- - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Nothing is more tempting to television’s talking heads than exaggerating an approaching doomsday of blizzards, droughts, hurricanes, traffic jams, abortion rallies and other disasters, and nothing is riskier for politicians. What was hyped as the Great Blizzard of ‘15 turned out to be the Usual Snowfall of ‘15, and now the politicians are squirming under an avalanche of second-guessing.

There was a lot of snow in New England, to be sure, but a lot of snow in New England in January is not something to frighten rugged New Englanders, where the short, hot summer often arrives in late June and departs before the Fourth of July. The snow flies shortly after Labor Day but the prospect of snow does not send the masses bounding into supermarkets to corner the market in bread and toilet paper, as it invariably does in certain other places, like Washington, D.C. and its fragile suburbs.

Howling blizzards with hurricane winds were predicted Monday for Philadelphia and points north. Weather men predicted the storm would drop two feet, even three feet, of snow on New York, New Jersey and maybe more than that in Boston. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said the storm might be one “of historic proportions,” perhaps the biggest in the history of record keeping. There could have been a storm like this one in the mists of prehistory, but if there was, the cave men didn’t bother to upload a video to YouTube.

The hysteria was bipartisan. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey echoed the concern of Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who sounded as frightened as Mayor de Blasio. Everybody was urged to go into hibernation, roads and highways were closed, 6,000 airline flights were canceled, Amtrak suspended trains north of Gotham, schools were closed, shops were shuttered and Mayor de Blasio told everyone to stay inside “until further notice.” For how long? Who knew? No one would be allowed to drive on the streets after 11 p.m. Prudent husbands and wives, even little bitty children were sore afraid they might lose their lives. “This storm,” said the mayor, “is not going to be like other storms.

But Tuesday was another day. The storm turned out to be like a lot of others. The restrictions that might last forever didn’t. Three feet of snow “in some places” turned out to be six inches “in some places,” though it was deeper than that in the places where January snowfalls are usually deeper than that. The republic, or at least that part of the republic that had looked destined to become an ice floe to float off to the North Pole, or at least Boston, didn’t.

Some of the weather men went into hiding. Gary Szatkowski, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, offered humble amends. “My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public,” he said in a Tweet dispatched to all of Tweeterville. “You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn’t, and once again, I’m sorry.”

He needn’t get over the top with the apology. These things happen. We’re a culture that grooves on hope and hype, and more hype than hope. Everything has to be the biggest, the smallest, the oldest, the newest, the best, the deepest, the tallest, the hottest and the coldest. Even blizzards. And we like our politicians contrite. Besides, there’s more snow in the forecast for the weekend. Shall we make a toilet paper run?


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