Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

June 8, 2014

A warning about warnings

--- — In the late 1990s, a devastating storm ravaged South Georgia. Residents received few warnings of the storm’s trajectory.

In its aftermath, a more comprehensive system was created to alert South Georgia residents of thunderstorms, high winds, tornadoes and other potential weather emergencies.

The system has worked well. Perhaps, it has worked too well.

Anyone regularly watching TV during this time of year knows to expect National Weather Service advisories. These warnings trace thunderstorms and other activities near and far. Sometimes, perhaps, too far. Often people receive warnings that never directly touch their county but do touch other counties in a viewing area.

Often, if the non-warning county receives any repercussion from the weather, it is some rumbling thunder, a few lightning flashes and some rain.

Yet, the non-affected areas hear the repeated warnings as often as the affected counties. Possibly so often that we may hear them, but we may no longer listen to them.

Given these repeated warnings, one expects Armageddon.

Or worse, we expect nothing at all.

With these warnings sounding almost every time South Georgia receives rainfall, most folks may ignore them all together. Many folks likely curse the repeated interruptions of their television shows rather than listen to the latest warning of what will turn out to be a little bit of rain.

The warning system has become something akin to the boy who cries wolf. We have heard it so often, for so long, with so little weather as a result, many may view it more as an intrusive false alarm rather than a real reason to be alert.

There must be a better way of assessing the need of these warnings, or a better way to broadcast them than the current method where people turn off the TV or radio to escape their repeated blaring interruptions. It’s similar to car alarms — few people pay attention to them any more because they so often sound a false alarm.

It all becomes background noise, which could be the ignored soundtrack to disaster

 Too many warnings may prove as dangerous as no early-warning system at all.

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