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Photo credit: Dimitri Castrique

Many of us are entranced by the horrific scenes of Hurricane Sandy streaming from the East Coast of the United States. Many people are without electricity, entire neighborhoods are engulfed in a conflagration, and snowstorms wreak havoc throughout the mainland. The flooding east of the Mississippi River reaches biblical proportions. Some citizens are reverting to antediluvian methods of waiting out the storm. While the death toll slowly rises, one has to be immensely thankful for the pre-storm warning services of modern times. Without the technology and systematic means of relaying information over great distances would take days. The devastation of human lives would be astronomically worse.

Around 1850 after Samuel Morse devised the telegraphic code, which bears his name, a man by the name of Joseph Henry, the director of the Smithsonian Institution had the foresight to establish a network of 150 weather observation sites throughout the country. Soon after the United States Navy suggested standardization of observation procedures and timing for ships at sea which are at the mercy of nature if it is not read properly. A year after standardizing time, the Paris Observatory was the first, on record, to provide storm forecasts. In 1860, an Englishman, Robert FitzRoy, began accurately forecasting the weather. His daily observations were the first of its kind to be published. In fact, FitzRoy was the one who coined and introduced “weather forecast” into our culture. Over ten years later, the United States Army Signal Corp, the precursor to the National Weather Service issues the first hurricane warning for the United States. It was not until 1905 when daily weather reports from ships out to sea were radioed to the mainland.

Of course, the 20th and 21st centuries saw an explosion of inventions and developed new procedures to convey the weather news and warn the populous. However, I am discovering no matter how much nor how pertinent information is nor how quickly it is conveyed, does not cause a person to react as sensibly as one would hope. There are still those who insist on ignoring the warnings. It is rather tragic. My prayers go out to those millions in harm’s way of Hurricane Sandy.

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