Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Flurry of Meteorological Inaccuracy

I would not want to be a Cincinnati-area meteorologist this winter.

Ours are taking a lot of heat (no pun intended) over the much-worse-than-usual accuracy of their forecasts. There have been many times this winter that they have gotten every school kid's hopes up by forecasting measurable snowfall only to have the precipitation come down as rain or a negligible scatter of flurries. Other times, they assure us temperatures will stay above freezing and people (like me!) get hurt on freezing-rain-covered roadways or walkways. One Saturday morning in December, I woke to find the roads I needed to travel on covered with snow and ice when the forecast the night before said nothing about precipitation of any form. The local weather men's missed calls are getting more talk around here than the fact that a new President is taking office next week.

I would judge, but I am among the guilty. I complain just as loudly as everyone else. I'm a teacher at a semi-rural school district; I like being able to predict our snow days. I also love winter snow. So sue me.

The other day, after complaining to my husband on a morning when I was supposed to wake up to 1-2 inches of snow on the ground and woke instead to a miserable drizzle of rain, it occurred to me that we're coming upon the ten-year-anniversary of our area's worst meteorological boo-boo (at least of my lifetime): the great "Overnight-flurries-oh-wait-make-that-12-inches" miscall of February, 1998.

It had been a mild winter. Jason and I were teaching at the same north-central-Kentucky rural high school and living in Falmouth. By the first full week in February we had not yet had a snow day, which we were told by our colleagues was eerily unusual. Wednesday of that week Jason was scheduled to take a handful of his best choir kids to Louisville for all-state choir. Tuesday night both the Lexington and Cincinnati channels were calling for some flurries overnight; we joked that our school district might have an hour delay on account of the flurries.

Shortly before the alarm went off that Wednesday, I heard the cars outside driving through what sounded like water. I figured it had rained overnight.

After the alarm went off, while the lights were still off, I peeked outside. I laughed and waited for Jason to step out of the bathroom.

"I'm pretty sure we don't have school today."

"Why? Did it snow a little?"

Not a little, exactly. It turned out I was right--no school that day. And pretty much every school district in the Lexington and Cincinnati viewing areas was out, too. We turned on WKYT to see a reporter giving a live report from New Circle Road, where snow was measuring 6 inches and really just getting started. The forecasted flurries ended up being a surprise winter snow storm with a final storm total in our area of 18 inches that fell in about 36 hours. The front side of the storm dropped a foot by late afternoon that Wednesday; on Thursday, when Jason saw that picking his kids up and driving them to Louisville in a school van for all-state was not going to happen, the back side dropped another 6 inches.

There were all kinds of reasons given why the meteorologists didn't see this thing coming until it was overtop of us. Basically an area of low pressure stalled over us and just let the storm keep growing and circulating. It was amusing to see them sheepishly admit it was a large forecasting error. It probably couldn't happen now with all the computerized models and such.

Or couldn't it?

Given how wrong they've been so far, I am holding out for a big surprise snow this winter. Even the March "blizzard" last year didn't have quite the snowfall totals we had in 1998. We haven't had a truly awe-inspiring winter storm since then. I miss the big snows we had the four years I was at Centre; my mom never let me play out in the snow as a kid because I was sick all the time, and I took full advantage of the big foot-or-more snows we got pretty much every winter in the mid-90s. (Some of you may remember a certain snowfall that inspired us to "erect" a snow statue modelled after the male genitalia.) I want some snow!

Or maybe just a snow day.

Do you non-teachers out there love winter snow, or hate it because unlike me you actually have to go to work in it? What were you doing during the big snow mis-calculation of 1998?


Karen said...

What is this "snow" that you speak of? I think I vaguely recall some white stuff when I was at Centre, but it was so long ago! :)

Robert K. said...

And I remember a giant snow penis as fact, I'm positive someone has some incriminating photos of you with said phallus. ;)

Library Lady said...

Rumor has it there is a picture in our house of that masterpiece, yes...though you sure won't find it in our family album. I almost posted it but didn't want to incriminate myself.

I keep waiting for Corycaleb to respond about the miniature version SOMEONE put on her car.

And finally, do you remember how Jason turned around from putting finishing touches on the larger version and had his fly unzipped? Almost as though he had done a still life.

corycaleb said...

Ahhh yesssss......I seem to remember a lovely picture of a snow phallus on my car. In fact, I still have the picture of that - my mom saw it not long ago and thought it was so funny that someone built a snowman on top of my car. I just didn't have the heart to tell her the truth :) And I too remember the photos of cranky with the phallus....I might even have a copy of that....I'll have to check...

And yes - I love winter snow (though I must admit three years of living in South Bend with the lake effect snow did dull my enthusiasm for a while). I would prefer if the people around here actually had a CLUE as to how to drive in it - or if the city would decide to salt and/or sand (or do ANYTHING) to the streets. I guess that's what comes from living in one of the poorest cities in the State :)

Karen said...

Muhahahaha!! I have copies of BOTH of those photos. Oh wait, I took those photos! And I still crack up every time I see them.

I do recall the fact that Jason's pants were unzipped when he finished. I have way too many comments on that, but I won't post them in polite company. :)