Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weather event countdown

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for almost the entire state of North Carolina beginning Friday afternoon and ending Saturday evening. According to wral.com, "WRAL chief meteorologist Greg Fishel said he 'can't stress how unusual' it is for a winter storm watch to be posted so far in advance." Other area meteorologists advise stocking up on supplies today, in anticipation of anywhere between half an inch of ice and ten or more inches of snow.

Will this be the sort of twice-or-thrice-in-a-decade Extreme Winter Weather Event I blogged about earlier this year, or another let-down following a hyperventilating forecasting frenzy? Let the countdown begin!

Update 4:36 p.m.: The waffling begins. Forecasters are backing off earlier predictions: instead of 10-12 inches of snow, they're anticipating 3-5. Neighbors on the go say grocery stores are too crowded to navigate. Woe to those who go shopping tomorrow: there won't be any milk left on the shelves.

Update 9:41 p.m.: Aging Reader astutely asks, "Why [is the clock counting down to] one minute before midnight on Friday? That is several hours after Friday afternoon." The answer is that, given the snow forecasting track record around here, I am trying to be gracious. The winter storm watch was due to begin at 4 p.m. Friday; I figured as long as it started to snow by midnight, the forecasters deserved to earn some points. The watch, incidentally, has now been replaced by a warning that begins at 6 p.m. Friday (so you can see that had I set the clock for 4 p.m., no one could win), and the snow isn't supposed to start until after midnight. Oh well.

When I was growing up in central Illinois, a watch meant conditions were ripe for the formation of some nasty weather phenomenon (usually a tornado), while a warning meant the phenomenon was taking place. Here in North Carolina, a warning means significant weather is "expected or occurring." And, well, not to be cynical, but there's a big difference between expecting something to happen and the fulfillment of that expectation.

Update Friday 2:29 p.m.: Well folks, it looks like this might be the real deal. The current forecast is 6-8 inches of snow, starting around 9 p.m. and continuing for 24 hours. "There is still time to prepare!" said wral.com this morning, so I pretended to be a Southerner and went shopping. On the top of my list were bread and milk, because when it snows in the South, you will die if you attempt to go 24 hours without them. I also bought some red wine on impulse, along with some celery and a few North Carolina sweet potatoes because they're tasty.

Wral.com's leading headline right now declares "'Potent' winter storm on its way to N.C." I am enjoying the scare quotes around "potent." Do they mean the folks who called it potent don't really know what they're talking about? ("'Potent'? [snork] Yeah, right.") Do they mean "potent" is a particularly catchy turn of phrase that the author of the article couldn't possibly have arrived at him/herself, or that it's an adjective we should take especially seriously because it was spoken by an authority on winter storm types? Or do the scare quotes simply mean "Be scared! It is going to snow!"?

Update Friday 6:31 p.m.: Someone flipped the on/off switch and we suddenly have substantial snow coming down. Points will be awarded at midnight, unless the transformers have already exploded by then.

2 comments:

Aging Reader said...

Why one minute before midnight on Friday? That is several hours after Friday afternoon.

Oh, well.

Aging Reader

Mom said...

In the Midwest of your childhood, when we did weather hysteria we bought milk (check), white bread (tsk-tsk), and toilet paper. All white. No green leafy veggies, no batteries, and definitely no wine for heavensake. Ah, tradition!

Love ya.