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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 7 December, 2019
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Met Éireann blames media for 'over-sensationalising' Storm Lorenzo after receiving complaints

Some people accused the national weather forecasting service of unnecessarily scaring the public.

The waves bounce of the rocks at Dún Laoghaire pier in Dublin ahead of Storm Lorenzo last month.
The waves bounce of the rocks at Dún Laoghaire pier in Dublin ahead of Storm Lorenzo last month.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

MET ÉIREANN HAS accused the media of over-sensationalising the potential impact of Storm Lorenzo and contributing to the fear some people already had in the run-up to the event.

The national weather forecasting service made the charge in responses to complaints from people who were unhappy with Met Éireann’s warnings around the weather event at the start of last month.

In response to two separate complaints, Met Éireann’s Customer Liaison Officer stated: “Met Éireann simply look at the weather and produce the warning.

“The fact that the media hyped up the low-level warning, and in fact contributed to the fear some people already have, was unfortunately out of our control.”

The response added: “We did contact many media outlets and ask them to remove their articles or provide accurate information, however the media over-sensationalised the event.”

It continued: “We are looking at better ways of communicating our message, we as always endeavour to protect life and property, and we did provide warnings that were fitting for the event in most locations.”

Another Met Éireann response stated: “As always, we endeavour to monitor and forecast weather and issue warnings, with the safety of our citizens in mind.

Yellow and Orange level warnings were reached in the majority of locations, however in some areas the weather was not as severe as expected.

One of the Met Éireann replies blaming the media was in response to one business person telling the organisation on 7 October: “You should be ashamed of Met Éireann’s performance as a credible source of weather forecasting around ‘Storm Lorenzo’ last week.

“As a business owner whose ability to trade is weather-dependent I am appalled at the rapidly increasing tendency of Met Éireann to be part of the media feeding frenzy surrounding any weather event that comes Ireland’s way.

“I know and you know that ‘weather’ sells papers and radio/TV advertising space but Met Éireann shouldn’t be complicit in this commercialism.

“Surely your responsibility is to feed balanced accurate information to the public and not act as some kind of collaborator in justifying the enormous quango that is the National Emergency Coordination Group.

Your alarmist commentary stops people leaving their homes and businesses suffer. You told people to stay at home. Do we live in that much of a nanny state?

“The elderly and children are being unnecessarily frightened all because of what we used to regard as a stiff breeze. Marry this to Met Éireann’s continuous inaccuracy and we have created a monster. Your consummate inaccuracy over Lorenzo should embarrass you and make you seriously question your professionalism and competency.”

The business person added: “I had to close my business last Thursday, send staff home and throw out huge quantities of food, all unnecessarily … As I drove home at 1.30pm Thursday in sunshine and a bit of a breeze, I listened perplexed as Met Éireann spewed out what the weather ‘should be doing’, rather than what was reality.

“I fully respect the necessity to inform the public of potential dangers and the fact that you are dealing with nature but you should be much more accurate, much less dramatic.”

Intellectual disabilities 

In total, Met Eireann received a total of four complaints concerning its forecasting of Storm Lorenzo, to which it issued responses.

The services’s FOI unit stated that comments which could be considered complaints on the service’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms are available on those platforms.

Met Éireann also laid the blame at the media’s door concerning a complaint from a counsellor who works with people with intellectual disabilities.

The counsellor stated: “I’m currently supporting one young adult who has developed a real fear of wind and storms in recent years, since forecasting became colour coded and generally more sensational.

“Storm Lorenzo was given massive coverage and the public were told to pay attention to weather reports as it progressed. The Minister for Housing, Planning & Local Government appeared on TV, lending even more gravitas to the warnings.

The effect of all this was that this person became so terrified that they contacted the emergency services in the middle of the night, even though they were not alone, there was no crisis, and not much wind either.

“I am aware that the impact of a storm is difficult to predict accurately. But this young person’s fear is very real and for their sake, and the sake of others in this situation, I decided to contact you.

“Could the way storms are forecast be reviewed? Is there really a need for such a dramatic approach? A yellow wind warning is really only a windy day after all.”

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Gordon Deegan

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