Roughly speaking, the forecasters managed to predict the arrival of Tuesday's massive Nor'easter at about the point that they were rendered invisible beneath the drifts of snow. This was forecasting without the "fore."
According to today's Post, there was a hint out there that snow was on the way, and that hint was: Snow. The snow was burying Raleigh, just a bit of a hike to the south, and it was coming directly our way, despite the insistence of the computer model that the day would be Balmy with a Light Tropical Breeze and Pretty Puffy Clouds and Scattered Pina Coladas.
The forecasters had to make a tough call. Here was the computer with its benign model, while outside there was all this white stuff screaming out of the sky in a remarkable imitation of frozen water. What would you do in that situation? Are you prepared, emotionally, to go against the best instincts of a box full of carefully etched silicon chips?
You have to love the comment by Pat Michaels, the Virginia meteorologist: "Here we have the best model we know of insisting that the main precipitation shield is to the south and east of Washington. And here we have our eyeballs looking at the precipitation shield advancing north and west."
Naturally the forecasters sided with the computer. My own belief is that the best prediction of an imminent storm is the appearance, in a windbreaker or parka, of Dan Rather. Also I try to observe animal behavior, particularly the habits of birds, squirrels, raccoons and small children. A good sign that you're in for a powerful storm is when a 4-year-old gets her own beverage.
Like hundreds of thousands of people I was forced to spend the day "telecommuting," which is the Information Age word for what used to be known as "sledding."
In my neighborhood there are several excellent sledding hills, and I'm pleased to report that although my oldest daughter is now technically lame, due to an extremely Newtonian encounter with a tree, at least she knew, unlike one of her close friends, that when impacting a stationary object at high speed it is better to sacrifice the knee than the face. Our favorite hill has an unfortunate "forested" quality. The parents standing at the top watch the spectacle through the narrow cracks between their fingers.
Once the kids go to bed, the grown-ups head to the huge hill at Battery Kemble Park. In the old days the standard sled was something like a Flexible Flyer, which you could steer with your hands or feet. Now they have special sleds that do away with such antiquated notions as "steering" and "control." These sleds are made out of Space Age plastics that suffer no friction whatsoever, that do not even touch the snow at the molecular level. There were people that went so far they disappeared into the woods at the bottom and were never seen again.
At one point a large group of people descended at high speed in a plastic swimming pool. They demonstrated what has long been suspected, that pools are navigationally impaired. It was about that point that I decided I'd telecommuted enough.
Rough Draft is off to New Hampshire to check out the sledding possibilities and see if there are any presidential candidates roaming around. Check out PM Extra tomorrow for a rare Thursday column.