Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Can't I Please Everyone?

Most of my viewer emails are critiques of superficial things--my hair, my makeup, my belly, my clothes, etc. Very rarely do I receive emails concerning my forecasts. I received an email yesterday from a viewer who complained about our severe weather coverage over the last few weeks.
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In today's Clarion Ledger, Saturday 16, there is an article in the opinion section about the erroneous weather forcasting in this area written by Mr. Warren Nader of Ridgeland. I tend to agree with him as we here in Annandale in Madison have had some of the same experiences that Mr. Nader has had with weather forcasting.

On Feb. 5th we watched the weather that morning and at noon. We were told both times that it would be storming by mid afternoon, with baseball size hale, and strong straight line winds. Sure enough about dinner time it got dark and started to rain. In less than 30 min. the sun came out and showered for about another 20 min.

At 1:00 my brother -in-law from Kosciusko called and asked if we were OK? I said yes, why?He said that he had his radio on and they were reporting that Annandale in Madison had straight line winds of 80 miles an hour and that houses and trees were down everywhere. After I assured him that that had not happened in about 20 min.our son called from Flora with the same concerns.

I don't know if the radio stations get there info from the T.V. folks or where all of you get your info from but here lately it is erroneous. It didn't cause us any harm but it alarmed a lot of other folks for no apparent reason.

We watched the weather this morning and your people reported that it would rain most of the day but there would be severe storms in the area tonight. It has rained most of the day but at 11:00 tonight the sky is clear as a bell. Whats going on??

You keep telling us to get a weather radio, do you have one?

Concerned,

L. C. Calhoun
Annandale, Ms.

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(As always, I like to respond to our viewers.)

Dear L.C.,
Thanks so much for your email concerning our weather forecasting. I appreciate your concerns and will be more than happy to address them.

February 5 sticks out in my mind because I spent the night at WLBT covering the storms along with meteorologist Eric Law and Paul Williams into the wee hours of the morning of Feb 6. I did not watch the morning/noon weather on Feb 5 so I cannot address your concerns that said "it would be storming by mid-afternoon, with baseball size hale (sic), and strong straight line winds." However, for the days leading up to that event, I had specifically stated this would be an overnight severe weather event and it was. WLBT never reported there were trees down and winds of 80 mph in Annandale, so I'm not quite sure where that information came from (the National Weather Service must come out and survey the damage to determine if indeed it was a straight lined wind event or tornado, which would not have happened until the next day. That is not something we would've been able to report immediately.) Perhaps your brother-in-law and son were watching another tv station? However, the NWS did classify a tornado that hit the Kearney Park area in Flora as an EF0 and another tornado that hit just south of Bentonia as an EF1 that same night. That was the same system that was near you, but fortunately missed your subdivision. If you would like, I can provide you a long, comprehensive list of all of the damage (including classified tornadoes, hail reports, building damage, etc) from the severe weather event that happened that night. This was the same system that caused the tornadoes in Arkansas, Mississippi and 50+ deaths in Tennessee. To say that our forecasting "alarmed alot of other folks for no apparent reason" is a comment I respectfully disagree with. Hopefully, we saved one life, which would've made the endless hours without sleep well worth it for me. After that event, we received over 100 emails from viewers who thanked us for giving them the information they needed to help keep their families safe.

As to the severe weather event last Saturday, meteorologist Eric Law was on duty Saturday morning. Eric plainly stated we would have severe weather roll through the overnight hours, which I had also predicted on Friday night for Saturday night. Although we did see rain on and off throughout the day Saturday, we knew it would get progressively worse by Saturday night. Sure enough, it did. I was surprised to read "at 11:00 tonight, the sky is clear as a bell." I live just down the road from you and I had clouds and wind at 11pm Saturday night. By 2am, the winds really picked up and so did the rain; hence the NWS issued numerous severe thunderstorm warnings. By 3am, a tornado watch was issued and between 3:30am and 6am, several tornado warnings were issued producing some damage in our southern-most counties. We predicted this event just as it happened, too. That's why we encouraged people to have a weather radio to alert them. I've already heard from viewers who were informed about the weather while they were sleeping because of their weather radios.

Although I did not see Mr.Nader's original letter to the editor at the Clarion Ledger, I have already heard about it from several viewers. They are outraged that someone who has never been affected by a tornado or damage would have the audacity to think he's the only one who exists in this world--that if his house isn't the one blown away then the weather people must've gotten it wrong. It is true, meteorology is not an exact science. I always like to say, "God reserves the right to change His mind." Because it is not an exact science, many times we give approximate time frames for the severe weather to arrive all the while noting that those times are indeed "approximate". The weather can quickly change without a minute's notice. That's why it is so important viewers are prepared for the worst but always hope the best happens.

