I have a few questions. How many of you regularly listen to meteorologists on the weather channel, or to local and national newscasters? Did they ever predict huge amounts of heavy wet snow, extreme cold, visibility reduced to mere feet, hurricane force winds, massive power outages affecting millions of people, and utter destruction, on a scale not seen for decades? Did these warnings of impending disaster continue for days, and lead to panic, fear, desperation and untold horror? Did you then get off work or school, spend the day in relative warmth and comfort, watch hours of TV, catch up on your reading list, and eat multiple slices of takeout pizza? Do you reside in more temperate climates? If so, were you ever warned by weather experts of approaching category five hurricanes, tropical deluges, dangerous lightning, tornadoes, or hail the size of golf balls? How many times were the meteorologists wrong?
I live in the northeastern United States, and for days we had been warned of the inevitable collision of a rapidly approaching cold, high-pressure system moving in from the west, with a moisture-rich low-pressure system moving up from the south, along the eastern seaboard. The day before the expected blizzard, I went shopping at the local supermarket for a few staples, along with some comfort food to help me survive days without power, frigid temperatures, and possibly, all-encompassing darkness.
I first spent two hours fending off desperate, French toast loving people with carts piled high with eggs, milk, and loaves of bread. I then made a stop at Home Depot to procure two hundred pounds of ice melt, and a dozen packs of flash light batteries. While there, I bought a Suncast SC3250 18” snow shovel/push combo with an ergonomically shaped handle, and strategically located wear strip. I figured my back would need all the help it could get from the anticipated days of shoveling heavy, wet snow. My final stop was at the gas station to top off my cars tank, and fill a container to fuel my portable generator.
Returning home, I piled a cord of wood by my fireplace, and loaded my hunting rifle in case packs of hungry wolves ventured too close to my homestead. I then turned on the television, and watched hours of meteorologist’s with pointers, charts, and satellite images of current weather conditions. The latest estimates had my location, possibly receiving between twelve and eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow. Words began to scroll across the bottom of my screen showing, school, event, and business closings for the next day. All local, state, and federal government offices would also be closed, along with a suspension of mail delivery. Many major, airports, announced the cancellation of almost every flight; thus stranding thousands of scared and weary travelers. Soon, the streets became empty of even the hardiest individuals, as they headed home to huddle with their loved ones by roaring fires. Transit systems were the next to shut down, and authorities then ordered all non-essential vehicles off the streets. By ten in the evening, most cities were like ghost downs, with only the sound of the wind, and the howls of frightened neighborhood canines, to disturb the peace and quiet.
As the night wore on; thousands of snow plows loaded with salt, parked and waited, as operators with thermoses filled with strong coffee, prepared for what could only be described as Armageddon. I heard that things got so crazy, homeless people were attaching plows to the front of their shopping carts! After a restless night, I woke before dawn, bundled up in four layers of clothing, put on snow shoes, grabbed my new shovel, and headed out with my loyal dog, Chase close behind. Buffeted by five mph winds, and pummeled by multiple snow flurries, I somehow made it to my wife’s car. I then gently removed ½” of snow off the roof, windshield and hood with my gloves, pulled Chase out of a four-inch snow drift, headed back in, grabbed a cup of coffee, woke my wife, and told her she could sleep a few more hours.
Turning on the television, I was greeted by a weatherman who explained that due to unforeseen atmospheric conditions, the storm had been delayed by a few hours. He said the storm would soon intensify, and by mid-afternoon would be falling at a rate of 1-3 inches per hour. To be fair; some areas to the east of me, did receive close to a foot of snow, which by today will probably be melted, as temperatures reach the mid-forties. My neighborhood received a total accumulation of a little less than four inches of snow. During the most intensive part of the storm, we managed to clear the ¼” per hour accumulation on our driveway with a push broom. On the bright side; we did get a day off from work, and had some of the best New York style pizza, I’ve ever eaten.
Could someone, please help me understand something. My grandfather could look at the moon a day or two before an impending storm, smell the air, wet a finger and hold it up to gauge wind speed and direction, and calmly say, “Looks to be about eight inches of wet snow, and it will all melt by Tuesday.” And he’d be right! Heck, between the Farmer’s Almanac, and checking the amount of fur on Wholly Bear Caterpillars in the fall, he could accurately predict the entire winter seasons snow totals, and average temperatures.
How can today’s meteorologists with incredible resources, which include: multiple satellite pictures, surface and upper air data, ocean buoys with temperature readings, and extensive radar images, not accurately predict the weather at least 50% of the time? I think, the only time they get it right is if you live in Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, California, or Phoenix, Arizona. All they have to say every day is, “Seattle will have rain, San Francisco will be cool and foggy, and Phoenix will be sunny and hot.” This morning a weatherman said, “Whoops….. Sorry about that folks. My bad. It seems the storms track was deflected slightly by an upper atmospheric high, which pushed most of the heavier snow either out to sea or to northern Maine.” They did get that last part right. I just got off the phone with Bullwinkle the Moose from just outside Madawaska, Maine. He said the snow was almost to his antlers, and still coming down.
I think the problem with modern weather forecasting is, instead of using common sense, they rely on complicated numerical weather prediction systems based on computer models. In layman’s terms, it means they throw darts at a big board with different types of weather on it. I was watching the local weather a few days before the storm hit, and meteorologists were predicting the storms track using different computer models. They included: GFS (Global Forecast System), NAM (National American Mesoscale), a European Model, and something called RAP. RAP? I think I might have found the problem with weather forecasts. If they’re getting weather predictions from Kanye West, Lil Wayne, 50-Cent, Snoop Dog, and Jay Z; I think we’re all in big trouble!