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TGIF: Wondering what the weather will be tomorrow

Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when the television weatherman — they were mostly men back then — would offer a checklist of what the meteorological conditions might be in the days ahead, and then conclude the forecast with a shrug and an advisory: “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Weather forecasting has become much more of a science than the art it used to be, and that’s a good thing if it’s accuracy that you seek. And even though I’m staying home more than I did back when I was employed, and before the pandemic scrapped all plans for travel, but weather is still important. For example, I don’t like to fill the car’s gas tank when the wind chill is under 50.

In recent years, I’ve come to consult online weather pages most often, although I do appreciate the weather information provided on the pages of the Bulletin and by area television stations. When I was editor, I had a bittersweet relationship with one of the providers of this publication’s weather map. I carefully monitored the accuracy of its forecasts, and for a while the conditions being projected were unusually balmy. After calling every day for a week, and being passed around their executive offices, it was finally determined that we were getting the forecasts intended for Brownsville.

Texans are as philosophical as we are resigned about abrupt weather changes, often prompting the saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute.” But I’ve observed that residents of other states have similar sayings, even if their variations may not be as extreme.

It should be noted that the vast size of Texas leads to the probability of a wide range of seasonal weather. Just compare conditions in, let’s say, Amarillo, El Paso, and McAllen. Texas climates aren’t similar at all.

My periodic visits to relatives in the Carolinas exposed me to a different type of forecasting. One summer, a local station was welcoming its new chief meteorologist to the newscast, and he had moved from San Antonio. He said he was looking forward to living and working in the piedmont area of North Carolina because of its changeable weather, as opposed to San Antonio where prevailing conditions bored him much of the time.

Then there was a competing station that was the newest channel in the region. Whether the weather was boring or not, he would always spice his weather segment with some of the lamest “dad jokes” you’ve ever heard. He would open with one, end with one, and toss in another about midway through. “The low temperature in Oak Hollow will be 46,” he’d say. “Speaking of Oak Hollow, I know a man living there who told me the first French fries weren’t cooked in France. They were cooked in Greece.”

He probably didn’t say that. That joke isn’t lame enough. But his on-air delivery was spot-on. People tuned in just to watch him work. Occasionally, his microphone picked up groans coming from the studio crew.

This column was precipitated (how about that for a dad joke?) by weather forecasts a month ago when much of West Texas was blanketed with snow. Forecasters were universal in their expectation of this winter storm almost a week in advance. As the weather system moved closer, the timing and the location of the snow become quite precise.

Snow falls Thursday night in this photo from a south Brownwood back yard.

Weather forecasts in general have become so accurate, I’m now surprised on the rare occasions they’re wrong. If the weatherman says snow will start falling at 2 a.m., I’m awake at 1:55 a.m. waiting. OK, so snow didn’t start until 3:30 a.m. That’s still an amazing feat, to my way of thinking, especially when such a precise timeline was set out so far in advance.

We take a lot of things for granted, living in the 21st century as we do. Communications, medicine, and foods have never been better, nor more available. It’s also great to know what the weather is going be like tomorrow.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.