Last night New York City mayor Bill De Blasio warned New Yorkers of, “one of the largest snow storms in the recorded history of this city.” The mayor stressed safety, asked that no one drive except in emergencies, and said that public transportation would be shut down. With the television weathermen telling us that we would experience 20-30 inches of snow De Blasio’s grim prediction was for us to, “prepare for something worse than we have seen before.”

Many people take these warnings at face value. Looking to pick up some coffee and cheerios for the next morning, I found that super-markets were packed with lines stretching to the back of the store in a few cases. People were scared…and for some reason needed to stock up on avocados. Waking up in the morning, many New Yorkers expected to see starving groups of nomadic survivors patrolling the streets, smacking their lips in anticipation of the taste of sweet, sweet human flesh. Instead, we woke up to find about six inches of snow and kids playing outdoors.

This begs the question: why do we listen to so-called experts who have powerful financial and political incentives to hype up every storm as if it is the storm of the century?

The television news stations and on-air meteorologists have dollar signs in their eyes every time a storm is coming through. It doesn’t have to be a blizzard, a run of the mill thunder storm will do. The television stations jump at the opportunity warning of flash floods and heavy rain every time a little water falls out of the sky. A blizzard is even better, and a hurricane is great for their business.

The more they hype the storm, the more viewers tune in and watch. The more people who watch, the more money they can make on advertising.

Weather hype is also good politics. There is nothing like a false crisis to provide an opportunity for politicians to posture and act as if they are heroes. First they hype a non-threat, then in the aftermath they get to look like they averted disaster by their brilliant actions and management of city resources. There is also a powerful incentive for politicians to make it look like they are doing something, just in case of the event that something does actually happen. Better to make it look like you are preparing for a disaster, just so that you don’t look bad in case it turns into another Hurricane Katrina fiasco.

As I saw first hand, the weather hype also provides a nice economic stimulus for local business.

Taking into account that our so-called experts are actually full of hot air, we should also ask why Americans are so afraid. We must be one of the most fearful and wimpy cultures in the world. We are so afraid of losing what we have that a little snow storm is enough to send yuppies scurrying to Trader Joe’s to stock up on tofu and gluten-free whatevers.