The radar curtain

The thunder is getting louder and more frequent, so I head to my weather map on the computer to see if the storm is going north or south of me, or coming straight for me.

As so often happens, the weather map I’ve been using for weeks is gone. They’ve improved it. Or tweaked it. Or sold it to another company. Or had an IPO. Or they’ve been hit by lightning. A quick Google search gets me another online weather map. All this one shows is the county I live in. That’s nice, but I would like to see the county west of me, too. And maybe the counties north, south and east of me. Another search, and I find a map that shows the weather for the whole state. But I don’t live dead center in the middle of the state. Maybe there’s bad weather in a state next to me that’s coming my way. Another search, and I find all the weather I need to know – for my ZIP code.

Now, I understand that borders are important when it comes to elections. We don’t want politicians from other cities, counties and states wasting and stealing our tax money. That’s what we elect our guys to do. But when it comes to weather, why do the maps begin and end at the state line? It’d be nice to see the whole picture to get a sense of what’s coming tomorrow and the rest of the week. Will we need waders or flip-flops tomorrow? Or both?



Soon I find a radar map of the whole country. It seems only a thin band of thunderstorms is coming through. But what is that big empty space on the map above the United States? Does it have a name? There are no roads or towns on my map. Does anyone live there? Has it ever been explored? Do they have any weather? There’s another big empty space with no cities, no roads and no weather south of the U.S. I wonder what it is called? You’d think I was looking at one of those 15th-century maps that has things like “Dragons Be Here” written on unexplored territories. But this is a modern satellite map, a picture from space. Surely if there was any life up there, if there were big cities, they would show up on a satellite picture? And if there are cities up there, it means a human, deliberately, has removed them from the big picture.

It’s funny: You can live in New York City and hear about the weather in Los Angeles. You can live in Minnesota and hear about the weather in Texas. But you can live in Texas and not know what’s going on south of the border. You can live in Vermont and not know what’s going on north of the border. It’s as if there is a Radar Curtain of weather. What do our leaders not want us to know? Is the weather better up there? Should we make a run for the border?

Sometimes weather news makes a crazy dash and escapes over the Radar Curtain. I know now that there are things called the “Caribbean islands” because they get hit, or nearly hit, by hurricanes. Other than that, they do not exist. There is no weather down there. It is a completely weather-free zone. Sometimes I’ll hear an accidental mention of a place with a funny name outside the Radar Curtain that has been destroyed or devastated by floods or typhoons, like Bangladesh or the Philippines. But after a brief mention that hundreds of thousands of people are missing or dead, it’s never mentioned again.

I wonder sometimes if the weather maps in other countries are like ours, where the whole U.S. is just a vast, empty space without roads and cities or weather? Do they hear about us only when we have a flood or a town gets hit by a tornado? We would laugh at their backwardness for thinking the whole world revolves around their little bit of land. Where did they ever get such an idea?

Jim Mullen’s new book “Now in Paperback!” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.

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