Monkey Paw Weather Magic

They’re just never right, are they?  I’m, of course, referring to our area meteorologists.  Oh sure, they’re great at telling you what it’s doing right now.  Heck, they’re even good at looking up the records and telling you what the weather was like on this date in 1910, but they’re still painfully inadequate at predicting the future.

I say this after watching last night’s “The Local News At 9,” “The 10 O’clock News” and “The What the Hell, We’re All Here Anyway; Let’s Do Another One at 10:30 News.”  Never mind that we really don’t need that much news (for God’s sake, it’s the local news, not the show schedule for The Osmonds in Branson, Missouri), but each version had the same forecast:  “One to  three inches of lake effect snow.”  Needless to say, this morning, my wife and I woke up to fourteen inches. 

Obviously, our meteorologist couldn’t say:  “Overnight, you can expect anywhere from one to fourteen inches of snow,” because that’s no prediction at all.  That’s like saying:  “Overnight, you can expect anything from a good night’s sleep to a Yeti breaking into your home and holding your family hostage until your three-year-old son convinces him that you just want to be friends, and you stay up the rest of the night playing Pictionary until the morning when, to your surprise, you find that the Yeti is very good at making omelets.  After a tearful farewell, the moment he exits your house, the Yeti is shot by local authorities, and your story becomes a Lifetime Movie of the Week, but the producers get the story all wrong and it becomes little more than a tragic version of Harry and the Hendersons.  And now here’s Steve ‘Ballz’ Johansen with Sports.”  

And it’s not fair to blame your local meteorologist entirely.  I mean, our expectations are irrational.  We care so much about the forecast that every half-hour local news broadcast devotes fifteen minutes to the weather.  With tools like “Doppler,” “Viper” and “Psychic John Edward,” the meteorologist attempts to perfect the forecast such that you’ll know the difference in precipitation from your front yard to the back.  (By the way, to prevent infection, always go from front to back.)  The lesson here is that weather (Nature) couldn’t care less what our shaman meteorologists think or say.

By the same token, our meteorologists have set themselves up for greater scrutiny when they decided to call themselves “meteorologists.”  When I was a kid in Indiana, we had “the Weatherman.”  He was a goofy character who revealed his predictions by tossing rubberized magnets up on a metal-ish representation of the state.  He was also content to give his predictions by way of percentages.  If he wasn’t quite sure if it was going to rain, he’d tell us that there was a 20% chance.  Even if it was currently raining cats and dogs (or, as we like to say in Indiana:  “cats and Drive-Thru Liquor Stores”), he would still hedge his bets by saying that there was an 80% chance, just in case there was an area within the sound of his voice where it wasn’t raining. 

My point is that this method worked just fine for us.  Even in third grade, with little or no idea of what a percentage was, thanks to our local Weatherman, we were still able to formulate a general idea of what to expect.  If he said there was an 80% chance of one to five inches of snow, we intrinsically planned on four.  We didn’t know we were doing math, but such was the genius of the Weatherman.

And during the banter at the end of the newscast, the anchors used to tease the “weatherman,” stopping just short of giving him a Wedgie and a Dutch Rub.  Now, with a “meteorologist” sitting at the desk, the anchors preen and fawn like they’ve just received an audience with the Dali Lama.  While “meteorologist” might be more conducive to picking up a spicy little number at the local singles bar than “weatherman,” it carries with it a certain power, and with that power comes responsibility. 

If you want us to believe that you’re creating the weather like a Voodoo Prince by slaughtering chickens, dipping pins in the blood and sticking them into the weather map, then I’m sorry to say that you’re going to have to be a little more accurate.  Or, you can say you’re just a weatherman and let us give you an “Indian Burn” before we go out to shovel.


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