Monday, February 13, 2006

Storm of the Century

(46) Storm of the Century

Well, they were right this time. More than right, in fact.

The record or near-record snow that hit New York really happened, probably to the amazement of weather forecasters around the world.

We’ve often mentioned in this space that weather forecasting is as much an art as it is a science. And we’ve often defended meteorologists who have mis-called so many of these “weather events,” as they call them.

Our expectations of accuracy are too high. And they’re made even higher than they might be by the cloak of technology that now shrouds this once puzzled industry. All that radar. All those satellites. All those computer models. And they still get it wrong as often as not.

Reminder: they know more now than they ever have in the past.

Reminder: nature’s still the boss.

By now, the newspeople can take the day off when these things hit. All they have to do first is pre record the usual sound bites. “Sanitation Commissioner Joe Glotz says there are 53 sanders and 124 salt spreaders, and 118 plows attached to garbage trucks and they’re ready for anything, but to please be patient.”

Fox News actually came up with something fairly interesting when it put a camera and a reporter inside a snow plow (which only can make right turns,) much as do the producers of the TV show “Cops.”

The driver was a white-bearded guy with a crinkly all-American face. He told us that he and others would be working 12 hour shifts and that every street would be plowed, and please be patient.

One thing that USED to require patience no longer does. That’s public school closings. You used to have to remained glued to the radio to hear whether your school was open or closed. No more. Just go to the websites of the all-news stations, the TV news channels, the local newspaper or your district, and find out in a couple of clicks.

For the record, there are two all-news stations whose signals reach Moote Pointe. One has a “search for your district” box that comes up with a report in seconds. The other has nothing. You know who you are. And you are owned by the same company. So what’s the story?

Ever hear about doing the school closings from the other side of the microphone? It was a rag tag process. We gathered round the telephones and took calls from district supervisors and from kids pretending to be district supervisors. There was a code system in place that was supposed to guard against kids’ trying to close their schools without the authority. The system worked better than it did at, say, the OJ trial. But it wasn’t perfect.

We got on the air with fists full of 3x5 cards and read ‘em in no particular order. This prompted calls from parents who demanded to know whether their kids’ schools were closed, and “why didn’t you read them in alphabetical or geographical order?”

Answer: for the same reason the left wing and right wing conspiracies couldn’t get us to slant the news in their direction. It was hard enough getting the stuff on at all, let alone in any order or with any political bent.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

1 comment:

John G said...

Hey, if the administration could inundate New Orleans so as to get a majority-white city, why wouldn't it snow under New York to get back at Bloomberg for not being a real Republican? And California better watch it, now that Schwarzenegger has shifted leftward.