The Weather Channel Doesn't Want Us To Forget About Puerto Rico. So It Took Action.

"We think aftermath is just as vital as forecast."

In the midst of a fast-moving news cycle, it can be difficult to keep up with everything. But it's important that we not forget the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. As of this week, three-quarters of the island's residents are reportedly still without power and nearly one million still don't have drinking water, more than a month after the storm hit.

The Weather Channel wanted to make sure this disaster received Americans' continued attention, so the organization did something simple yet powerful on its website Weather.com last Friday into Saturday morning — by devoting its entire homepage (including its mobile app) to stories relating to Puerto Rico's current situation. The top of the page read, "AMERICA, THIS IS STILL HAPPENING."

According to the A.V. Club, stories on the site included one titled "America, This is Our Problem" (reminding readers that Puerto Ricans are American citizens) and another reporting that the death toll from the storm, officially at 48, was expected to rise.

Weather.com's editor-in-chief Neil Katz told Mashable the takeover was timed to occur 30 days after the storm first hit the island. "Part of what we do is we're a utility, and at a very simple level we help people quickly figure out if it's going to rain. Do I need a coat? How do I plan my day?" Katz said of the site's purpose. "But we've always had another level built in, which is to keep people safe in severe weather events. And we think aftermath is just as vital as forecast."

It's not the first time the site has devoted its front page entirely to a relevant issue. In June, after it was announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the homepage became dedicated to stories about climate change and its effect on the planet.

"We discovered that, if we think about our website almost like a magazine, where the cover of a magazine has real power and when you devote an entire issue of a magazine to an issue, people pay attention," Katz told Pacific Standard, adding, "We think it's certainly worth giving an entire day's worth of coverage to issues that matter."

Weather.com isn't the only place The Weather Channel has spoken up about an important topic. Last December, meteorologist Kait Parker took on Breitbart after the site misrepresented a video of her to incorrectly report that global temperatures were dropping. In a new clip, Parker debunked the article's claims, saying, "Cherry-picking and twisting the facts will not change the future, nor the fact — note, fact, not opinion — that the earth is warming."

While some may see statements like these as political, Katz resisted that notion in speaking to Pacific Standard, explaining, "We hope the weather is at least one of the things we can agree should be apolitical ... From our perspective, issues like climate change or an aftermath that an entire island of three million people is facing are so much bigger than who sits in the White House."

Cover image via Shutterstock / lavizzara.

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