As I sat at home watching “team coverage” of the “Blizzard of the Millennium” on NBC 10 complete with four, count ’em, four meteorologists and the Doppler 10,000 radar system, every station reported at least one foot of snow in the city initially, with accumulations continuing to rise as the alleged “storm” arrived. I even heard John Bolaris on a talk radio show reporting that more than 40 inches could fall in some areas by the time the blizzard was over.
And most of us, including me, believed every single word the weathermen were saying. After all, most of them studied meteorology in college and were using “the latest computer models” to track the snowfall. Besides, it’s their job.
Of course, the storm turned out to be a huge bust, and the result more closely resembled a centimeter of slush than a foot of snow. The term “Blizzard of the Millennium” didn’t have much of an impact anyway, being that the new millennium is less than three months old. Nevertheless, the media coverage of this non-event made me consider several things.
First of all, can anyone name an occupation where you can be as unsuccessful as a weatherman and not lose your job? Besides a baseball player, who is considered successful if he gets three hits for every 10 at-bats, I’m hard-pressed to come up with another example. Could you imagine if a doctor misdiagnosed half of his patients or a waiter or waitress served the wrong food to half of their customers?
Secondly, why does everybody head to the supermarket in preparation for a blizzard to buy the “french toast triumvirate” of milk, bread and eggs? Why are these foods so highly in demand? Do the supermarkets have a special deal with the weathermen calling for a “pseudo-storm” every time there’s a surplus of these items in stock? Doesn’t anybody realize if the power goes out for an extended period of time that the eggs will rot, the milk will go sour and the bread will eventually grow mold? It would make more sense to buy non-perishable items such as soup and crackers, like some people did in anticipation of a Y2K crisis. Judging from the number of people visiting the supermarket before a snowstorm, you would think nobody had shopped for food at all earlier in the week.
Finally, why do hardware stores ALWAYS seem to run out of snow shovels? Are people throwing their shovels away after using them only once? This isn’t the first snowfall we’ve had this winter, which makes me wonder how people cleaned their sidewalks during previous storms.
As we recover from the “Weather Miscalculation of the Millennium,” we’ve learned that maybe we shouldn’t always trust meteorologists at face value. When they tell us to “expect a light dusting of snow,” be prepared for six inches. When they mention “an upcoming heat wave,” think about wearing an overcoat. If you hear the words “partly sunny,” carry an umbrella.
Even the “latest computer models” aren’t perfect. After all, they were programmed by human beings, who probably don’t know much more about meteorology than the weathermen themselves.
Jared Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.