You may not be aware that WLBT has the largest television coverage in the state. We don't forecast for the metro counties like other tv stations do. WLBT forecasts for 24 counties in MS; 4 parishes in LA; and 2 counties in ARK. That's quite a bit of real estate. Everyone will not experience the same weather in that area. That's why we have to sometimes be more general in our forecasts, but also give areas that could be specifically targeted. For instance, for the event Saturday night, we plainly stated the worst of the weather would be south of I-20 and that's exactly what happened. Since you live in Annandale, you were not included in that outlined area, therefore, you did not need to be as concerned about the event as others to your south.

I know what it's like to rebuild after an F4 tornado and so do many of my neighbors. When I make a mistake, I don't mind admitting it just like I did when I predicted in January that we would have snow north of I-20 and the snow was mostly south of I-20. Personally, I learn from every mistake I make and want to know how I can do better next time. But in the last 2 severe weather events our viewing area has experienced, I wouldn't say the forecasting was erroneous. It happened as we stated it would. Fortunately, because so many people have weather radios now, Mississippi has not recorded any deaths this year whereas other states have.

Yes, WLBT has a weather radio in our weather lab as do all of our meteorologists in our homes. We believe they are a valuable tool in alerting people, no matter where they live, as to the severe weather in their area.

Again, we welcome your opinion and are glad you decided to share it with us. More importantly, we thank you for sharing a part of your day with WLBT!


Sincerely,
Barbie Bassett
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(Last night, his response.)

Dear Mrs Bassett,

I believe you mis-read my E-Mail! I said that at 11:00 here in Annandale , Saturday night, the sky was clear as a bell, I walked out on my porch and looked up before going to bed. I could see every star that God ever put in the sky.

A few years ago I retired from M.P.&L. as a lineman. I'm quite sure that many nights while you were asleep I was up working ,during storms over the last 30 years. Please don't seek sympathy for the long night you spent inside watching the weather machines.

Please accept my regrets for ever questioning your predictions. I'm sure the 100 people you referred to in your e-mail would also agree. Mr. Nader and I should be ashamed of ourselves !!!!!

Sincerely,
L. C. Calhoun

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(If anyone knows a profession where I could please 100% of the people 100% of the time and make everyone happy with my clothes, my weight, my makeup, and my forecasts, please let me know. I'm considering a change!)

6 comments:

Susan said...

Thank you for your diligence in predicting our weather- the key word is predicting... and I think you do a great job. No, there is not a job that you can please everyone...just know in your heart you have done your best and that is truly all anyone can ask. Was out of town over the weekend in NC, and surely did miss your broadcasts! We are spoiled!

Beverly said...

You are absolutely beautiful. I don't know how anyone sees any differently. Period. End of story. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!

The Mommy Years said...

He must have gone outside at 10:57 - there were no stars by the time my husband came in just after 11:00 Friday night! I woke up & watching Eric early Saturday morning (I did actually wonder if you sleep on bad weather nights, even when you're home!) It was comforting to know that Eric was there as a live, warm bodied human; on guard making sure that the rest of us were safe. The other stations were typing crawls - the one time no one would have complained about having current programming broken into!

Everyone should know by now that the weather can change in a heartbeat & some storms refuse to behave. Babies & weather are the two hardest things to predict! Didn't everyone's grandmother teach them that?!

Tommy, Suzanne, and Mary Peyton said...

give me a break. can't people do better things than send e-mails to you acting like they know everything? why isn't HE the one doing the weather????

sorry.....just got off on a tangeant.

tell maggie that you aren't the only one who has a fan in my little mary peyton - she now shouts out when maggie is on, too! now if i can just teach her howard and rob jay.

keep up the good work. you are awesome.

BarbC said...

Actually I love it when the weather isn't as bad as predicted.. what a wonderful blessing! I, for one, don't expect you or Eric or any meteorologist to be 100% correct... you are predicting the weather not controlling it!

I pray that you are able to throw off all these comments and criticisms.... take these thoughts captive and give them to Jesus! Then stop and praise the one who controls the wind and the rain and calms all storms, even those that rage around us!

Barbara Campbell

Jeanne Wroten said...

You do a great job! And you look great too. And you're a mom. Enough said. You can't please all the people all the time. But then again, that is not your job. You go girl!