Can’t we just be rational about hurricane risks?!

No.  Apparently.  OMG I am so sick of this.  Look, if you are along the coast, you have every right to be concerned, worried, close your schools, etc., but in the Raleigh, NC area this is an insane over-reaction.

The official weather forecast is 2-4 inches of rain with winds 20-30 mph.  A miserable day, but, not by any stretch, a meaningful threat to human safety and welfare.  If this was truly a danger, the local school system should basically cancel every single day there are afternoon thunderstorms (and since, the school system goes year-round, there are plenty of those).

Today, I’m especially frustrated with the actual National Weather Service.  I have to wonder if they haven’t been somehow influenced by the mass cultural insanity on this.  I know it’s there job to keep us safe and prepared, but how do we get this?

Here’s the latest official forecast for Wake County:


    - CARY


And here’s the NWS official definition for a Tropical Storm Warning:

A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when sustained winds of 34 to 63 kt (39 to 73 mph) or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding.

Emphases are mine.  Notice something?  By their own forecast we will not have Tropical Storm conditions, and yet, we get a warning?  Here’s the map of the likelihood of tropical storm winds (via CNN Storm Tracker which is my new favorite website);  I circled Wake County which is clearly in a 30-40% range at most.  That is not “expected” TS winds.

I know, but so much uncertainty with tropical systems.  Check out the latest spaghetti models.  Not a lot of uncertainty here.  Bad stuff is simply not coming for Wake County, NC.  The models can be well off days in advance– like the ones that had this hurricane going across Florida– but they get more accurate over short term (i.e., the current forecast) and when the hurricanes are closer to land.  This sucker is just not coming for me.

The actual forecast (via Wunderground for RDU airport) is not really scary at all.

So why am I so annoyed about this?  Because so many people and governmental institutions are hysterically over-reacting.  I knew there was literally no hope for my local schools system after the TS “Warning” was issued, despite the reality of their forecast.  But was is truly amazing is that Durham Public Schools and Durham Tech Community College immediately west of us and not even in the warning zone canceled tomorrow.  My son will miss out on a full day of education at nearby Wake Tech because of 20-30mph winds and a lot of rain.  That’s just a waste.  Somehow, as of now at least, NC State has not given in.  But, I’m not sure they can hold out with all the over-reactions around them.  At least I’m Monday-Wednesday this semester so don’t have to worry about my classes being canceled for a windy/rainy day.

Anyway, I’m not saying we should ignore risks or not to take tropical systems seriously.  And I get the uncertainty, really I do (I get how statistics work– really).  But, we as a society just have to rationally weigh risks.  And we don’t.  And how those not in actual serious threat from a tropical system respond to it is such a depressing case.

I swear, one of these days I’m going to do a survey experiment where I describe tomorrow’s weather conditions and say, “would you think that your local school system should close for safety reasons.”  Then I will describe the exact same conditions “caused by Hurricane Charlie off the coast” and (I strongly suspect) watch the willingness to close schools at least double.

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