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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Come On, Irene

Apparently, there’s some rain storm or cold front or rogue rotary lawn sprinkler headed our way in the Boston area. “Irene”, they’ve called it. Sounds like someone who gifts fruitcake at Christmas, not some scary beast that’ll rip open your house and drag you out to sea.

(As an aside, I’ve never been all that comfortable with the naming of tropical storms with actual people names. Sure, the anthropomorphism is handy — and we’ve got to call the things something, if only to give our meteorologists a word to repeatedly scream at us while they’re reporting from a deluge at the storm front for no discernible reason.

“We’ve constructed radars and computer models and predictive algorithms that take into account wind shears and prevailing currents and which dung beetle in a nest in the middle of the Kalahari farted for how long in which direction.”

But I always thought it was unfair to people who already had the names picked, and then have to live with the associated infamy forevermore. Take Katrina, for instance. Growing up, I had a cousin named Katrina. Still do, probably — she’s out there, somewhere, barring some unfortunateness I don’t know about. And how do you think she’s felt for the last half a decade, when ninety-nine percent of people using her name are saying things like:

Katrina was the worst disaster ever.

We’re still cleaning up after Katrina.

I can’t believe I survived Katrina — what a bitch.

Katrina flattened my house and flung my cat into a parking lot.

I hope this next terrible thing isn’t as bad as… Katrina!!

That’s got to weigh on you after a while. Even if people tack on the obligatory, ‘Oh, sorry, hon — not you,’ it adds up. I can just see my cousin, all grown up now, slowly building up pressure and steam until — maybe last year, maybe next year, maybe tomorrow — she finally explodes:


I just hope she has a friend named Irene, or maybe Hugo, so she can give a little back. Kids are so cruel these days.)

Now. Irene.

There’s a certain facet of the human experience that becomes illuminated when one finds oneself in the path of an oncoming storm. It’s different than the facets revealed after the storm hits. Those facets tend to be writ more large — you may find, depending on where you live, that ‘everyone helps a neighbor‘ or ‘those who have the least sometimes give the most‘. Or possibly ‘a bitch will steal the silverware out of your ruined house if you’re not careful, so SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN‘.

Like I said, depending on where you live.

But before the storm — and well before even the calm before the storm — another, more consistent and predictable aspect of humanity is on display. Namely:

“Everybody’s got an opinion. And nobody knows shit.”

We pay some of the finest minds of our times — well, maybe not the ‘finest‘ minds, sure; but some pretty respectable semi-fine minds, at least — to predict the weather. We’ve constructed radars and computer models and predictive algorithms that take into account wind shears and prevailing currents and which dung beetle in a nest in the middle of the Kalahari farted for how long in which direction. The best they can do is paint an ever-widening ‘Cone of Hurt’ to trace the most likely path a storm might, or might not, decide to take. That’s the state of the art in meteorological divining, and it’s imperfect and unpredictable at best.

This reality in no way stops Cletus over at the gas station I go to from positing, with what looks like certainty:

Yup, that big ol’ storm’s gonna miss us. It ain’t got the sustained wind speed to make it up this fer.

Or the neighbor lady next door from claiming:

We’ll be under a foot of water by Sunday night. This thing’s heading right for us, and dumping 1.38 inches of rain every hour. Our draining infrastructure can’t sustain that.

Or the mailman:

I have it veering east by the time it hits New Jersey. Given the rate of spin and the water temperatures off Ocean City, Irene’s going to seek the ocean waters. Guaranteed.

Who’s right? None of them, of course. None of these people know anything more about storm tracking or weather models than I do. And what do I know? I know hurricanes are spinny, and they make everything wet and expensive. That’s about it.

However. One of these people — and many, many more amateur storm-nosticators up and down the Eastern seaboard and beyond — is going to seem right, based on whatever the hell this storm finally does, and for whatever inscrutable reasons it does it. And that’s only going to encourage them.

Dang it, I TOLD you that thing was gonna go and (do whatever the thing went and did)! You could learn a thing or two from me, boy-o. This tinfoil hat ain’t just for looks, y’know.

That’s the real tragedy of a storm like this — a subset of opinionated idiots finding evidence that suggests their particular take on life is validated, and therefore worthy of greater and louder exposition to as many people as possible.

(Sound like the aftermath of an election result? Like I said: tragedy.)

At least, I hope that’s the real tragedy. All the loss of life and property and pets flung through the air is terrible, obviously. So if Irene could just mosey through quickly and keep the real horrors to a minimum, then we’ll deal with the ‘told you so‘s when it’s all said and done. Just hurry up already, is all I ask. This shitstorm of asinine predictions is almost worse than the real thing.

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