The psychology of weather

Hurricane Irene is a monster hurricane that will churn up the east coast during the next few days. It will be a story that will dominate news coverage, especially because it will have a major impact on the cities of the northeast. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City>, and Boston will all bear the brunt of this storm.

Heavy rainfall and winds up to 100 miles per hour are possible in the major metropolitan areas of the northeast on Sunday. This means, of course, wall-to-wall coverage by The Weather Channel and all of the networks and cable news channels. It is a made-to-order news event. It is evolving in real time, it offers dramatic video and human interest stories, and the live shot possibilities are perfect for our TV world. We can imagine those reporters on Saturday and Sunday, standing outside for their live shots, being pummeled by the strong winds and horizontal raindrops, shouting to be heard over the roar of the storm, hanging on for dear life, and hoping that no flying piece of debris conks them on the head.

(Imagine the YouTube moment when a reported actually gets injured...or flying debris. Let's hope it doesn't happen with this storm, even though we all know it will happen eventually on live TV in vivid color and surround sound.)

Hurricanes like Irene always play a psychological role in the lives of residents. Many people believe weather to be like a special effects movie. It looks really cool but no damage or harm is ever done. Everything returns to normal once the storm passes. Except in real life that doesn't actually happen. Damage is done, people are hurt and killed. So news reports over the next few days will have interviews with people who are "riding out the storm". They'll say something like "we've lived through storms before. It's no big deal."

There is an interesting bravado when it comes to severe weather, tornadoes included. Many people don't want to be intimidated by anything. It's as if acknowledging the power of nature is a sign of weakness. We see this type of disconnect with reality when we hear people wishing that a tornado would come into their town so they could see one in person. Be careful what you wish for.