Why You Should Take Your Oklahoma Forecast With A Grain of Salt
If I've heard it once today I've heard it a million times, "What's the weather supposed to do tonight?" It's a valid question but also a loaded question. Most people generally repeat whatever the local meteorologist said the last time they saw the forecast... but is that meteorologist someone you can actually trust?
Here's the thing, we live in a world where local news no longer matters. The only people reading newspapers are old and set in their ways, the same goes for watching the news on TV. Local news is delivered online through apps and social media in real-time these days, so by the time the television stations get around to airing it, it's old news you likely saw hours ago... but the weather is the exception.
Because the world of television is still based on a scale of ratings vs revenue, live weather coverage is the only thing that still captures those valuable ratings. This is why the local stations, at least in the past would start "chasing" storms from Amarillo all the way to Dallas.
The firm belief is a simple one... The longer they interrupt regular programming to cover the weather, the more ratings they'll earn, the more money they'll earn. If you live outside Lawton & Wichita Falls and have access to top-tier professional news coverage from stations like KFOR-TV or News9 in OKC, you see this trend in real-time as they broadcast from half a dozen weather chaser vehicles and helicopters from one side of the state all the way across to the other while the ringmaster meteorologist in the studio orchestrates the chaos.
"But what if the weather isn't as bad as the forecast said it was going to be?"
It's a fine line the television stations walk between earning money and keeping trust. Have you ever prepared for the worst only to see the weather wasn't bad at all? In most cases that's a great thing... but I bet you kept a close eye on the news the entire time adding to those ratings.
The longer a person tunes in, the more money the TV station can charge for advertising over the next six months, so naturally they want to keep you worried and entertained.
I don't think there's a single innocent meteorologist in this part of the country that hasn't played up the danger and action of a storm, secretly crying wolf for the sake of keeping a captive audience... but as it's an industry standard, you really can't fault them until they drop the ball.
The tell most meteorologists have is their excitement... If they're whooping and hollering about the weather, odds are it's not nearly as intense as they'd have you believe. That's when they're trying to sell you on sticking around. When the weather is really bad and the threat to life is real, meteorologists are generally calm and collected in their presentation knowing that panic will not help the situation.
When the guy on TV is cool as a cucumber when he mentions you need to be in your safe spot, that's when you should take the advice.
The weather and forecast for tonight is still way too unpredictable. That's just the nature of Oklahoma's spring. Nobody knows what is going to happen until it's happening. I'd suggest a refresher course in your family tornado safety plan, double-check you've got all the necessities in place, and remain calm in those moments of potential panic.
If you don't have a storm shelter or access to one, remember to gather in the smallest interior room on the ground floor of your home. Since you always see clothes still hanging in torn apart closets in all the coverage of tornado damage, I'm a fan of just hopping in a closet until the sirens stop.
Good luck, don't drink the kool-aid, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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