Monday, 28 October 2013

Stormy Weather!

We do like a bit of weather, don't we! You know what they say, if you want to pick a "safe" topic of conversation with someone in the UK, you can't go wrong with Health & Weather! Sure enough wherever you go you can always hear folk talking....well, no, let's be honest, moaning....about the weather - it's too hot, too cold, too wet, not enough rain.....but of course it's always "good for the garden" isn't it, so that's alright then! The last few days the media, Twitter and general conversation have been dominated by what some have been describing as a "SuperStorm" which has swept across the southern and eastern parts of the UK. Sounds scary that doesn't it - and quite understandably people have indeed been quite terrified by it. The truth of it is somewhat more dull and ordinary - a severe patch of low pressure causing stronger than average winds - some possibly gusting to hurricane-force - across Southern mainland Britain and offlying islands. You can see why the media went for the rather catchier (if not terrifically accurate!) "SuperStorm", can't you!

In great swathes of the UK, the people living there are used to winds of the strength we were forecast, and more. The scottish islands for example - the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland - have winds of steady 40mph and gusts to 65mph and stronger on a regular basis right through the winter. That is far in excess of what was forecast for much of London and the South East. If you want proof of this, I give you the fact that they have almost NO trees on most of these islands - no, they haven't all blown down and killed people, they don't suit those areas so they are simply not planted, for the most part. Those that are are of a type that suit the conditions, and they are planted densely, in plantation form. Common sense is used.

Spot any trees?!
A few years ago in a serious storm on the Hebrides a family of 5 were swept away as they crossed a causeway having left their home in fear of rising floodwaters. Winds that night peaked at 124mph in the area they were travelling through, and waves crashing over the causeway simply washed the car away. They stood not a chance. The four younger members of the family - husband, wife, two small children - had only recently moved to the area, and were renovating a cottage in an area notorious for serious flooding. The grandfather who also lost his life was a long term resident of the Islands and really should have known the risk - but faced with the panic of a Four and a Six year old, and their parents, his own home on the other side of the causeway must have seemed like a sanctuary. We have no idea of knowing the thought processes but clearly the decision was very, very wrong. Since then the Causeways have all been reinforced, and in the worst weather they are closed completely until the worst has passed. We visited the islands just a few months later and spoke with locals who were still deeply shocked by the whole thing. "We lost our fence, and the greenhouse. Oh and my daughter's house lost its roof, but those things can be repaired, we've got off lightly really" one lady said to me. There was just an overwhelming sadness for the family - nobody said "Oh well they were warned" or "they shouldn't have been out in it". There were no overtones of "serves them right" - it was just quietly accepted that yes, there had been warnings, and no, they shouldn't have been out, but that they were doing what they thought was the safest thing for them at the time, and that the outcome was tragic. Sadly down here and 8 years on and I've been reading some truly awful comments on twitter regarding a chap who sadly lost his life this morning - suggestions that effectively he got what was coming to him as "it's simple ppl were warned NOT to travel " said one kindhearted soul... At this point there had been no publicity about what this poor chap did for a living - he could have been a Policeman, Fireman or Doctor for all these folk knew. Callousness like that, and uninformed at that, is something I find extremely hard to swallow - I have no problem with someone disagreeing with my views, but that's beyond belief, especially in a public arena where his family could happen upon it. I've voted with my feet and used the block button. A friend told me that she'd seen people complaining on Facebook complaining that "it wasn't much of a storm" and saying that was a "disappointment" - yes, seriously!

Remember "There's going to be a bit of wind, but if people are sensible it shouldn't disrupt life too much" doesn't sell papers - look carefully at the facts of a situation like this and make up your own mind - don't get swept along on a tide of media-whipped excitement. Serious weather conditions are not something we have to encounter all that often on mainland Britain (thank goodness!), and certainly not in the South, when something serious does come along it's really not a cause of excitement, and certainly shouldn't be gloried in or looked on as just a good excuse for a day off work!


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