It's safe to say that there was plenty of advanced notice for the Nor'easter that tore through the region this week, toppling trees and knocking out power to thousands. So how is it then that so many of us, myself included, were caught off guard by the intensity of the storm?

The storm was meek and mild compared to many storms we have survived in the past. It was nothing compared to the "Blizzard of '78," for example, or even the so-called "perfect storm" 30 years ago. Yet when Fairhaven Police Lt. Kevin Kobza told me "it caught me by surprise, to be honest with you," his sentiments were echoed by many who called into my Wednesday program.

It's not that people were surprised that we had a storm. We get storms all the time here. After all, this is New England, home of the Nor'easter. It was clearly the intensity of the storm that caught some people off guard. Why is that?

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Weather is big business. It means a great deal of revenue for the media. There is a full-time cable channel, The Weather Channel, that does nothing but weather. Fox recently launched a new weather broadcast app online, and it will be successful. People love the weather. They are fascinated by it, and it is marketable.

Here is the problem: over the years, the media exploitation for profit of all things weather has made storms and weather events larger than life. The Weather Channel even names snowstorms! In order to keep people interested in the weather, the media uses terms such as "polar vortex" and "Snowmageddon" and a whole bunch of hype to keep them from tuning out.

Potential storms are hyped sometimes more than a week in advance to build viewer interest. When the forecast doesn't pan out, disappointed fans become skeptical and are less likely to take the next storm forecast as seriously. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," according to an old proverb.

I think so many people were surprised by the intensity of the storm because they've heard the hype before. Perhaps next time, though, we'll pay a bit more attention.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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