I snapped this picture on the waterfront in Swansboro, NC. recently come in on the departing shrimp boat in the picture. The knowledgeable old salts at Clyde Phillips Seafood had told me they had some larger shrimp because the shrimp boat had been working Pamlico Sound where apparently they grow a little larger.
We had just come from another store where someone had said that it was pouring rain just a few miles to the west. We had heard some thunder so I guessed it was one of those scattered afternoon thunderstorms we had hear about the evening before in the 11 pm television weaher forecast.
Waiting for breakfast at Michael's on Emerald Isle, I had checked the weather forecast on front of the Raleigh News & Observer. It was calling for PM showers on Wednesday and downpours on Thursday. Since I happened to make it home with the front page, it wasn't hard to verify what I thought I saw.
After buying our shrimp we left Swansboro at 3:45 pm. We didn't arrive home until 9:45 pm last night. The drive took us an hour longer than usual. We even stopped for thirty minutes near Warsaw, NC when it became impossible to see on Interstate 40 because of the heavy rain. By this time I was getting a little suspicious of the typical afternoon thunderstorm forecast especially since we had already been in heavy rain for nearly fifty miles.
We tried listening to the radio for information, but finding a radio station that identifies its geographic location and which tells you anything about the weather is not exactly very easy these days. The rain seemed to slack a little so we decided to push on with the idea that we had little interest in repeating a harrowing night drive in heavy rain that we had done a couple of months earlier. We finally decided to call our son who can be counted on to be connected to the Internet. I asked him to have a look at weather.com and see what the Raleigh area looked like. He said the area had swirling bands of precipitation reminiscent of a hurricane.
It had been so dark in the heavy rain in Warsaw that the GPS had switched to night lighting. As we moved towards Raleigh we actually caught a brief glimpse of the sun, but most of the time there was rain. As we got through Raleigh, the rain started getting worse. I decided that in the continuous rain I would rather be on a nearly empty two-lane road going 60 mph than on a busy Interstate going 70 mph. We exited at Hillsborough and drove right through part of today's news without even knowing it. Fortunately North Carolina has done a really good job of putting reflectors on Route 86 from Hillsborough to Danville. On the Virginia side the new section of Route 58 were in good shape.
The only thing I can say about Route 220 is that except for one small, newly repaved section near Rocky Mount, there is more reflective paint on the word "School" sign painted on Route 419 near Oak Grove School than there is on all of Route 220. The reflectors are in equally bad shape. In fact the lack of good reflectors and fresh reflective marking on Route 220 is an indictment of the current transportation deadlock. Route 220, which is a dangerous even in good conditions, is perilous in poor conditions. People who were on it last night in the tropical deluges that we encountered know just how dangerous it was. We ran into a couple places where the road was flooded, but you couldn't tell it was flooded because it was raining so hard and the flooding was impossible to see coming around blind curves.
We managed to get home safely but no thanks to the poor condition of Route 220. Just before we went to bed, we listened to WSLS and their VIPR weather forecast. They were absolutely aware of what was happening out on the roads. Imagine my surprise when I walk out in the rain to retrieve our Roanoke Times.
The front page has a story "Hurricane John lashes Mexico's Pacific coast tourist resorts." There is no mention of the tropical downpours which we drove through for two hundred and sixty miles. I turn through the paper and find a story on page seven which says "Carolinas brace for a drenching from Ernesto." The article has nothing to do with the drenching rains on Wednesday night, it's talking about the potential for rains on Thursday. Of course I'm trying to reconcile this with the forecast from WSLS that areas of Virginia could see an additional six to ten inches of rain on Thursday. My nineteen years here in the mountains have taught me that anytime we have back to back large rain events we end up with flooding.
A check on my AccuWeather account this morning confirms that there is the potential for lots of rain in our area on top of the tropical deluges that hit around Roanoke last night, and that flood watches have been posted.
So where's the newspaper reporting on this event? Finally at 11:11 am this morning, the Roanoke Times on line site has a "breaking story", "Flash Flood watch still in effect." The problem is that if you were reading the paper and depending on it for your news, you were out of luck. I guess the reporters had all gone to bed when the rains came last evening and set the stage for flooding.
Have newspapers been forced to cut down so much on local reporters in order to stay competitive that their news is basically staged news like the story, "Va. Tech to fix flow into stadium" or news because of a death like the "Who's to blame?" front page story today.
I'm not trying to lay a load of blame on the Roanoke Times which I truly appreciate as an example of a very good local newspaper. I guess what I really want is for them to stay on the job in my local area. I don't need weather channel hysteria. I would like enough local reporting to validate my experiences. Last night I drove through torrential rains, and if the Roanoke Times happened to be my only source of news, I might start to question my sanity.
I know the Roanoke Times has good local reporters because I read their stories, like Beth Macy's recent columns on immigration. There's also a delicate balance between too much local news and not enough international news. On the other hand, too much news that is not really news is big part of the reason why so many younger people are abandoning newspapers.
Part of the news is validation of personal experience. To a certain degree you read the paper to reinforce your own personal knowledge of what is happening. The trust that a newspaper builds starts with a reader agreeing with the newspaper's interpretation of events they've witnessed.
I guess what I'm asking is that our newspapers not cede reporing to the television and the Internet. I read newspapers because I put a lot of value in the printed word.
Yet if the printed word misses the flooding and tropical deluges in its own backyard, can I still trust it for other things?
In this case, the answer is yes, because our local paper, The Roanoke Times, misses very little.
I hope this current small failure to see the real news isn't an indication that there are fewer strong ties to our local area. We also need the news to be accurate, so having a story about North Carolina expecting tropical rains after they've already received a good dose of biblical rains doesn't build a lot of confidence. Readership confidence in your writing is easy to lose and hard to rebuild.
I guess the next time I travel, I'll travel with a weather radio. Maybe it is time to hook up a computer and hope for connectivity along the way.
I'll still be reading the newspaper, but maybe with a hair less confidence in what I read.