If you watch any television over the next few days, you're likely to see heavy coverage of Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane's nicknamed "Frankenstorm," due to it's Halloween timing and it's expected damage potential, so the coverage is probably warranted. Yet, if you're not directly affected, you might think the forecasters are going overboard. And that's a valid criticism.
But imagine not having any access to accurate weather information. The truth is, the kind of weather coverage you're about to see actually saves lives. More importantly, we can thank Democrats for providing the funding and encouraging the technology that saves lives, too.
Stick with me. This might be a little nerdy, but there are some interesting weather milestones that might change your perspective, via the National Weather Service:
1870: President Ulysses S. Grant signs joint resolution of Congress authorizing Secretary of War to establish a national weather service.Oct. 1, 1890: the Weather Service was first identified as a civilian enterprise when Congress, at the request of President Benjamin Harrison, passed an act creating a Weather Bureau in the Department of Agriculture.1912: As a result of the Titanic disaster, an international ice patrol is established, conducted by the Coast Guard; first fire weather forecast issued.1918: The Weather Bureau begins issuing bulletins and forecasts for domestic military flights and for new air mail routes.1926: The Air Commerce Act directs the Weather Bureau to provide for weather services to civilian aviation; fire weather service formally inaugurated when Congress provides funds for seven fire weather districts.1933: A science advisory group apprizes President Franklin D. Roosevelt that the work of the volunteer Cooperative Observer Program is one of the most extraordinary services ever developed, netting the public more benefits per dollar expended than any other government service in the world. By 2010 the network encompasses more than 11,000 stations.1935: A hurricane warning service is established.1945: More than 900 women are employed by the Weather Bureau as observers and forecasters, as a result of filling positions of men during World War II.1948: USAF Air Weather Service meteorologists issue first tornado warnings from Tinker Air Force Base.1950: The Weather Bureau begins issuing 30-day weather outlooks; authorizes release of "tornado alerts" to the public.1961: President Kennedy, in his State of the Union address, invites all nations to join the United States in developing an International Weather Prediction Program.2011 : The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent extra money on jet flights and weather balloons to predict Hurricane Irene last year. The result was a "gold medal" forecast. As a result, millions of people along the Eastern Seaboard were prepared before the storm made landfall.
So, go ahead and ignore the hype if "Frankenstorm" won't affect your weekend. But keep in mind, key political decisions made modern-day weather forecasting possible.