Budapest: not weathering this storm

This outcome seems a little harsh, and could really dampen the spirits of people who dare to predict the weather in Hungary. 

What outcome?

The head and deputy head of the National Meteorological Service – Kornelia Radics and Gyula Horvath – were fired after an inaccurate rain forecast Saturday prompted the postponement of the annual St. Stephen’s Day fireworks show. The show was rescheduled for next Saturday based on forecasts that said extreme weather was likely around 9pm, when the show was supposed to begin. The Meteorological Service, while demanding the reinstatement of the two officials, said its critics “ignored the scientifically accepted uncertainty inherent in meteorological forecasts”. 

Did the wrong forecast cause harm to anyone? 

No, it did not. The event – which takes place along the Danube River in Budapest and is billed as the largest fireworks display in Europe – is the country’s most important national holiday. But the Meteorological service had been erring on the side of caution, mindful that in 2006, strong storms with wind gusts up to 60 mph hit Budapest as some 1.5 million people gathered to view the fireworks display – five people were killed and more than 300 were injured amid the panic that ensued that year. 

Isn’t that even more reason to be careful? 

Well, Budapest remained storm-free during that evening this year. Unfortunately, Hungary’s government-aligned media was outraged that the service’s “gravely wrong” forecast had caused a needless postponement of the fireworks display, and heads rolled. Critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has been accused of corruption, nepotism, and anti-democratic tendencies charged that the dismissals were politically motivated and are reminders of Hungary’s communist past. 

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Despite the popularity of the show, some Hungarians have questioned its scale and cost, especially at a time when the economy isn’t exactly doing well. About 200,000 people signed a petition against holding the event, arguing that the money should be used for causes that are beneficial to the economy.