BE ON THE ALERT!
18 March 2002
One of our local news stations unveiled its latest improvement with much fanfare and
hoopla not too long ago. It's a weather tower. Supposedly the latest in state of the art
weather predicting. When you're driving down the freeway, you can look at the weather
tower to give you a hint about weather:
Now, call me crazy, but I've always been able to tell when it's hot, or sunny, or
rainy. I wasn't aware that I needed a tower to help me figure it out.
There are other problems with the weather tower. First of all, you have to remember
what the colors mean, and that probably necessitates a chart in your car. "Is the
color white? What does that mean?"
Secondly, you see the tower from one of the busiest parts of I-80 entering Sacramento,
and quite frankly there are other things I should have my eyes onlike the big semi
on my right, which is about to topple over on top of me.
And finally, even if I really wasn't sure if it was 60 degrees out or 100 degrees, or
whether it was sunny or rainy, and even if I had studied up and memorized which colors
mean which weather, and even if somehow I could drive safely while looking off to my side
to check the weather tower, the damn thing is so faint you can't make out which color it
I sincerely hope this quite expensive (or so the promotions would have you believe)
weather tower has some other function than to just let people know whether it is hot or
not, whether it is windy or not, whether it is sunny or rainy.
There are some signs which make some sense. I do rely on Smoky the Bear to tell me what
the potential fire danger is. I can pretty much figure out that if it's raining the fire
danger is low and if we are in the middle of a drought, surrounded by dry timber, and the
temperatures are in the 100s, that the fire danger is high. But if I were the sort who
liked to tromp out in the woods and rub two sticks together to make fire to cook my
dinner, it might be nice to know if the in between weather conditions were high or not. I
But now our government has come up with yet another way to keep us on the alert.
Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge has developed a color-coded alarm system to let us know
how strong is the danger from terrorist attacks.
Presumably now gone will be the "we heard something, so be on the alert
for... something... somewhere... sometime in the next few months or so," and in its place we have
colored alerts. Green represents "low" alert, Blue means a "general"
risk of terrorist attack. Yellow means an increased, "significant" risk of
attack. Orange means a "high risk" of terrorist attack. Red indicates a
Right off the bat, there are cries of discrimination from those who are color blind. If
you can't see a red alert, will you go on about your daily business as if nothing is
wrong? (But then, if it is a red alert--what will you do anyway? Nobody has
yet defined for me my role in a severe alert. Do I continue to ride my bike?
Or do I assume that the end is near and go for a hot fudge sundae?)
(Perhaps those color blind people should give thanks that they're off the hook for
watching for "something...somewhere.")
I want to know where these alerts are going to be displayed. Is this purely a naming
thing? Or is our local news station going to add another level to its weather alert? Will
we now have to not only determine if it's rainy, but if there is a severe risk of
terrorism as well?
"Let's see, Martha--it's either sunny and no risk of terrorism, or it's raining
and we'd better take cover quick."
(I don't even want to think about having to decipher the rainbow flags flying along
Market St. in San Francisco.)
I suppose it's nice that we have agencies that will take care of us and warn us about
weather and fire danger and terrorist potential. But I think I liked it better when I
stepped outside to see what the weather was like and I went about my business, innocently
realizing that there was nothing I personally could do about a potential terrorist attack,
so I might as well enjoy the day.