The ex-hurricane Ophelia came to visit us last Monday and it was very much a mixed experience. Some people lost property, experienced damage to their house, were cut off from electricity and phone/Internet and sadly three people even lost their lives. Others, however, just saw a few leaves being blown around or a plastic bag flying by. Yes, the experience was THAT diverse! And by the way, this is not a flippant assessment of the storm that Met Eireann warned us with a “RED” weather warning about, but it is based on actual media reports and on comments from people like you and me on the Dublin Event Guide Facebook Page.
People were at home on Monday because a large part of business asked their staff to stay at home all over the country because the weather warning applied to the whole country. And when we are unexpectedly at home with no other plans and nowhere to go, we do nowadays “jump on” the Internet. A huge amount of people did and also shared their opinions and I would definitely say that there were many more opinions given than on other days.
But what surprised me was how judgemental and condemning people are without KNOWING better, just by THINKING they know better. And it also surprised how all this judgement was not based on REAL events but only on EXPECTED events. Let me give you some examples:
1) Two surfers were rescued in Co. Louth on Monday and outraged ensued: “How could they be out in the water during a RED Weather Warning? How irresponsible to get a Lifeboat and a helicopter and other rescue services to bail them out when everybody knows that it is super dangerous.”
Well, let’s look at some of the facts: Surfers ALWAYS go surfing in strong wind, there is no surprise. The rescue happened at 10:20, which was approx. THREE hours before Ophelia arrived in Dublin and between 4 and 5 hours before it was forecasted for Co. Louth, so there were without a doubt NO “RED” state conditions out there even if the Red warning was already – and probably unnecessarily – applicable for the whole country. In addition it was not reported why these surfers got into difficulty and – like mountain walkers – surfers get in difficulty regularly. Can you criticise them over getting into difficulty? Most likely YES!!! If they lack experience, they shouldn’t be out there. But that is completely independent from the Met Eireann weather warning and applies in every storm that is outside of their skill level.
Conveniently the report in the Irish Independent was decorated with a dramatic pictures of mad and dangerous waves in the Tramore, Co. Waterford, one of the worst affected areas. There was no picture from Co. Louth displayed.
2) The missing picture of the REAL conditions in Co. Louth was provided in the next case, but it was duly ignored by the masses of complainers: Dave and Steve Flynn, the owners of “The Happy Pear” in Greystones and other parts of Dublin posted a picture of themselves on Instagram leaving the sea after their morning swim and they wrote “Happy Monday. The calm before the storm this morning where there was blue sky and the sea was like a pool. Inspite of weather warning it was one of the calmest mornings in a while so there was no risk in having a swim.” On the picture you could see a TOTALLY calm see with no waves and no danger. Unfortunately the time is not reported, but I’d say the Flynn brothers are the type of people that mean “early morning” when they say morning, so that means the storm was still far away and we CLEARLY see in the picture that there is no danger.
That didn’t stop “Moneymaid”, however, to comment on The Journal.ie article with “People who swim/walk piers etc in weather like this intentionally put our front line staff in danger. They should be prosecuted if front line staff are required to assist them.”
How does that make sense? NO “front line staff” was put in danger by their swim! Nobody was called out. WHY should anybody be prosecuted if in perfect conditions someone goes for a swim.
Just because there is a blanket warning in place? What about taking personal responsibility and being able to assess the dangers yourself instead of freaking out over something that MIGHT happen in a few hours.
And by the way, if the picture had shown ANY choppiness or waves – and I am talking about moderate waves, not just high waves – I would totally agree that maybe there was a risk and it would be wiser to avoid putting yourself in danger and risking to need help. But there was NO danger.
The Flynn brothers had to apologise over this storm in a teacup … and I am not referring to Ophelia, but to the uproar about their swim!
So what is going on here? Why are people so hypersensitive and so over “protective” (or rather judgemental)?
In 1996 Chuck Palahniuk used the term “Snowflake” in his novel Fight Club and that since has become a term used to characterise a generation that is more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations or that is too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Snowflake) (There is also a more recent meaning of Snowflake in a political context, I am not referring to that!)
Are we all becoming snowflakes? Worried stiff about totally calm water just because someone said “Code RED”? Are we becoming incapable of correctly (!) assessing dangers and making appropriate decisions? Do we need to be wrapped in cotton wool by our government and other authorities?
I think the surfers in Co. Louth possibly should have stayed at home. Not because of the storm warning, but because maybe they didn’t have the skills required even if there had been no warning. But it also is possible that they would have got into trouble without an approaching storm. Leg cramps and lots of other things can happen even on the finest day.
The Flynn brothers on the other hand did absolutely nothing wrong!
And in case you wonder: My opinion about the man who swam in Galway, while the storm was raging: He is an idiot and DEFINITELY shouldn’t be there!
Let me leave you with one more story:
In 2015 Teresa Mannion became famous with her report about storm Desmond www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI5Oxj04_8s and she is a bit of a “storm personality” since then. So many were hoping for a repeat of her warnings during Ophelia but it was a much calmer affair this time here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5BYKUBOvAs Still you have to wonder what Teresa Mannion means when she says in the report “This was a day to remain indoors, unless absolutely necessary to venture out.” Hmm is it really absolutely necessary for Teresa Mannion to venture out on such a day?