There is a 24-hour weather channel airing right now in every Canadian metropolitan city. That news coverage ranges to everything from learning about cold fronts and watching viral videos of puppies in dog sweaters running through the snow, to watching tornado and hurricanes level entire city blocks.
Throughout Southern Ontario especially, you can almost hear sighs of nostalgia every time a slight wind ruffles through the trees, as everyone over the age of 40 recalls their fading memories of “the storm of ’77”. Whether or not we are aware of it, we as individuals and as a society, are fascinated by the weather. Beyond simple fascination, our non-stop monitoring, access to minute-by-minute updates and fear of interpersonal disconnect creates a sensationalized experience surrounding simple snowstorms.
As a blizzard has just finished ravishing Southern Ontario and the GTA, even to the extent of forcing our beloved university to tragically close its doors for a day, there’s never been a better time to observe. Not only the weather patterns, but the population’s reactions to them. Whether it’s small talk about the meter pile-up of snow from the night before, or the soon-to-rise temperature, it’s become entrenched in our most basic discourse. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that the weather presents an often massively shared experience.
The general media, being everything from The Weather Network to CBC, is also partly to blame. A large storm is as good a story to a major news network as Lindsay Lohan rehab news is to Entertainment Tonight. The media sensationalizes these storms and gets into the minds of viewers through the usual ploy of “are you prepared?”.
Sure, the media reaches a large audience, but social media has the opportunity to reach exponentially more people through infiltrating personal networks of friends, relatives and colleagues. A single panic-driven Facebook post or snowy Instagram photo can send ripples through news feeds, creating a greater sense of urgency in the fact that the weather threat is “close to home”.
Beyond social and amateur medias, broadcast news, online articles and tabloids always point to weather being at the peak of the viewer’s and readership’s interest. We instantly react to any abnormal weather pattern with the media’s called-for “decisive preparation”. Gas stations fill up as officials collect as many gas containers as their trunks can allow; grocery stores empty, often times not having enough food on the supermarket shelves to supply the widely ravaging masses.
Is preparation bad? Certainly not. But a frenzied panic of consumerism every time a cloud forms is radical. Weather is powerful and it’s perhaps a great distrust co-mingling with inspired awe that complicates our ideas about it and makes us, as a society, so intrigued. Storms interrupt our lifestyle — we won’t be able to go to Wal-Mart for a night; we might not be able to take a Sunday drive — a blizzard or snowstorm forces us to retreat indoors against our will. We track the weather, the weather doesn’t track us — and that is why we are so terrified and unnerved by its displays.
Whether the snowstorm is beautiful or devastating, whether we understand the meteorological aspects or not, it still doesn’t call for harassing @BrockUniversity on Twitter to make them close the university for a snow day, unfortunately. In this time and place in which the world is at your constant personal access, having a storm front roll in and question our individualistic, self-centred ideas of control and power may be a good thing. Hysteria and the ever-present stress of daily life can wait, so bundle up and watch (powerlessly) as the storms blow by.
In this time and place in which the world is at your constant personal access, having a storm front roll in and question our individualistic, self-centred ideas of control and power may be a good thing. Hysteria and the ever-present stress of daily life can wait, so bundle up and watch (powerlessly) as the storms blow by.