S*******’s 43rd prediction of snow this winter actually occurs: 0.7 inches fall, causing the entire population of Huntsville to rush out for bread and milk, whereupon they simultaneously crash on the Parkway. ”

Translate that to tornadoes. Yep, you got it—the moment that anyone sees a greenish-looking cloud, or a weather forecaster decides something might happen, they start recommending that everyone get in their tornado shelters until the danger passes. The hyperbole is incredible—a certain local weather guy is known for either dismissing National Weather Service watches or warnings, or instituting his own when he feels that the NWS is not doing a satisfactory job.

I’ve heard this repeatedly, and witnessed some of it today. I’d heard that the guy in question got some kind of censure from the National Weather Service. It seems to be common knowledge. I’ve had a bit of trouble unearthing some proof of this, but I turned up a 1997 Associated Press article that seems to corroborate everything I’ve heard.

So—if there’s a wall cloud outside and you’re in the Huntsville area, turn on your television. Chances are, the local weather guys are having a hissy fit. It makes some of the viewers worry, I’m sure, but it makes many more scoff at the silliness of their coverage.

It’s difficult not to want to veer in the direction of nonchalance when these people scream that the sky is falling when, in fact, it’s just rain. It makes me wonder how seriously they’ll be taken when a line of truly serious tornadoes comes through Alabama. Today’s tornado coverage was frantic and breathless, and they only had one minor touchdown in the county.

I compare this to the “day of tornadoes” in Arkansas. Let’s recap, for those of you who weren’t there: the one in Arkadelphia was an F-4, had a path somewhere around thirty miles long and over a thousand yards wide—and it wasn’t even the only tornado that day—by a long shot.

The weather forecasters were calmer and far more professional. As opposed to today, real damage was being done: homes destroyed, lives lost. Today…some rain fell. That’s all. Yet, if you listened to the television at all this afternoon, you’d really think the sky was falling.