Crying Wolf: There’s a hunk of grapefruit-sized hail with your name on it

There’s a hunk of grapefruit-sized hail with your name on it

Yesterday, I left work early. I felt like crap.

Wait. That doesn’t quite explain it. There was a riot in my head. There was screaming and looting. The streets were on fire. Babies cried, mothers cried, fathers cried. Rodney King was air-lifted in to calm everyone down. And all of it was being captured on film by a cameraman in the News Channel 666 helicopter.

Today I feel a little bit better, but it’s early yet. Somewhere deep inside my skull someone is lighting an effigy. Somebody else is stuffing a gasoline soaked rag into a bottle of Everclear. My eyes are already burning.

I’m convinced that Mother Nature has it in for me. And I believe it’s all part of a preemptive strike — the mother of all allergy attacks — for what I’m about to say: I don’t believe in grapefruit-sized hail. At least not anymore.

On Saturday, my family and I were driving back from a wedding shower. We’d seen the thunderstorms in the distance, and we wanted to beat the rain back home. That’s when we heard the emergency alert system. Tornados had been sighted, and we were advised to seek cover … immediately.

It sounded so dire, so life-threatening, like terrorists had placed a dirty bomb in each and every car on the road. And yet the storm was still far off in the distance. We saw lightning, but we never heard thunder. And then a reporter came on the radio. Who he was is not important, but what he said is — he started talking about grapefruit-sized hail.

It was then that I uttered the most foul of all oaths, the one that makes all those who work in the media cringe, the name of He Who Shall Not Be Listened To — Radio Free Rocky D. I simply did not believe what the reporter said.

I may be wrong here, but if I remember correctly, a few years ago whenever a particularly nasty thunderstorm was making its rounds, and the reporter really wanted to let the masses know how dire things were, he or she would first mention the possibility of tornados, and then, he’d talk about something equally as spooky — golf ball-sized hail. The prospect was frightening. No one wants to pay for a new paint job for their Toyota Camry.

Yes, I had seen pea-sized hail before. Plenty of times actually. But a PGA-approved hunk of ice, why that just sounded like judgment day. I mean, if a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building can make a street omelet out of your head, then what about something the size of a fairway testicle?

But something happened. Somehow golf ball-sized hail wasn’t good enough. Weathermen soon began talking about baseball-sized hail. And soft-ball sized hail. And grapefruit-sized hail. I’ve never seen any of them.

Now, that’s not to say that other people haven’t and that one day I won’t. I know that the possibility of grape fruit-sized hail exists. I’ve seen photos on the internet, and I know Guinness World Records reports that the largest hail stone on record weighed over 2 pounds. But even when the conditions are right, you can’t predict whether or not hail will reach the size of a toddler’s melon. You can’t recite an incantation — something like, “Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Katrina, Al Gore, global warming, sis boom bah!” — and conjure up hail stones from the clouds. VIPIR radar is a crystal ball, not a magic wand.

Now I’m not saying it’s not important to let folks know when there’s danger in the air, especially when there’s a hellastorm on the way. That’s what you’re supposed to do. But provide a little perspective, show a little restraint. When it comes to predicting the weather, the worst case scenario is just a prospect, and it’s probably the least likely one. You cry wolf one too many times, and no one will ever listen again.

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