The purpose of this blog is to show the affect television and internet have on people’s lives in regard to natural disasters. These are the reactions of one man I work with.
First, we start with the Oroville Dam spillway several years ago in 2017. The CA Dept of Water Resources, when there was first reported to be trouble, downplayed it, or put out very odd press releases to re-assure the public there were no issues. DWR had to shut down the spillways due to damage, but continued to put out press releases that all was well. I do not know about you guys, but I have never heard of any government organization putting out a press release essentially saying “all is ok” when something bad isn’t brewing. When it comes to a dam, common sense says, if the spillways are closed, water is building up behind it. Put into English, the water will need to go somewhere, and the object standing in its way is causing it to build higher.
I casually mentioned this to a colleague, he shouted me down saying he saw on the news all was well. I Googled and found the clip on YouTube that he referenced. It was a man who claimed to be in charge of emergency services, not DWR, also the interview was taking place in Sacramento, not Oroville where the dam is located. But hey, “Honey we are fine, the man on TV says so.” “He is from the government, and he is here to help!”
Over the next 7 days, stories would appear on my Yahoo.com feed. The biggest was one saying “DWR was evacuating the fish from the hatchery located at the dam’s base. But again, nothing for us to worry about, this is normal…I guess? On February 10th crews began removing trees from around the emergency spillway. Seems really fishy because in CA I believe cutting down a tree may make you eligible for the death penalty. Also, the environmentalists were dead silent on this tree removal operation, telling me something was really not good. Not to worry, Alfred E Newman at my office said he hasn’t seen anything bad reported yet.
Two days later, evacuation orders were made for the counties surrounding the area near the dam. This happened on a workday around 10 am. The colleague of mine took a call from his spouse, in the breakroom, said “oh my God, we need to head for safety.” He walked out, and declared everything was ok, and he was going to work from home. On his way out, I said “hope you survive this Armageddon predicted by me earlier.”
Keep in mind readers, Oroville is 1.4 hours away from our headquarters by car. Moreover, the land between here and Oroville is literally flat, spread-out farmland. I dated a girl in college who was from that area, and when I visited it was yeah, flat farmland, it could easily flood and barely anyone would notice. Another pro tip, her father like many others in the area grew rice, a crop that quite literally can sit in flooded fields for months. My point being by the time the water reached Sacramento, let alone my office or house, the stream would be moving at a glacial trickle pace.
He freaked out, got into a car and decided to drive. Yup, Mr. I ain’t never scared, booked it out of town. Nothing ever came of this situation by the way.
The second scenario involves the “atmospheric rivers” our area has experienced since New Year’s Eve. There have been 3 in total. Prior to the first storm, my colleague made it clear he was very scared of the storms. As I tried to explain, the storm they are describing is mostly wind, the rain happens in large amounts very quickly, but it’s nothing our systems cannot handle. Of course, I’m not on TV so my words were not taken at all. Instead, he relied on meteorologists and articles written online, aka news. The news is supposed to do 1 thing, mostly like a shock jock of yesteryear, its job is to stir people up and create panic/ratings. If it bleeds it leads is still true today.
On all three occasions he freaked out, spouting cable news BS of the levees could fail etc. etc. etc. Keep in mind he is about 32 years older than me, yet he reacts like a toddler who dropped his ice cream cone. He packed his belongings, and headed to Patterson, yes as in an area that usually floods each time there is heavy rain and runoff. But its ok, the news people on TV told him to flee.
On all three occasions, we did get rain, but not too much. Yes, the normal areas flooded, Wilton, Discovery Park, and some other creeks in the area. The bypass area flooded, but all these scenarios happen each time we experience significant rains. The areas ordered to evacuate are very very rural and surprise, they have to evacuate every time this happens. Wind damage occurred, and yes trees were toppled, fences were downed, but no massive loss of life or damage.
My point here is the same one I have made quite a few times. Ditch cable. Look at the two scenarios again, in the first, TV said all was well, it was not. The second? Made it seem like we were in Biblical times and an ark was needed to survive this. Nothing happened. The freak out that occurred was unfounded and unnecessary.
Keep watching TV and the next thing to freak out about will get you scared. Anyone remember the “murder hornets” during the pandemic? I’m still waiting for them to show up.