Editorial: Bit parts in a disaster movie

The dirty little secret among Florida retirees used to be that their favorite television viewing was the Weather Channel. Seeing how cold and miserable the places were where they had migrated from (1) reconfirmed their decision to move and (2) gave them joy in the discomfort of those they had left behind.

So it is that we here in Rappahannock, too hot and too dry, can take some relief in knowing that others elsewhere are suffering, too – and often more intensely.

Even in typically cool coastal New England, where some Rappahannock residents are known to estivate, the unusual heat and mugginess there make them think they might as well be back in Virginia commiserating with the rest of us. But here it wouldn’t be surprising if Rappahannock’s ubiquitous deer ticks, who need moisture, weren’t trying to find their own vacationland.

For those of us who like to watch the Weather Channel, the forecasts and video coverage seem more appropriate to a summer blockbuster disaster movie.

So far this year localities across the nation have recorded 40,000 daily heat records. That’s double the number last year, and that too was more than previous years. In times past, not all that long ago, for every daily heat record, there would be somewhere else a record daily low. Now we’re running 10 heat records annually for every record low.

The wildfires out west are apparently more devastating and occurring earlier in the season than ever before. America’s corn belt is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. The freaky weather event called a “derecho” that hit Rappahannock two weeks ago left 5 million people without power across the Midwest and East. That’s almost double the number out after Hurricane Katrina’s attack on the power grid. As the governor of one of the hardest-hit states put it, “We experienced a hurricane event without the warning that hurricanes offer.”

Storms, winds, floods: These natural catastrophic events 30 years ago averaged worldwide about 400 annually. Last year they numbered more than 1,000.

As one commentator remarked, “Welcome to the rest of our lives.”

But says the head of ExxonMobil, “We’ll learn to adapt.”

Walter Nicklin