While social media freaked out over every raindrop and rumble of thunder, Tulsa’s television meteorologists kept calm.
Once was a time when local weather broadcasters used over-the-top language or over-hyped storms. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Monday night’s rash of storms caused some major damage in northeast Oklahoma, but many lives were likely saved. That took the work of local meteorologists pulling all-nighters to make sure people had accurate and detailed information.
It also required those weather pros to remain cool under pressure, even if their own newsrooms lost air conditioning in power outages.
Social media is trash in severe storms. Amateur weather watchers talking of doom and the truly frightened ramping up anxiety doesn’t help anything.
The lead-up to Monday’s storms was bad. People were sharing memes with words like “historic” and “deadly.”
One guy asked if people had updated their wills due to potential violent storms. That seemed too cynical.
FOX23 chief meteorologist James Aydelott noticed this too, which prompted a posting before the storms arrived.
“The level of histrionics and amount of needless hyperbole from ‘meteorologists’ and ‘media’rologists about tomorrow’s Oklahoma weather is counterproductive and potentially harmful. Scaring people doesn’t work. Calmly providing relevant information does work.”
Then, Aydelott joined other meteorologists in explaining where to get information and how to be safe.
If someone is not aware of weather, this has to be purposeful. There are phone apps, radio, media websites and television broadcasts to follow.
Everyone seems to have a favorite meteorologist or station. I flip to different channels but land on Adyelott’s broadcast most often.
At a posh holiday party last year, he showed up dressed as Uncle Eddie from “Christmas Vacation,” complete with the moose eggnog cup. I figure a guy doing that probably knows weather pretty well.
Once the storms swept in, sirens in Tulsa went off for a long, long time. Those crucial warning bells warn people of possible danger but don’t provide details.
After a while, the sirens seemed to be crying wolf. Even our scaredy cat came out from under the bed with a yawn.
But as long as the sirens were sounding, we were watching live broadcasts.
Oklahomans aren’t usually weak-kneed about storms. We tend to look outside until the last moment.
The severity of tornadoes past — particularly those in Moore — have changed that perspective.
Schools were cancelled, prompting parents to take sides about the decision.
It felt odd leaving my teen and pre-teen alone, but I can’t fault the district for how it made the tough call.
Not all schools have safe rooms (yet), and some students would be driving or walking to school in potentially dangerous weather.
It’s a blessing local post-storm photos and stories are focused on re-building fallen structures, not lost lives.
The chaos, uncertainty and panic surrounding storms can be overwhelming.
That’s why tuning into the unflappable local meteorologists was reassuring.
Though this round has passed, don’t forget it’s still Oklahoma and still spring. There will be more to come.
“Don’t spread panicked posts loaded with superlatives; share posts with facts, timelines and links to official National Weather Service forecasts and outlooks,” Aydelott said in his post.
“It’s May in Oklahoma. We’ll get through what Mother Nature throws our way. Most of us will be complaining about the heat and humidity in just a few weeks.”