Tuesday, December 11

French Toast Weather

There’s talk of a nor’easter this weekend. They (meteorologists, that is) say that if a low pressure area along the East Coast does one thing, and the winds in the left forward quadrant rotate onto land from the northeast, and the warm front, the occluded front and the cold front do their things, and the Arctic air mass does something else altogether—well, we could be talking feet of snow this weekend, not inches! It’s the converging air masses, I tell ya! Something to do with “vorticity” they say (those same pesky meteorologists!).

And you know what that means.


I don’t know about your area, but here in northeastern Pennsylvania even the slightest threat of snow sends people scurrying to the store. They'll head out later this week to strip the shelves of bread, milk and eggs. What could they be doing but making French toast? (Holy crap, I don’t want to even think of where the 20 rolls of toilet paper they’re buying fit into the recipe!)

Everyone is going to head to the store in his or her humongous S.U.V.—the one that’s slightly bigger than a Conestoga wagon—then park it in the garage for four or five days. Around here everyone owns an S.U.V., but no one actually uses theirs to go off-road or to drive in snow. They’re for show, not go. Something about penis size, if you ask me. Are Humvee dealers subsidized by OPEC?

(By the way—different topic altogether: why have your fog lights on in the daytime? At night they might help you see the road, but in daylight it’s already plenty bright; they can’t cut through the fog. They’re useless. If it’s foggy and you want to be seen by other drivers, won’t your regular headlights do just fine? Why are you driving around on dry pavement on a cloudy day in a land-yacht the size of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle with a 747’s landing lights on?)

Sorry. Lost the thread there a bit. Back to the weather.

The next few days will be tough ones for meteorologists. God forbid—if the storm does come—that they’ve predicted a half-inch more snow than we get: they’ll be accused of sensationalizing the weather, of panicking the populace. If we get a half-inch less, they’ll be branded as inaccurate and criticized without mercy. Newspapers, especially, take gleeful pleasure in skewering TV meteorologists.

Truth is, even given the tremendous technological advances in forecasting over the last twenty-or-so years, predicting the weather is still an inexact science. Think about it. If NASA, with its billion-trillion-gazillion dollar budget can’t figure out if it’s going to rain two days out from a shuttle launch at the Cape, how can we honestly expect a TV meteorologist to get a ten-day forecast dead-on for every hill and vale in a 22-county viewing area?

I’ve long said that those “Ten Day Forecasts” are nothing but window dressing. Seven days? Silly. A great meteorologist working with the latest equipment and access to the best data has a good chance of getting it right three days out—but there are just too many variables standing in the way of 100% accuracy.

I got a letter many years ago from an arrogant ass (a man not unlike myself, I guess!), who said, basically—In my line of work, commercial refrigeration, I wouldn’t last long if I were only as good as your so-called forecasters. He actually might have underlined "so-called."

My reply went something like this:

“Then you ought to be calling up supermarkets each night and saying, ‘I know with 100% certainty that the compressor on meat case #3 is going to fail overnight. Why don’t you move the meat now, and I’ll bring a new compressor over in the morning.’ Seems to me, Mr. Commercial Refrigeration Guy, that more variables go into weather patterns than there are in an electric motor.”

I’m a huge Charles Osgood fan. His poem, Broadcast News, fits here perfectly.

Remembered (I hope accurately) and reprinted without any permission whatsoever. So sue me.

Powerful are those who choose
The items that make up the news.
And yet in spite of all that power
It’s much like singing in the shower.

For it is clear from card and letter
That you all think you could do it better!

What kind of syrup do you like with your French toast?