Last Night’s “Over-Hyped” Storm

Blair Nebraska Storm Staff
2021 December 16, Thursday

Do you remember the last truly “bad” storm that hit Blair? There was a windy, stormy night this year, true. But, the last dangerous storm was the 2014 nightmare of tennis-ball-sized hail and 100-mph wind that rocked Blair – and destroyed millions in property (Blair’s Woodhouse Ford made national news, for example.)

Thankfully, lives were spared on that dark and stormy afternoon.

That was eight years ago.

I believe the lack of seriously-damaging storms since then may make us more complacent than prudent. There was more than one person I spoke with today who referred to yesterday’s storm as “overhyped,” or “no big deal.” The sentiment I heard was of the “they got it wrong again,” variety.

While it’s true we didn’t see the double-hammering of storms “predicted”, the potential was there.

There were 80 mph, “rotation” in those winds that suggested Tornadoes for Blair. We had sirens blaring in Blair that were not for a “watch,” but for a WARNING of a Tornado.

We were close.

The problem of predicting storms would take more math, logic, and spreadsheet number-crunching than you have time to read – or me to figure out how to explain.

The way to understand weather reports about storms is to think in terms of “potential.” As in, “the conditions are there for the potential of an event.” And, that “potential” is where math is important, but not always “right.”

People want “right,” and are not happy when things look “wrong.” So, for yesterday’s “over-hyped” storm, the weather prognosticators got it “wrong.” Well, according to people who don’t understand the point of a “prediction.”

What the weather folks got absolutely right was the conditions for dangerous outcomes. We were at the corner of “Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” As it happens, we could “stand” the weather, and live to sing about it.

The folks in Kentucky – who just this last week lost around 100 people to a storm of the very sort we dodged – weren’t so lucky.

Yet, despite all I wrote, there is a truism about last night’s storms: Blair did, in fact, get lucky. There were at least six tornadoes, and plenty of damage. Just not in our tiny, very small slice of land. As I write this, I see no reports of deaths. That’s good.

Very good. Very, very good.

Don’t take the fact we didn’t get hit in Blair as proof weather predictors are “wrong.” Don’t mistake what happened “this time” as what will always happen.

Storms that blow around us from outside are just as unpredictable as storms which are born within us all. The chaos, danger, and unpredictability of life itself should be lesson enough for people to take predictions about the weather for what they are meant to be: Admonitions that conditions are good for the unpredictable hand of the wind to strike you down.

Don’t live in fear. But, do your best to live with a respect for how precious life is. Just because the 80 mph winds and blistering tail of a tornado missed Blair yesterday, well, those facts have nothing to do with what comes next.

Thank God for your basement, rejoice for clear skies, and keep a place in your heart for folks who aren’t around anymore to do either.