walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Don't predict the weather: predict the people

My husband R. is amazing at reading the weather maps at weather.gov. He reads the forums where they discuss the multiple forecasts that are produced before being culled down to something that is then released to the general public, which in turn goes into the giant hopper that is weather.com, which Nate Silver says has a "wet" bias -- they predict more precip than happens.

When it comes to predicting what people and schools will do in response to those forecasts, however, I'm still trying to figure out whether to just ignore what R. says, or to invert it. I think the former is the correct decision. And he's not the only one -- the local radio hosts (and I mean the centrist ones) are consistently in agreement with him on things that seem fantastically insane to me (most recent gem: by Saturday afternoon following the storm named "Nemo" by TWC, it'll all be plowed back and business as normal. In practice, the travel ban still wasn't lifted by then).

I don't pay any attention to the forecast; I look at what comes home in my kids' backpacks and I pay attention to the chatter at the school. If the people working at the school all believe school will open late, close early or not open at all, they're right. Always. And I'm starting to find out why. Here are my theories for school schedule changes regarded as unnecessary/overkill by my husband and/or local radio hosts:

(1) Employees of the school often live in surrounding areas that will have more direct impact than our area. They may (be forced to) cancel (arrive late, leave early) due to children in those areas schools.

(2) Parents of children in our school district who have signed their kids up for xday often have long commutes at inflexible jobs. They may be unable to pick up their kids due to traffic. The primary effect here is to convert what might have been an early release day to a cancel.

(3) Traffic grinds to a complete halt on 2 regularly anyway. And that can force what might have been a normal day to become an early release to guarantee that all the kids get home before dark.

I'm from Seattle. I know you don't go anywhere near a road (not as a ped, much less in a vehicle) when the slush hits, because some Idiot will Hit You, so you avoid it if at all possible. Also, waiting in the slush for buses sucks. I've always assumed that people in SnowLand, which includes around here, cope really well with the white stuff. Well, the cold hard truth is that a lot of people in SnowLand are, like me, Not From Around Here, so the native coping ability is not what it could be. And the natives who can cope with the fact that the building in that location is two buildings after the one that other people use to give directions by have long since figured out that just because _they_ think _they_ could get home in a timely fashion in the middle of a blizzard doesn't mean anyone else will actually show up to work on that day.

Also, there are a few Clever people out here that know it's not worth it to even try, and that a lot of people will like you if you give them a solid excuse not to either.

Baby steps.

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