Top News

Editorial: Tale of two snow storms

This bicycle enthusiast near the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's was undeterred by Saturday's snow storm.
Winter takes St. John’s by storm. — Telegram file photo

It was the biggest of storms, it was the smallest of storms.

To quote Charles Dickens, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

It was, in the end, the storm that wasn’t, and, in fact, never even was.

It was also social media, in all its tattered glory.

It’s not clear where it started, but by Wednesday morning, it was fully entrenched, making the rounds on Facebook locally and gaining speed: batten down the hatches, fill the cupboards with storm chips, crowd the grocery store lineups and storm the ramparts of the local liquor outlet.

Starting Friday night, it was supposed to pound down on the city, a predicted 30 centimetres of snow, along with high winds.

No, this was an epic storm, a direct hit, a truly historic storm — and that last part is true, precisely because the storm was, itself, conjured completely out of history.

From account to account it spread; some talked of changing plans, other lamented the weekend timing.

And, no, it wasn’t the usual weather-hype, where the hollow “as much as 30 centimetres” morphs into our heads into a promise of 30 centimetres. (A forecast of “as much as 30 centimetres” is accurate, after all, whether you get 30, 15, five or even two centimetres, in the end.)

No, this was an epic storm, a direct hit, a truly historic storm — and that last part is true, precisely because the storm was, itself, conjured completely out of history.

It was, in fact, the forecast from a year ago.

Somehow, a January 2017 warning found traction in 2018 instead, and spread like wildfire.

Meteorologists were reduced to having to post their own social media statements, trying to debunk the rumour: “Folks if you’re seeing a story about a ‘blizzard’ heading for St. John’s this weekend... that’s from last January. There is very little snow in the forecast for the Avalon this weekend,” wrote NTV’s meteorologist Eddie Sheerr.

But that horse was already well out of the barn, out in the neighbour’s field, eating the corn.

The storm had gone from social media to conversations in the workplace kitchenette. It had burst its electronic bounds, and preparations were being made.

In this time when all of us are our own media, publishing our own stories, don’t forget to ask the simple questions: what if the person who is talking to me is wrong? What if there’s another side to the story? Who else should I talk to? Where do I go to get more (or better) information?

Consider the source. Consider the date. Consider the fact that misery loves company and that rumour loves social media more than anything ever created.

And govern yourself accordingly.

Recent Stories