Monday 23 September 2019

Weather talk finally pays off

Weather satellite (Stock image)
Weather satellite (Stock image)
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

There's a whisper going around. People have been nervously muttering it to each other. No one is saying it too loudly, for fear of being laughed out of town. But it's getting louder.

So today let's just put it out there. Run it up the flagpole, so to speak, not that you'd be running much up the flagpole right now. So here goes. Maybe. Just maybe, we should have listened to the Green Party.

There. I said it.

It's just that having spent hundreds of years where the weather was our main topic of conversation, though it generally veered between 'Soft day, thank God' and 'Great drying out', finally we seem to really have something to talk about. For all those years, while we talked about it incessantly, we were aware, in the backs of our minds, that our weather was a fairly tame beast really.

The biggest issue might be that the kids needed wetsuits for 'summer' holidays, or that you might end up spending more time than intended at the amusement arcade on your seaside sojourn. And it was hard to plan a barbecue.

We now realise that these were minor inconveniences. OK, so no one went to their caravan without a deck of cards and a back-up deck of cards. But at least you could be reasonably confident the caravan would be there when you got back from the pub. But somehow, now, we have become a country where you might encounter extreme weather. Indeed, a hurricane is suddenly no longer something you see on TV, endured by poor people on islands or by strangely cheerful Americans.

It used to be that the only Brians we had to avoid were McFadden, or maybe Adams if you got liberal with the spelling.

But things have changed.

When historians look back, they will say this new world started with that picture of Bertie Ahern, standing knee deep in floods. Since then we've had various phases of it. There was the phenomenon whereby you get different weather every half hour or so, which has become vaguely unsettling. And now, there is a perceived increase in what you might call weather "events".

Last week, the ante seemed upped again, when the whole joke of not making unnecessary journeys became deadly serious. Lots of people thought Bus Eireann was overreacting when it announced there'd be no school buses on Monday, which was the first intimation that Ophelia could be something different. "We've had weather before. We can handle it," was the attitude.

Indeed lots of people in Dublin were moaning on the day that it had all been an overreaction. But we will never know how many lives were saved by that overreaction. We've had weather before. We've had extreme weather before. But maybe because we've had two events in quick succession, it feels like maybe something has changed.

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