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Why won’t Brits take extreme weather seriously?

ByLaura Wise

Oct 28, 2017

Weather is an extremely important topic to the British. According to a research reported by the BBC, 94 per cent of British respondents admitted to having talked about the weather within the last six hours. Whether the sun is shining, or, more likely, we’re having to get our umbrellas out, the weather in a seemingly inexhaustible source of discussion.

However, while our interest in the forecast never falters, we oddly have considerably less interest than many other countries when faced with the dangers which extreme weather brings to our nation. Since Hurricane Ophelia hit the UK and Ireland in the last week, claiming a number of lives, it seems undeniable that even when faced with the dangers that extreme weather can bring, our resolute stoicism remains unchanged.

Red weather warnings were issued in Southern Ireland with roofs flying across the skies and a number of planes having to make emergency landings due to the winds being so high risk. Occupants of the worst-affected areas were urged to only travel if absolutely necessary, and 360,000 homes in Ireland and businesses lost power as well as thousands more in Northern Ireland and Wales. The risks and casualties of Ophelia were significant and serious, yet Britain remained without fear or panic.

While the infrequency of this kind of weather may be part of the reason for our indifference, it seems extremely unlikely that this attitude comes from a lack of understanding. Brits are well known for their stiff upper lip, which might account for why we treat these warnings as if they were thousands of miles away rather than right outside our doors. Maybe we act as if it’s on the moon, because as long as we, ourselves, are not directly affected, we just don’t care?

While Hurricane Ophelia did cause calamities throughout the UK and Ireland, it caused nowhere near the amount of devastation that some countries experience from hurricanes. The damages that Hurricane Maria wreaked on Puerto Rico were countless. It devastated Puerto Rico’s water system, power grid, road network and was responsible for at least 48 deaths. Last week only 392 of the 5,037 miles of road were open and it was impossible for help to reach some of the communities.

As well this, we also have many more resources than countries like Puerto Rico to deal with such calamities. We have much less reasons to fret over weather warnings and take precautions than other countries.

So, despite weather being our main topic of interest when it comes to small talk, the mild and unvaried variety we are used to gives us a sometimes false sense of security. While we do experience extreme weather, it is in no way comparable to the disasters that many other countries deal with regularly. Extreme weather in Britain and Ireland can be high risk, but there are many other issues that are of much greater importance in our daily lives.


Image: Amber Young

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