Putting this here so you guys don't miss it. Did you know there was a tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean two weeks ago? Go read terrypinder's diary about it.
I posted my 200th weather diary this afternoon. In honor of the arbitrary milestone, I decided to write a little bit and ask you guys a question. Most of this diary is personal rambling. If you don't want to read that blather and just want to get to the "stick to the weather" part, scroll down below the orange squiggle, you spoil sport, you.
When I became a regular internet user in high school, I ached for a place to write about the weather. I was active on several internet gaming forums (centered around Pogo.com, if any of you have heard of it) and frequently posted weather information in their general purpose threads, much to the chagrin of the people in charge. I was even banned a few times for my excessive weather ramblings, with one administrator telling me that "people in Arizona don't care about a thundercloud in Virginia."
I found a few discussion boards dedicated to the weather, but many of the members were actual meteorologists or avid weather weenies who were incredibly hostile to anyone who didn't match their self-proclaimed superior intellect. Simple questions about where to find models or how certain weather processes formed were promptly shot down, laughed away, and deleted because it was considered "clutter" and beneath them.
Sometime during my junior year I found a little blog in the corner of the internet called the Capital Weather Gang, a weather blog focused on the DC area (where I lived at the time), and I instantly fell in love. Not only did the posts and lengthy comment threads involve people who were interested in the weather, but they lived in my area! Some of the commenters lived a few streets over. It was great. For the next two years I commented as "weatherdudeVA" and fulfilled my need for basic weather chatter, but it wasn't enough. I wanted to write, not just comment.
During the 2008 election, my good friend Libra (who write amazingly epic rants but refuses to participate due to the hostility) pointed me to a website full of great political wisdom (where'd that go?) about the upcoming election between Obama and Grandpa Simpson. I started reading and quickly lost interest due to the amount of arguing, but I never got around to deleting "DailyKos" from the top of my cluttered bookmarks.
A year later in my freshman year of college, I got bored with those read-only political blogs, and started reading DailyKos again to bask in what was, at the time, relative sanity. I started reading Cheers & Jeers faithfully, made an account, and a month later finally became active. I started slowly, writing a few really bad diaries, commenting in C&J, and slowly got the hang of it.
As I read and participated in the site more, I started to notice that there was one major topic that nobody touched. We had diaries about elections, women's rights, racial issues, energy alternatives, infrastructure, labor, health care, gay rights, the economy, education, climate change, and practically everything else one could think of, with one glaring exception -- the weather. Every once and a while there was a little blip about weather disasters or how certain recent weather events could be linked to climate change, but nothing consistent. They were just blurbs. I had an itch to write about the weather, and I thought "why not?"
My 11th diary on DailyKos was my first weather diary, a half-assed liveblog of the major April 24, 2010 outbreak that most infamously produced a 1.75 mile wide EF-4 tornado that considerably damaged Yazoo City, Mississippi.
It went over pretty well. And I kept writing weather diaries in an attempt to figure out what you guys were receptive to, and what you didn't care for. By the time the horrific tornado outbreaks of 2011 rolled around, I figured out a problem that many weather outlets (television or internet) have yet to adapt to -- bad storms get tedious fast, so save the hoopla for the major, extremely dangerous severe weather outbreaks.
That's what I've done, and that's what you guys seem to like. From the worst tornado outbreak in American history to last year's Ohio-DC Derecho to the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma just a couple of weeks ago, you all have consistently supported my efforts to warn as many people as humanly possible of impending weather disasters, both here and on my Facebook page.
That's why I write weather diaries here. Not to type, but to warn anyone who avidly reads or just stumbles upon this website that severe weather is threatening. It scares the hell out of me how many times people have commented or privately messaged me to tell me that my weather diary was the only reason they knew severe weather would impact their location and gave them time to get out of harm's way. It's stuff like that why I keep writing.
Me me me. I hate writing about myself, so why am I blathering on like this? Good question. Over the last few months, a select few folks who dislike me and my political views have taken to telling me to "stick to the weather" as a condescending way to convey their displeasure with me. I've decided to embrace this petty insult. I should stick to the weather, which is why in addition to participating in politics, I'm going to write even more weather diaries.
But to do this, I need to know what you guys do and don't want. One of the golden rules of writing on a site like this is to know your audience.
I know what you guys don't want. Truuuust me. It's easier to start off by addressing some of those points:
1) Why ignore everyone west of the Rockies?
Severe weather impacts everyone at one point or another. I mainly focus on severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that happen east of the Rockies (much to the annoyance of our many west coast Kossacks), but there's a simple reason why: you can go from clear blue skies to a tornado emergency in less than an hour. Most storms that happen on the west coast happen over a widespread area and don't require the same kind of intensive warning/liveblogging that a tornado or derecho would.
I'm going to start writing diaries focused on major west coast storms and see how well they're received. You'll have to bear with me, though, as I don't have much experience with weather west of the Rockies.
2) Why do you care about Republican states so much?
This tends to rear its ugly head when something especially bad happens in the south, like last month's EF-5 in Moore, OK. People who live in their cozy parts of blue America want to know why a Democratic website is focusing on storms that hit mostly Republican states. That's a no brainer: we're people, too.
Even though places like Oklahoma or Alabama or Kentucky vote heavily for the Republicans in every election, us Democrats are down here, too. Plenty of liberals live down here, though not in numbers as great as the conservatives. Almost all of us have at least one family member or friend who lives in red states. Even some conservatives who live in severe weather-prone areas read the weather diaries here, so long as they don't realize that DailyKos is a political website. Regardless of political affiliation, people are people, and events like tornadoes don't discriminate.
3) Why do you condescend so much? I know how the wind blows. I went to elementary school, thank you.
People who are well-versed in meteorology tend to think that I'm condescending them by explaining basic things like how a thunderstorm's downdraft forms, or what differentiates a regular thunderstorm from a supercell. That's because I'm not writing those diaries for you, specifically, but for the casual reader who doesn't follow the weather as intently as you. For instance, when the Ohio-DC Derecho last summer, a solid majority of people in its path had never heard of a derecho before, and thought it was some new type of scary superstorm that had never happened before. I wrote a series of diaries explaining how derechos form first by defining terms, then explaining the setup, and working from there.
Yeah, it is a little condescending at times, but more times than not people who have a basic understanding of meteorology can easily grasp the concept by the end of the diary. I wish more people with knowledge of complicated issues like economics or law would write in plain English instead of showing off by using dense terminology without first defining it.
That all being said, here are my questions for you:
- What do you like about the severe weather liveblogs? What works? What doesn't work? What could I improve to make them more useful and/or easier to understand?
- What kind of weather posts do you want to see more of?
- What social media sites do you use? I have a Facebook page that over 1,300 people are connected with to help me spread weather information. Should I start posting weather info/warnings to Twitter? Tumblr? Pinterest? What social media sites would be the best way to help you guys help me spread warnings about severe weather?
- If I start posting regular diaries about a certain topic (tropical updates, for instance), what time of day would be best?
- Any other comments/suggestions/hate mail/love letters/offers of money/marriage proposals?
I write for you guys. I enjoy it. Tell me what you want.
6:59 PM PT: Somehow I forgot this, but it's always worth mentioning. I'm not a meteorologist. I'm a college senior who completed a minor in meteorology, but I'm not a "true" meteorologist in the commonly held sense of the word. Impostor! :)