By Mary O’KEEFE
There are times when writers are not sure who, if anyone, is reading what they write. So you can imagine my delight when I received an email from someone who wanted to talk about this column. But it goes beyond that I know someone not only reads my weather writings but also enjoys them and looks forward to reading them.
So that was great but imagine my excitement when I found out this reader not only wanted to talk about the column but was a fellow journalist whose career spanned four decades and … wait – there’s more … is a science fiction fan and, oh my heart, he had a suggestion of a 1960s British sci-fi film for me to watch.
The film suggested was “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” and it was so good – I mean sad and frightening but so good. The great thing is even if you didn’t know the era it was made you would absolutely know it was made in the 1960s. There were all kinds of bikini shots and women reaching over desks – kind of things that make me sad – but, oh my gosh, so normal for that time.
The story was really interesting and it was centered in a newsroom. From the beginning these newsmen – yep, all men – were hard-news people. The chaos of the room was conveyed by everyone talking over each other and there was this sense of them scrambling to get the news.
There was a side story of the alcoholic/kind of reformed reporter and his whistleblowing girlfriend but for me the real character to watch was Bill Maguire, portrayed by Leo McKern. He was like the expert everyone looked to for the science of what was happening, even though he said many times he was not a scientist; but because he had been writing forever he had all this information stuck in his head.
The film was about global warming/climate change but wasn’t approached that way. So here’s what happened: The U.S. and Russia, without knowing what the other was doing, tested atomic bombs at the same time. Although everyone in the newsroom knew this was a problem they couldn’t get any authority on record.
People seemed relatively calm as weird weather began to happen around the globe. The temperature began to rise; people noticed but continued with their lives. Then there was an eclipse of the sun that was not scheduled to happen for 10 days. Weird, intense weather from around the world began to be reported. As our reformed reporter and whistleblower with a heart of gold were just starting their budding relationship, they were at a park when a sudden wall of fog filled the Thames. In true British style there was no panic, just a brisk walk to a double decker bus. Then all traffic stopped because this fog was really thick, even for London.
The temperature continues to rise and there is talk of a theory of what could cause the weird weather – and if the heat causes the ice caps to melt. This theory was submitted by Maguire, the sage reporter. Again – he wasn’t a scientist but had interviewed enough of them over the years to know how this could affect the Earth.
The temperatures continue to rise and the storms across the world continue to strengthen and then … the world caught fire. Fire in cities, wildfires across the countries. Then the editor gets the call that he had hoped not to get. The explosions that everyone but the politicians thought happened caused an 11-degree tilt of the Earth’s axis.
There is silence in the newsroom. Then one of those in the room state, “The human race has been poisoning themselves for years but nobody cared until it gets personal … Well, now it’s personal.”
This theory and more information of destruction were all foreseen by the girlfriend whistleblower who, as an operator, overheard this theory being talked about by politicians.
The heat continues and the reporters keep reporting, even as disease now takes many around them. All of this was entertaining as a film but then to see what is happening in Hawaii brings it all home.
First the news is full of stories of tornadoes and thunderstorms that stretch across the eastern part of the U.S. Two fatalities had been reported as of Monday with an estimated 1.1 million customers without power. Damaging winds and large hailstones were reported from Tennessee to New York.
And then the horrific fire in Maui County in Hawaii. As of Wednesday six people had been confirmed dead and stories told of people running to the ocean to escape the flames.
Reports from Hawaii News on Wednesday reported three active wildfires continuing to burn. More than 2,100 people were housed overnight in four shelters, about 20 people suffered serious burns and at least 14 people had to be rescued from waters off Lahaina on Tuesday after jumping into the water to escape the fire. About 4,000 tourists in Maui were flown to Oahu on Wednesday.
According to The Weather Channel, portions of Hawaii were in moderate to severe drought, which helped create fuel for the fire. The fires were fanned by Hurricane Dora with wind gusts of 40 to 60 miles per hour. Hurricanes are nothing new but this effect caught many off guard.
And this is where the “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” perfectly created a scenario that we should study as a view into the future. In the film, people were all caught off guard even though there were warnings; they just never thought it would be that extreme.
In real life we see these potentially devastating storm conditions but there are moments of calm and peace. In the movie the reason for the sudden climate change was the tilting of the Earth’s axis so the powers-that-be came up with a solution – if atomic bombs got them into the situation maybe another big shove by several A bombs would bring everything back to normal. Wow – that was some plan that not even the filmmakers wanted to give an ending to so they printed up two headlines – one states “World Saved” the other “World Doomed” and, as the film faded to black, the audience was left to decide what headline was true.
We may be seeing some summer showers that were predicted last night into this morning. They will then make their way over to the mountains leaving us with some humidity. On Friday through Monday our high temps will be in the 80s then on Tuesday and Wednesday up to the 90s, which is all normal, according to Rich Thompson, NOAA meteorologist.