Granted, I haven't lived my entire life in Wisconsin, but I've been here for the majority of it, and I've never, ever seen a tornado.
I almost did, once. At summer camp in the '80s, I saw what I thought was a "proto tornado" swirling around in the sky, as severe weather forced all the campers into the shelter. In retrospect, it could've just been a cloud, though.
For the zero tornadoes I've seen in my life, I've scurried into the basement at least 100 times, I'm sure. Even hearing the words "Dodge ... Waukesha ... Walworth" remind me of tornado warnings breaking into Scooby Doo on channel 18 after school.
Of course, tornadoes do actually touch down, and it's nothing short of tragic that 188 people died Sunday in Joplin, Missouri. But on average, tornadoes kill about 60 people per year, according to the National Weather Service. That's about the same number of people killed by lighting strikes (55 per year over the last 30 years). Yes, every death matters, and if education/warnings can reduce that number even more, I'm all for it.
To a certain extent.
I'm just asking, and please tell me if I'm wrong or insensitive: is there a proportional amount of attention being paid to tornadoes relative to the incredibly few people who are killed by them?
I mean, 27,000 men in American die of prostate cancer each year. Approximately 40,000 women in American die of breast cancer. Yet, our media spends a ton of time on severe weather. Is it overkill? Could we all just buy cheap weather radios and call it a day?
Or, is severe weather so important that even something so rare as a killer tornado is worth any and all coverage it receives?
Of course, it's widely documented that most media decisions are driven by ratings, but since I'm not taking that into consideration, what about the public health component?
Is it TV and radio's job to protect and inform, and should we all scurry downstairs several times a summer, when it's overwhelmingly likely that we'll never once witness a tornado in action? Or should we roll the dice, hit the deck when the tornado siren roars and expect our Scooby Doo to be broadcast uninterrupted?
I honestly don't know how I feel about this. How about you? Sound off using the Talkback feature below.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.