Thesaurus for Weather Reporting

 

We had some weather alarms last evening that sent us to our basement for shelter.  We need to be highly motivated to go to our basement, as the place is accessed through exterior steps, which means going out into the rain and lifting open the weather door to get into the basement. It’s not a particularly pleasant place. The walls were built of local stone in the 1850s, and even though it does have an ancient poured concrete floor of sorts, it’s not particularly mouse-proof, spider-proof, or airtight.

We took our phones and devices with us so we could listen to the weather reporting.  Even after the local township people turned off the sirens, the weather station people were still urging people in our area and others to head for shelter, immediately.  From the radar maps on our devices, it seemed that the storm cell that was coming our way would go around us to the south, and another would pass to the north.  The radio weather people were still expressing considerable urgency, and our son remarked that this was probably the most excitement they had had all day.  To my thinking, they were not distinguishing well between actual tornado sightings and storm cells that might produce tornados.

We declared our own “all-clear” and went back into the house, where I started to settle down in the recliner for my after-dinner map.  Then the alarms sounded on our phones again.  I stayed put in my recliner but fired up the radar app to see if it was anything to be concerned about.  Our son was tired, too, after his day’s work, and said he figured he’d go down with the ship on this one.  Mrs R came into the living room to turn on the weather news on the television.

After reporting on the latest batch of storm cells and urging people to seek shelter, the station switched to one of the reporters giving an on-the-scene report of damage at the FedEx distribution center in Portage (adjacent to Kalamazoo).  “It’s an absolute travesty,” he reported, in the usual breathless manner of TV weather people.  “I don’t think he knows what that word means,” I commented.  Yes, there was visible damage, but it was hard to tell from the TV pictures just how serious it was.  The weather guy said there were no reports of injuries, but he didn’t think such a storm could have come through without causing any. “But there is nothing infinite, yet.”  That one set us to laughing, and got me to thinking about the deficiencies of our educational system, and also about the hiring processes at local news stations.

Much later in the evening, I got a text from one of my former colleagues asking if we got through the storms OK, and reporting on those of our former colleagues in the Kalamazoo area whom she knew were OK.  That got me to looking for news online, as maybe there had been some tornado damage or other storm damage that I hadn’t known about.

It turns out there had been damage and injuries (though none serious) at a mobile home park, according to the Detroit Free Press in an article that went on to say, “Just an hour after a large tornado decimated Portage, just south of Kalamazoo, the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids reported a second tornado touching down near Portage at approximately 7:20 p.m.”

Decimated?  Yes, there had been some damage, and it sounded as though one home (a mobile home?) may have been destroyed, but decimated is not the right word, not when you consider its modern usage nor in the original sense of doing ten percent destruction.

So what is it with these inappropriate word choices?  News reporters are inclined to reporting the most exaggerated estimates they can find, but “decimated” would seem to go beyond mere exaggeration.  And “travesty” and “infinite” are just plain wrong.

I don’t watch or listen to news any more, so maybe I’m just not keeping up.   In puzzling about it some more this morning, it occurred to me that maybe Artificial Intelligence is helping news reporters to come up with those word choices.   Is it possible?   Is this happening wherever weather news is reported these days?

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There are 14 comments.

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  1. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It’s either laziness or stupidity or the desire to say something dramatic. Or all three. Glad you guys are okay.

    • #2
  3. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    None of those verbalistic entropics were venereal to their actual intendified meaning.

    • #3
  4. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    None of those verbalistic entropics were venereal to their actual intendified meaning.

    Literally epic and based!

    • #4
  5. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    In the words of that great ballad, “I want to be a veterinarian because I love children.”

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The Society For the Forstallment of Meretricious Circumlocutions shall hear of this

    • #6
  7. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Society For the Forstallment of Meretricious Circumlocutions shall hear of this

     

    • #7
  8. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Homestead, Florida, 1992-decimated

    Joplin, Missouri, 2011-travesty

    Every time news/weathermen blow things out of proportion, they run the risk of the boy who cried wolf. People, like yourself, will stop listening to them. A local former meteorologist who lost his job because he wouldn’t tow the climate change/hysteria line (my assumption, not proven) says the same thing on his personal Facebook page. He can’t stand it when they hype a storm when it’s really a nothing burger. I guess they are in such competition for clicks and viewers they have to make it the worst ever. Is there anywhere that doesn’t have “extreme weather” as their moniker now? 

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I had a friend who got one of those NOAA weather alert radios.  He stopped using it after being woken up at night countless times for bad weather up to 80 miles away . . .

    • #9
  10. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Homestead, Florida, 1992-decimated

    Joplin, Missouri, 2011-travesty

    Every time news/weathermen blow things out of proportion, they run the risk of the boy who cried wolf. People, like yourself, will stop listening to them. A local former meteorologist who lost his job because he wouldn’t tow the climate change/hysteria line (my assumption, not proven) says the same thing on his personal Facebook page. He can’t stand it when they hype a storm when it’s really a nothing burger. I guess they are in such competition for clicks and viewers they have to make it the worst ever. Is there anywhere that doesn’t have “extreme weather” as their moniker now?

    And some have to invent exciting new names (Bomb Cyclone!) for the kind of storms that have always existed. 

    • #10
  11. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    In Oklahoma, the meteorologists always had some new terms every year: thunder-snow, gustnado, etc.

    • #11
  12. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    • #12
  13. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    In Oklahoma, the meteorologists always had some new terms every year: thunder-snow, gustnado, etc.

    I think next time I have a big sneeze I will call it a sneezenado.

    • #13
  14. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Went through several hurricanes (South Texas, Celia and South Florida, Andrew plus a couple of others.)

    Have been in Mid-Tennessee for about as long as I was in Florida.  Also South Texas.  

    Hurricanes are a problem because they impact a large area.  Tornadoes I have  a lot more problem getting excited about because they impact such a small area. 

    I can empathize with son of Reticulator.

     

    • #14
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