Monday, 10 March 2008

Storm Crazy

Is it just me, or has the UK gone storm crazy in the past few days? The media has been full of dire warnings since the middle of last week - apparently some terribly powerful storm was due to wreak havoc on coastlines (and, presumably, inshore) at the same time as terrifying high tides battered inadequate sea defences. The result was bound to be doom and gloom, death and destruction on a grand scale, and free news for any journalist who can pick up a pen (yes, I know, that excludes quite a few of them).

So much hype - if that's the word for the propagation of bowel-twisting terror - has gushed forth from the newspapers, television, radio, the Internet and, I assume, a few carrier pigeons, that it's been quite hard to keep any sense of perspective. But, amongst the breathless reports of imminent devastation, I gleaned that the projected storm wasn't going to be as bad as the Great Storm of 1987, and that the barometer wasn't expected to reach a new record low, or even substantially threaten the old record.

Hmm, not all THAT bad, then. Still, as a fan of spectacular weather - as in spectacularly powerful demonstrations of natural forces - I've been keeping an eye on the sky for the past 12 hours or so. Storm? What storm? It's rained a bit, it's a bit breezy, there's been some bright sunshine. I see no sign whatsoever of torrential deluges and howling gales. Shame.

Still, undeterred in my quest for meteorological mayhem, I turned to the Telegraph. Bound to be something worth reading in there, right? And sure enough, the headline was promising: Power cut as severe storm batters Britain. Aha! That's more like it!

And then I read it. Apparently, some 4,500 homes in the West Country and South Wales are short of leccy because a falling tree "crashed through power lines". Crashed? Well, I suppose it might have done, but couldn't they just have said that it knocked them down? Hardly wholesale destruction, is it? I read on...

An 11,000 ton tanker carrying gas oil and 13 crew has run into trouble off the Isle of Wight. A lifeboat is alongside if an evacuation is deemed necessary. So not exactly a critical situation, then, is it? Particularly since it's now at anchor, and will be towed to deeper water later. Panic over, if there ever was any to start with. Interesting to see that the gas oil gets higher billing than the 13 crew, though. Next...

To it's utter dejection, the Telegraph is forced to concede that there have been no reports of major damage, but keeps its hopes aloft by reminding us that the "extreme" weather will continue throughout the day. Good show...

And then, just as I was starting to think that this whole storm had been a bit of a false alarm, I read that, at the dreadful time of 04:00 AM, the roof blew off a garage in Solva, St David's, west Wales. Responding instantly to this crisis, a spokesman for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service was quick to point out that the errant roof had ... damaged a house roof, too, and water had entered the property. Nail biting stuff, but nothing to the drama unfolding in Pembrokeshire...

At 3 AM, an hour before the unfortunate Welsh garage was so rudely divested of its roof, the tin roof of a garden she dramatically, erm, became loose and was daringly secured to an adjoining bungalow. The drama! The heroism! I bet the shed owner could hardy watch, eh?

Face it, it's crap. The media, dancing to the tune of someone who will no doubtless never be revealed, has been feeding us tales of forthcoming devastation for nearly a week, and what's happened? Nothing much. It's been a bit windy, the sea's a bit choppy, there's been a drop of rain. Pretty much as you'd expect for the time of year, in fact.

No amount nocturnal shed re-roofing is going to turn this fiasco into a catastrophe that can, even remotely, be blamed on global warming, binge drinking or smoking. In short, it's a non-event which the Nanny State has used to yet again dish out yards and yards of pointless "advice" - don't go near the sea in gale, be careful if you have to drive etc. In short, something that could easily have been an "and finally" item tacked onto the end of just about any news bulletin in the past few days became major news.

Headlines, big, screaming and doom-laden were not required - and I wouldn't care, but it's not even a slow news day! Still, it makes a change to get the ongoing humiliation of Gordon Brown-Trousers off the front pages, even if we've got to fabricate a natural disaster to do it.

Billy Seggars.

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