Another Aftermath…


Entry 01/28/2015 07:47:35 AM – Mentat 863

So the first big snowstorm has hit the area and moved on. While I’m a bit hesitant branding it the “Blizzard of 2015” I can safely say it was a blizzard. While it wasn’t as bad as the Blizzard of 1978 that I can still easily recall, it was certainly worse than most of the snowstorms that we’ve had hit the area since I’ve moved back to the Tundras of New England in 2006. I know I’ll be going out there shortly, but refuse at the moment because I need to eat and then I need to have my coffee before I face any heavy activity that’s coupled with geniality with my neighbors. If I skip out on the coffee, the neighbors could face the Wrath of Michael™… An ugly monster that makes Michael Myers (of Halloween fame) look like Susie Homemaker. But I digress. The purpose of this is both observations and chastisements. To the media, to the Local and State Governments and finally to the Citizens at large. This is based on the observations and experiences I’ve had both as the teenager in 1978 and the middle-aged man that I now am in 2015.

While I know that compassion should be practiced in order to yield positive results, the issues that I’m going to address here require force, passion and strength to initiate the necessary breakings of bad habits in order to transform them to better habits. 

The Media

To Channels 6, 10, and 12… To the local AM & FM radio stations that contributed to this… To the Producers, Managers, Meteorologists and even Directors that control broadcasting of this information to the general public. Doppler weather and all these supposed tools boasted on each of the channels that are easily access to all you — the meteorologists to get pinpoint weather accuracy — should be able to tell you when the storm is going to hit, how hard it’s going to hit, and what areas are going to be impacted the hardest. Yet today, you’re no more nor less accurate since the Blizzard that hit in 1978. You still have an equal amount of misses as you do successful predictions.

There’s a saying, “A meteorologist can be more than 80% wrong, and still keep their jobs…”

With this in mind, this doesn’t mean that for rating’s sake you should be broadcasting up to the minute news on the storm beating the brush like hunters to cause the public to fall into a state of panic. Sure, you’ve been fortunate… So far… that injuries and/or deaths have not occurred by the panic that was caused by the sensationalistic reporting of this storm as “The Blizzard of 2015!” and then continued to beat on that phrase like teenagers to a new slang word from Urban Dictionary (or for you business types like the new catchphrase of new technology).

But, it’s only a matter of time before the panic caused by this sensationalism does in fact injure or kill someone.

The fact is, as I have reached the half-century mark I have seen that the social climate has indeed been more prone to panic now than what I remember of the 70s and 80s. While I would like to find and blame a culprit to this (and know it’s not 9/11 in this case, but it did contribute), the fact is that it’s a scary world and the irresponsible method for reporting the news all for the sake of ratings smacks of harum-scarum. Yellow-Journalism. The kind of sensationalism that creates needless fear, uncertainty and doubt (of FUD as I used to call it in various discussions) and causes people to draw the wrong conclusions at the wrong times.

So you channels and the news teams that run those channels missed the call in 1978 when that blizzard hit. I get it. But at the same time it doesn’t mean that you — the people that bring such news — need to overcompensate each and every year since 1978 by scaring people needlessly and witlessly?

It doesn’t take much for you (the meteorologists, directors or producers), to look out the window, get out on the streets, even drive in traffic to see the panic your news reports of this storm have created. Hell, get an intern to report it back to you.

Taking my daily walk around 4 PM on Monday night, I saw the panic it was creating by the traffic jams, the stops ups, the bottlenecks and the panic-induced anger in drivers rushing to get out of the city (of Providence). The routine horn-blowing that I heard when I was walking Broadway was mildly amusing, but hearing it when I was coming up Federal Street was extremely sad given it was near constant and could see on the streets that emptied onto Broadway that the traffic had completely stopped.

Finally don’t put the blame for your lack of responsibility of reporting to the masses that follow you. Don’t blame them for the panic that was caused. You’re equally responsible for the blame for the panic created with the masses for those news reports, interruptions and “up-to-the-minute” weathercasts that went out from the morning when it was discovered a storm was coming to well after 6 PM when there was about an inch of snow on the ground.

