6 January 2009

Turn Around..Don't Drown

Posted by Dan Satterfield

If you ask any Synoptic forecaster like myself, what the number one weather killer is, you will likely get the same answer.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a private TV Meteorologist like me, or a NOAA forecaster, or one from Environment Canada, the BBC, or the UK Met. Office.

It’s not tornadoes or hurricanes. It’s heat. (You thought I was going to say flash flooding didn’t you!)
At least in America it’s heat! We are too used to Air Conditioning here.

My grandmother lived through the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. She would sit outside in 110 degree heat and drink ice tea and feel just fine! I’m a wimp. I hate the heat. (Cold I like!)

Flash flooding is the second most frequent weather killer. It may be number one in many countries. Bangladesh and India come to mind. (Every person I know from India is smart and friendly…I want to go there!)

The “Get there itis” that people have when driving, causes them to drive into a flooded intersection more often than not. If you do the math, (I can send it to you, if you want) you will find that water moving at 10 mph only has to be about 8-12 inches deep to force your car off the road. If the water is moving faster, even less.

People email me all the time who have a real phobia of tornadoes, and hurricanes. Yet they will drive through flooded intersections, and play on a ball field when a thunderstorm is coming. Lightning is almost as deadly as flash flooding.

No we do not issue lightning warnings. (The PGA does!). Perhaps we should. The Psychology of how people react to threats has always fascinated me.  Thousands die each year in road accidents, but a plane crash with 5 fatalities makes front page news.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent millions on a campaign to get people to recognize the dangers of flash floods. The slogan, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” was developed. At a recent American Meteorological Society weather conference, a survey of forecasters found that less than half knew it!!

Now at least, YOU DO!