Hurricane Katrina hit on August 23, 2005. It was one of the worst hurricanes this country has ever seen, and support for those suffering poured in from all over the country. This was also the hurricane that helped to enhance the notion that the United States government picks and chooses what disasters it responds to in a hurry. There were lots of accusations of selective assistance aimed at the feds, and the area is still recovering from what happened.
On August 23, 2005, it was a cool and sunny day in Buffalo with a temperature under 70 degrees and low humidity. There was no rain and not a cloud in the sky (I looked it up online). Facebook was still new at that point, so there wasn't the chance for people to chime in on Katrina. But I don't seem to remember anyone in Buffalo making quick little jokes about how sunny it is here while there is a deadly hurricane going on in New Orleans.
Fast-forward to March 15, 2017 when the area north of Buffalo is being hit with a continuous snow storm that is threatening to drop over three feet of snow in some areas. A local news celebrity is doing his job by reporting on the storm using Facebook live when someone from Dallas reports that they don't know what all the fuss is about because it is 60 degrees and sunny in Dallas.
If this was just one isolated and completely insensitive person, then this article would not have been written. But this happens again and again when the Buffalo area gets hit with a lot of snow. Aside from inevitable comments of wonder at how much snow we are getting, there are the legions of people from warmer states who feel it necessary to remind us that it is sunny and warm where they are.
Blizzards are no more of a joke than tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, or earthquakes. What would be the response if Buffalo people started posting how great the weather was in Buffalo in 2008 while Hurricane Ike was killing people in Texas? I bet the entire rest of the country would pile on to condemn Buffalo as being insensitive. Yet every single time we get snow here in the Buffalo area, the rest of the country finds it appropriate to make us the butt of their jokes.
People and beloved family pets die in blizzards. Families are destroyed by blizzards. Businesses are sometimes forced to close down after blizzards. No one who has lived in WNY or currently lives here sees anything funny about blizzards. But the jokes keep coming, and they are always the same thing.
Guess what? When a blizzard is over and the snow melts, our homes are still standing. What kind of effect do tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes have on homes? We don't get those kinds of things up here, so we are curious.
Blizzards, when the initial effects are brought under control, become reasons for neighborhoods to party and become closer. A couple of years ago, one WNY neighborhood became known for shoveling pathways to each other's houses and having a huge Thanksgiving dinner together amongst the chaos caused by a blizzard. We do what we can while we wait for the snow to melt.
When you live in the Buffalo area, it is easy to tell the lack of respect that this area gets from the rest of the country. When that lack of respect shows up in the form of jokes about blizzards, it becomes personal to everyone.
If you live in a state known for sunshine, it can be easy to take things for granted. If you live in a sunny state where your home doesn't blow away, fall into the ground, get covered in rocks, or picked up and spun into another city, then you really tend to take things for granted.
If you have never lived through a blizzard, then have a little respect and keep your weather forecasts to yourself. Try to remember that blizzards, while something we handle every year, are potentially deadly. As of right now, seven people have died in the Northeast in this current storm. I have not seen any information for deaths in the Buffalo area from this blizzard, but they happen.
If that sounds funny to you, then there is something seriously wrong with you.
George N Root III is a Lockport resident who, like most other Buffalo area residents, can handle snow. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.