If you don’t think you’re responsible, ponder this. Screaming “fire” in a crowed theater means the person doing that screaming is liable for all damage and/or panic caused by the participants at that theater. When it does end up being proven a death or a number of deaths were caused by your shield clattering about this weather — in the Litigious Society – It’s only a matter of time before someone gets it into their head to sue the channel they were watching. Do we actually have to wait until this happens before you channels (and the teams that run them) learn to cut back and learn sensibility? You might think that you’re protected by the First Amendment and the subsequent laws that were made to cover the media… But in a Mommy Government keep it up and watch how those rights that have protected you whittle down to nothing.

Local & State Government

To the current Governor and announcements made in the early afternoon. I understand that you wanted to feel responsible for the voting public in the coming storm. At the same time, declaring a state of emergency and also putting a travel ban into effect at midnight from early afternoon smacked of the same irresponsibility that the News had about beating the public into a frenzy. Strange, I know that a state of emergency can be called at any time, yet my experience with them up until the 21st century has been that it’s done after the fact and not before. You (and your office) are equally to blame for the panic that I was seeing on the streets.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part the state government’s answering to the growing panic was good. Though, it could have been better. While my suggestions that I have in my head smack of violating the First Amendment of government interfering with the media, I think something needs to be worked out between the state and the news sources in acting far more responsible for the current good of the public instead of one source causing the fires and the other source trying its best to putting the fires out.

To the Current Mayor of Providence, before you go patting yourself on the back on how well you did, allow me to point out something that continued since your predecessor: Angel Tavares. That is the irresponsible allocation of city resources to the plowing of the streets of the City of Providence. From my house on Piedmont Street in Federal Hill, I heard plows going up the street (on Piedmont) with some regularity well past 10 PM when there was nothing more than a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Having woke up several times through the night, I saw well into the early morning little snowfall or drifting until almost 5 AM when it began picking up. When I was out attempting to shovel exits from my door and the door of the house at 6 Piedmont St (where my mother lives), I could see heavy plows (the size of dump trucks) routinely plowing Atwells Ave.

Sometime before 2:30 PM on Tuesday it appeared that a plow did make an attempt to go up Piedmont Street and stopped at 6 Piedmont causing a road block larger than a hook and ladder could push through; making it impossible to pass if there had been any fire on this street. Or even an ambulance if there were a medical emergency. Sure the fire hydrant that supplied this area of Piedmont street was in fact cleared, thanks largely to the high winds that whipped through the area, but would have been useless because of the wall of snow created by that one attempt would cause a stop and delay of the fire department trying to respond.

While it was nice that the trucks did resume plowing up Piedmont and Adams Street after 7 PM, waking up this morning, the residents saw that not only was the fire hydrant was completely buried but any sander that was plowing the street had the distributor for that sand and salt set too high and ended up sanding the banks of snow against the side of the road and not the road itself!

What a complete mismanagement of resources! As I said this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. I’ve seen this in the years I’ve lived in the Valley and had to trudge up Federal Hill to make sure my mother was doing all right. Plows pushing about the streets when there’s little snow, and then disappear when the real storm starts. Because of this poor activity and mismanagement of resources, I get the distinct impression that the Department of Public Works was told to “look busy” at the beginning of the storm and then told to back off until much later.

This is how you save money? By looking busy when the accumulated snow is low to the ground and then disappear when the real storm hits?!?

Quite the change since I was in elementary school and through junior and senior high school (and after the Blizzard of 1978) when I recall seeing the plows out on the streets when there was more than 4 inches of snow accumulated on the ground regardless of the time. It didn’t matter whether it was 10 PM, 2 AM, 4 AM or any other time of the day and night. When it was a hazard to drive, the Department of Public Works was out plowing — regardless of cars (and parking bans) out on the street.

These employees knew of the hazards and the responsibilities of doing their job. They knew that it was potentially a 24 hours a day on-call job and worked them. They knew that it was also for the safety of the city and the residents coming in and going out of the city. And talking to a couple in recent years, I know that these plow operators smile when they mention how much money they get for being on-call. So it’s not a matter of initiative that they do what they do; it’s a matter of being authorized. So that blame falls on you — and your office — to getting it done correctly. While I might not be a fan of you or your predecessor, I know in the past other mayors have been able to “getting it done”, so it raises the question: What’s your excuse?

