I grew up at a time when weather forecasting was coming into its own, when something called the Travelers Weather Service was the go-to authority for what would be happening atmospherically in the days to come.
What would be happening atmospherically in the days to come: weather.
The 1950s were a wild decade in new England: In 1954 Hurricane Carol slammed into the Connecticut and Rhode Island shorelines. The category-3 storm spun up the east coast and crossed Long Island before coming ashore near Groton, CT. Sixty-five New Englanders died and nearly two-thousand homes were destroyed.
The following August Hurricane Diane made landfall on the coast of North Carolina and lost its punch over the Appalachians. Once that happened, nobody worried about the wind anymore, but they forgot about the rain. Five days earlier a stronger storm, Connie, moved well to our west but dropped ten inches of rain in New York and copious amounts in Connecticut. Diane’s rain fell on saturated ground—five inches in Hartford, but a whopping 16 inches near Torrington on the Housatonic. Every bridge across the Naugatuck River was damaged or destroyed. Seventy-seven deaths were recorded in Connecticut.
The fifties were wild, but forecasters were taming them.
I provide these statistics not to impress you with the storms’ fury, but to show you how far we’ve come. Property damage remains high, but people do not die in the numbers they once did. That weather awakening that began in the fifties continued unabated until—, well until last week when our idiot president—and let’s call the sociopathic liar what he is from now on—decided he knew more than meteorological experts and instead of warning people to pay attention to forecasters, warned them to avoid Alabama. Not even Neil Young thinks that's true anymore.
I’m not going to rehash the story of the Hurricane that didn’t strike Alabama or Trumps pathetically doctored, three-year-old's hurricane map. No, my gripe today is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For decades NOAA has spearheaded the advancement of forecasting, has gained the credibility of everyone whose day-to-day existence is dependent upon the weather—from pilots to farmers to snow-plow operators. But in one act of cowardice, NOAA undid decades of good will and hard-earned respect when they defended Trump's idiocy.
To be bullied by Trump is nothing new—ask every Republican senator terrified of being primaried. But to have wisdom and science behind you, and yet be bullied by an ignoramus is to notify us that we can no longer trust the experts—that although the individual forecasters will continue to do a superb job, they realize they may be undermined on a whim and their forecasts may be subverted by a craven bureaucracy and a different kind of blowhard.
Hurricane Dorian may have spared much of the United States, but the damage done by this president and by the cowards who fawn over him, as usual, has little to do with dollars and cents.