Well, it happened. It drizzled, and we all know what that means [enter lightning pursued by all the rest of the lightning]: Storm Watch 2013, where the S is a tornado, the W is a rain cloud, the m is a pile of snow, the 0 is a hurricane, and the 1 is one of those red flags with the black square on it that’s all blowy and alarming. We have to drive these things home with imagery because otherwise how would anyone know what a storm is or discover that all the types of storms are apparently happening at the same time in some kind of apocalyptic never-scape?
Except, we do know what storms are because we’re alive and have experienced them, which means we also know that drizzle is in no way part of the equation. I may not know a lot about hurricanes or those red flags, but I know that whatever is happening (or not happening) right now is not in any way a storm, and the dictionary agrees with me.
Exhibit A: “storm—a violent disturbance in the atmosphere.” No check mark.
Exhibit B: “storm—a cyclone.” No check mark.
Exhibit C: “storm—an uproar or controversy.” Closest to a check mark, which is sad.
So, the moral of this story is calm down. There’s no need to be like my teacher in high school who would show up in an eighteen-foot-wide snow parka every time the precipitation rate increased to one drop per hour and then say, “You California kids don’t know how to dress for a storm.” No, you indeterminate-origin teachers don’t know how to dress for nothing happening.
In order to prevent the severe loss of reasonability that occurs when moisture falls from the sky, we need to make storm a protected term, like doctor. People aren’t allowed to go around calling themselves doctors if they aren’t, and storms should be held to the same high standard. We do this already for hurricanes and tropical storms with a whole set of categories relating to wind speed, but similar, enforceable rules must be extended to the lower levels so that storm actually means something. If we must legally change the name to Drizzle Watch 2013, then so be it.
To achieve the proper status and earn the word storm, a precipitation event must meet all of the following criteria:
1. The precipitation must make it all the way to the ground.
If moisture detected in the air feebly collapses right at the end of its journey and fails to mark the paved surface below, much like those triathletes whose legs stop working right before the finish line because no one should be doing that, then storm may not be used. That is mist.
Similarly, if anyone has described the current precipitation situation as spitting rain, then it shall be disqualified from stormhood. The last thing we need at a time like this (Storm Watch 2013, gather ye canned goods while ye may) is for people to invoke the notion of moisture falling on the neck as being like someone’s spit. That’s disgusting. However, if this precipitation could legitimately be confused for the spit of a vagrant or the excess spray of a hyperactive sprinkler, then we certainly do not find ourselves embroiled in a storm.
2. That footage of people’s umbrellas blowing inside out must have been recorded today and absolutely cannot be taken directly from Mary Poppins.
To swing myself in favor of this being a storm, I need to see real, immediate, satisfying umbrellas being blown inside out. I need to see people falling over as the wind picks up and drags them down the street clutching the tattered remains of what was once a mighty Hello Kitty umbrella.
But it’s not even that windy today, is it? So don’t try to fabricate a storm or beef up your credentials by showing some umbrella people whose jeans indicate obvious 1987ing going on, and don’t just completely give up and try to imply that a gaggle of pretty hefty nannies suddenly blew away into the atmosphere leaving a tiny dog perfectly unscathed. That was fifty years ago and in a movie. We’re not stupid. No one even composes lines full of nannies anymore.
3. A flood warning has been issued for a county that actually exists.
I know this game. You try to sell your storm watch by making up counties and then instituting flood warnings in them even though they’re obviously fictional. An urgently paced crawl with red text will inform everyone that a severe flood warning is in effect for Mackbandulas County until 6:00pm. Sure, then once the flood warning subsides, they’ll have a leprechaun hoedown and a unicorn eclipse. The county in question must really exist and contain humans for the flood warning, and therefore the storm, to qualify.
4. A government official has received visual, auditory, or written confirmation of each of the following:
a. An old diaper floating down the middle of a street
b. Someone claiming to have been hit by “ginormous” hail (accuracy of claim not relevant)
c. A dog wearing a poncho
d. A middle-aged person covering his or her head after hearing thunder
e. Green lawn furniture everywhere
If you fulfill these requirements and can provide reliable evidence in each case, then congratulations, you just might be a storm.