You want an attaboy? All right, I’ll give you one… For you, your office and the Department of Public Works for putting Adams Street back on the plowing map. While it seriously needs salting, both my neighbors and I have commented that this year, “was the best we had seen Adams Street in a long time…” Had your predecessor gave that road the same attention during his time in office, my mother wouldn’t have spent the first five months of the 2014 year in the hospital and housebound for the broken hip she had suffered from the 6 inches of snow and ice that were left on Adams Street last year for being neglected from routine city plowing because there happened to be no houses facing onto that street. Don’t worry though, we’re not the sort of people to bring the city to court for this neglect. We prefer to bitch about it when the time’s right. And the time is right.

This attaboy is conditional, of course, because the Department of Public Works is also responsible for the Atwells Avenue Bridge above Route 6 that always is a safety hazard for any pedestrians trying to use it as they make their way to the Supermarket during the winter. It has been done in the past by the offices that answer to you. I remember this from my teenage years and traveling to the Almacs that was at the bottom of that hill.

Because believe me, there’s a hell of lot of pedestrian traffic over that bridge at all times of the year. You, anyone from your office or from the Department of Public Works are invited to stop by the bridge to see the telltale signs of that walking traffic on the bridge as the footprints turn to ice from defrosting and refreezing from November to April.

That attaboy is also conditional in your involvement in motivating the landlords and property owners of the City of Providence for doing what is required of them for the sidewalk areas of the streets where their property is located. As I recall from growing up and living in several cities in this state that the landlord and land owners of any properly within the confines of any city are responsible for keeping their sidewalks — not just their driveways — clear for pedestrian traffic. I recall it being taught to me when I was a teenager that I had to shovel the driveway and sidewalks for my step-father’s house. Because failing to do so entailed fines toward my step-father to the sidewalks abutting ALL his property.

I know the initiative with fines (and prison sentences) work having experienced it first-hand being a tourist to San Francisco and Los Angeles and watching drivers stop the instant my foot hit the crosswalk on the street. This happened regardless of the color of the pedestrian crosswalk signal. Quite impressive given that we have laws here in Rhode Island that state the Pedestrian always has the right of way, and can still be hit by drivers ignoring the crossing pedestrian.

Post Edit: I just came in after assisting my 80+ year old landlord with clearing pathways through the snow for his property and he informed me that he had received a notice from the state that fines can reach upward to $500 for violations for not making a clear path on the sidewalks for pedestrians. This is several years old… Make sure – Your Honor – that you enforce these laws. Issuing such threats are useless unless you follow up on them by issuing fines against all transgressors, not the ones you can easily find. After all, this is the Information Age; if I can find he name and contact information of a landlord for a property in question, so can you.

The Rest (That’s the citizens of the City & State)

No amount of cussing or swearing can be done by me to express the level of disgust I have for my peers and the residents living in this state (and the tri-state area) that I encountered before this storm. The panic shopping, the panic driving to get home before the storm hit, the road rage I was seeing of people as they were stuck in traffic. The complete selfishness and lack of empathy that occurs during the storm. And no amount of being friendly banter or joviality after the storm is going to salve this disgust.

As I’ve said I’m 50 years old. More than 40 years of it has been in the State of Rhode Island. In my lifetime, I have endured 7 hurricanes, more than 12 tropical storms, more than a couple of floods, a couple of tornados (some of them here in the Rhode Island area), and in my lifetime of travel, a typhoon, a waterspout and almost had the pleasure of encountering a tsunami. I have survived these in houses more than a century old, in tents (yes, one of them occurred when I was a teen and camping with the Boy Scouts at Camp Yagoog when I was a pre-teen), when I was driving, leaving work to head home to Woonsocket in a little Datsun B210 that had as much weight and traction as a bicycle on an ice skating rink. And of course more snow storms, ice storms and blizzards than I could shake a stick at. Yes, including the Blizzard of 1978 when I had the pleasure of riding for my life in a bus on icy and slippery roads. Where the bus driver was Christian enough to say, “get on, I’ll get you home” when I never took buses to junior high school because I didn’t live far enough away from the school or my family couldn’t afford the fees along with the school’s tuition (this was Mount St. Charles Academy). So yes, I’ve survived through my fair share of storms.

