3 March 2018

#Writing Research: Using Weather Crises For Insight

If you've been living in the United Kingdom this past week you can't have missed the unseasonally severe weather conditions, dubbed The Beast From The East because the originating air currents are from Russian Siberia. During the last couple of days Storm Emma, originating offshore of Portugal, has streamed north to interact with it. It's been a "fun" time of blizzards, gale-force winds whipping lying snow into a whiteout, people trapped inside their vehicles, airports closed, power outages, the sea freezing...

But as the week progressed, the media quit its ever-escalating shrieks of horror and instead concentrated on the good deeds ordinary people did for one another: hospital staff walking miles to be on-shift, farmers working 12 hours straight using their field equipment to dig vehicles out of snowdrifts and open impassable rural roads, 4x4 drivers ferrying medical staff and meals-on-wheels to vulnerable people, members of an orchestra stranded in a hotel finding a wedding party, also stranded, and offering to play at their wedding. As the snippets came in it provided a wealth of "what if...?" scenarios for fiction writers.

One of the BBC's environmental TV programmes - Winter Watch - posed the question "How do the current conditions stack against those of the Big Freeze of 1963?", and showed a grainy black & white programme from the period. Having found it on YouTube I offer it above. It makes fascinating watching, its unintentional detail providing a mine of information for a writer. For those too young to remember, it was a time of very few homes with central heating, just a coal fire in a single room, no double-glazing, and everyone seemed to smoke.

The storms, though, were a mirror of today, starting with high winds from the far east of Europe then being met by a storm from the south. However, The Beast From The East we are promised will have passed by Monday; the Big Freeze of 1963 lasted two months.


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