independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Holy war as complaints flood in over 'disaster' weather including absence of forecast for downtown Nicaragua

A cyclist braves the weather conditions on the coast road at Sandymount, yesterday.
Photo: Tony Gavin 4/1/2014
A cyclist braves the weather conditions on the coast road at Sandymount Photo: Tony Gavin

MET Eireann has been branded a "disaster", berated for wrong forecasts and ridiculed for using phrases like 'Holy Week' by an irate public.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveals the national weather service was on the receiving end of a wide range of complaints between the start of January 2013 and last January 22.

One viewer got so annoyed they wrote in to say a forecaster was "a disaster" and "gives the most confusing report I have ever seen".

The Met employee, whose name was redacted from the FOI documents, should be "mentored by... more professional colleagues" or put "in some other position" in the office, the angry viewer said.

A separate complaint highlighted a forecaster's use of the phrase "get go", which was described as "juvenile, Facebook, populist slang".

The service was also criticised for providing outlooks by province rather than more precise geographical locations.

"The weather in Clare can be very different to Waterford City, yet you talk about Munster as if it's the same area... Why not talk about South East or North West, etc," they wondered?

A man whose wife is from Nicaragua was upset Central America was not included in the world weather report.

"We feel a bit peeved to be passed over as though we didn't exist," he wrote.

MISLEADING

Another man left a phone message to complain that forecasters were "misleading the youth" by announcing on March 1, 2013, that it was the first day of spring.

"He disputes that assertion (in a most forthright manner)... He asserts that spring starts on March 21st," a note left for the presenters stated.

Met Eireann received three complaints last March 25 over the use of the term Holy Week.

"Holy Week... is a Catholic/Christian term not recognised outside that particular religious group, and most of us would prefer a secular weather forecast, with accuracy if possible. It is quite offensive to many people to use these outdated terms in 2013," wrote one individual.

Numerous emails focused on failures to predict wet weather, with one coming from a farmer's wife whose husband was out in the field at 2am in the rain, bringing in the cows.

"We were led to believe that tonight was going to be clear, therefore the animals were not housed for the night," she said.

In all, 84 complaints were received by Met Eireann. The most recent, on January 11 last, questioned why the service classified a weather warning as an 'orange' alert, when Britain's Met Office referred to it as 'amber'.

Met Eireann's Joe Burke said all complaints are assessed. When a grievance relates to accuracy, it is looked at by senior staff.

"The head of general forecasting would look at it. If (rain) had not been forecast, we would try to find out why and, in a lot of cases, we would get back to (the individual).

"We would investigate if there's a genuine error, we would get back to the person and explain why it had occurred," he said.

Mr Burke admitted the use of terms like Holy Week "is a difficult one". "People tend to talk about Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Monday. These are Christian festivals but everyone in the country knows what you are talking about. It's not overtly religious.

ATTENTION

"I think it's a case of taking political correctness too far. We don't get people complaining about references to Christmas," he told the Herald.

Of the criticisms directed at individual forecasters, he said: "That's a fact of life. Gerry Fleming himself got a lot of attention over his habit of winking. I remember Charlie Daly, he was always very popular but he had his mannerisms."

Mr Burke said it is his understanding the official codes for the EU-wide weather alerts are 'yellow', 'orange' and 'red'.

Cormac Murphy

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