I’m still alive. I’m still in good health and pretty sane through all these storms.

Yet the amount of panic and rage I was seeing was disgusting. Between people rushing to the markets for Milk, Bread, Eggs, Bottled Water and even Junk Food for the coming storm. To people screaming out the windows at the people in front of them when they weren’t moving fast enough. To people riding their horns thinking this will make those in front of them move faster.

At one point during my daily walk, I was telling the people screaming or yelling out the window of their cars or beeping their horns in rage that the traffic’s blocked all the way up to the on-ramps of the highway they themselves were aiming for. The dirty looks I was getting (for having a wan smile on my face) were amazing.

The thing is, this is New England! The weather here frequently makes local and national news. The calamities that come (and go) through the years is as tumultuous as it has been capricious. It’s the kind of drama remembered by ourselves, our grandparents and the old timers that have told us about what it was like when they were children. New England doesn’t have the sort of calm and lazy weather as San Diego has. As Florida gets when it’s outside of Hurricane Season. We don’t have the sort of calm 4 seasons weather written about in books, seen on our favorite shows on television, or heard about in stories. Sure, these idyllic seasons happen sometimes, but at the same time we New Englanders know about Mother Nature’s tantrums. And year after every year, like clockwork New Englanders panic because they’re like Chicken Little thinking the world is going to end because of some blizzard (in the winter) or hurricane (in the summer) or some flooding (in the spring) is about to strike. Like this is the first time it’s going to happen and proceed to act like Rhode Island is going to slide into the Atlantic with this (or that) storm’s passing.

I can deal with the whinging, the whining, the complaints that come with the threats of city and state stopping weather. This is New England — that’s what we do as well: complain up a storm about the things out of our control. But this panic? Ugh, it’s both tiring and draining. It accomplishes nothing.

Don’t like the weather? Think it’s better elsewhere? Fine. Leave. Find somewhere in the world to settle where you think the weather’s idyllic. Where it’s predictable. Where it’s what you want to look forward to. Because don’t for once think that this is the LAST time this sort of storm is going to happen in your lifetime. It continues to happen and has, long before The Year with No Summer.

You’re going to find where you thought was idyllic has its own issues. I can tell you from experience the mass migration of Midwesterners to the Atlanta area were quite shocked that Atlanta got snow and ice in the winter — worse than the state they left and made worse because the Department of Public Works there was in crappier shape than the area they left. Believe me, I told them when the Midwesterners bitched and moaned about the ice and snow that if they were looking forward winters with no snow and ice when they moved to the area that they should have kept going until they saw palm trees along the highway. Yes, the Ice Storms in the Atlanta pale in comparison to the ice storms we get here in New England. Four of them happened in the 10 years I lived there. Then there’s the heat (and humidity) of the South and Midwest. The mud slides and the forest fires of the west coast. The flooding and hurricanes of the Mid-Atlantic. Nowhere you go in the country is going to be the sort of “nice” you dream about. And best (or worst) of all, you’ll probably end up back here (like I did after a decade in the South), because yep… Something about New England always calls us home. Even if that call means coming home in a pine box.

So suck it up and deal with it.

Because you — the public — are as much to blame about this panic as the news that beat you into the frenzy they did with their sensationalism and ratings grab reporting the “Blizzard of 2015” every 10 minutes. Because of whatever delusions you had going in your head that such weather we just survived through never happens here. Or the delusion that makes you think this won’t ever happen again.

I’ll say this as I wrap up. Because if you’re reading this — you’re still here. You’re still alive. You still have power, and an internet connection, and television. You have heat, running water, and the ability to cook. Hell you still have some working phone in the house to contact others you care about to ensure they’re doing ok and/or heading to them to help them out if they can’t care for themselves. And if any of these comforts and amenities are out — if you’re older than 25 and younger than 80 — you know how to handle yourself through the lack until it’s restored. Because no amount of panic is going to make these things magically come back on. And not amount of rage is going to make people restoring those services move any faster.

So again, suck it up and deal with it.

And with that… I’m off… I need to use the soapbox I was on to help with kindling for the fireplace. Until the next time.

%d bloggers like this: