Winter Travel Warnings
Last Friday's front page article about the impending winter storm in The Leader Telegram quoted a local meteorologist who advised motorists to "only travel if it is an emergency ". When I worked as a radio news reporter 15 years ago, it would have been blasphemous for me to embellish any weather forecast by telling listeners to avoid all travel. Because, if I did, the radio station sales staff would be fighting one another to see who could strangle me first.
Certainly, winter weather is not to be taken lightly. Safety is of most importance. However, when radio disc jockeys and television reporters essentially tell their audience to stay indoors, it directly affects the pocketbooks of small business owners, retailers, entertainment venues and sales people.
As it turned out last weekend, there were definitely times that travel was to be avoided. But up until about 8pm last Friday, the roads were still safe. Likewise, after the Friday and Saturday overnight snowfalls, the major roadways were in fairly decent condition once it was daylight. Unfortunately for merchants, though, last weekend's sales figures were probably very poor. Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association Executive Director Lance Clark said attendance at last week's Home & Garden Show in Eau Claire was down slightly compared to previous years. Although the large snowfall probably deterred some, Clark said the radio and television announcements telling people to stay inside also had an effect on attendance.
A few years ago, The City of Eau Claire had to change the way it would alert residents about major storms. The emergency warning siren went off a number of times even when the storm missed the city entirely. Consequently, residents began to ignore the warning siren as if it were the Big Bad Wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood ".
Area meteorologists were correct last week about the amount of snow received in the Chippewa Valley. But hopefully radio and television announcers will use caution as to how often they tell citizens to "only travel if it is an emergency " because weather forecasters have been known to be wrong on occasion.
CHI TRIB UPDATE: Good news if you are a regular reader of The Chicago Tribune. You may remember that I wrote a column a while back (Dec. 1, 2006 issue) about losing daily service of The Trib in West Central Wisconsin. However, a local convenience store manager told me that The Chicago Tribune will be available again on local news stands beginning Mar. 12th. Apparently, the company has contracted with a different distributor who will also enhance the service of other dailies.