Doesn’t Take a Weatherman

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I’m in a lousy mood since the weatherman just ruined my weekend. “Torrential storms, hail, and frozen cannonballs,” she ranted. Reality – nothing but blue skies.

Have you ever heard a weatherperson apologize? “Sorry folks, that I ruined your weekend by mistaking a few zephyrs for a tornadic wipeout. I’m really sorry you cowered in the basement for two full days with your wife and kids and two cats in heat.” Weather mavens (they like to call themselves climatologists, even when they’re wrong) are as unrepentant as traffic engineers who put red lights at deserted rural intersections.

And where do they learn words like “tornadic disturbance,” instead of tornado; and “thunderboomers,” a term kindergarten teachers use on five-year-olds while buttoning up their raincoats. “Thunderboomers, kids! Button up snug! It’s gonna be a ducky wucky, quack quack day.”

The science of climate prediction began simply enough. A skinny guy, Bennie, in a bearskin diaper stared out of the cave entrance. “Gray day – not good for stegosaurus hunt,” he announced to the anxious crowd behind him. “Very gray.”

“Yeah I guess so, Quartzhead. You gotta roll that big stone away first,” said one of the audience.

And once Bennie learned to roll that stone aside, his record improved significantly. Bennie was now a star. He learned to comb his hair with a wishbone and smile even when his empty belly made embarrassing noises that interfered with his presentation.

But why is nobody keeping score on Bennie’s successors who are supported by radars, computers, and barometers? Economists and bookies are fired when their predictive bat- ting average dips in the low 30%. If I owned a TV station, I’d keep a daily log on my weather guy. At the end of the year, I’d call him in. Review time. He’d be all red-eyed and sniffly and umbrellaless because he had called for a bright, fair morning. Wrong!

“Schlemiel,” I’d say, “you were wrong 75% of the time, including your Christmas forecast that prevented thousands of families from visiting their old rheumy-eyed Mom and Pop on that day of Yuletide warmth. Also, you missed the Halloween snowstorm that entombed most of the kids in town. Just last week they found six more with their candy bags – smiles frozen on their little angelic faces. So I’m docking you 75% of your salary. Have a great year. Relax, spend ten unbroken hours on the Florida turnpike while your wife, beside you, reads last year’s inaccurate predictions, out loud.”

Once I lived in the Boston area. The weather, to this exiled Southerner, was always lousy except for three days in late July when the Snoqualmie glacier receded, maybe three inches. The weather guys never got it right. To the west, where many of the weather fronts originated, they had friends and professional comrades. They’d call Worcester.

“Hey Ron, what’s the weather there?”
“Snowing like hell – it11 be on you in an hour or two.”
A foolproof system. They also had pals north and south

with radars and computers. They had an effective early warn- ing system. Sentinels that almost boxed the compass. But not quite. Because to the east lay the boiling Atlantic, a hellish hotbed of tornadic, squallic, stormic, cataclysmic activity. (And sometimes thunderboomer bummers, too, kiddies.) They had no strategically placed associates, 50 miles out to sea, floating on their backs with cell phones. The picket line was incomplete.

What they needed was a $7 million weather boat, they said. We taxpayers bought ’em their boat – and we’re still smothered under three surprise snowstorms. And they never apologized. I think they used the boat for water skiing.

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