Baumhower: Checking the accuracy of local weather teams’ crystal ballsWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The greatest day in any child’s life is the snow day, that special day when Mother Nature closes schools and forces students to take a well-deserved mental day off! The best part of the snow day is the anticipation leading up to it, as kids who never watch the local news suddenly become semi-professional meteorologists.
Young weather enthusiasts listen for key words from their trusted weathermen, like “accumulation,” “hourly forecasts” and “triple doppler.” Children who normally complain about their science homework formulate forecasts and predictions.
Last week was supposed to bring the perfect storm, the one that would have given Toledo’s youth a four-day weekend, when you figure in the MLK holiday. This perfect one-day storm was supposed to start bringing snow early Friday morning, which generally means school closings and delays. But when Toledo’s bright-eyed hopefuls peered outside, they learned a different kind of lesson — TV weather forecasters can make mistakes.
According to research, weather is the most desired information from TV newscasts. This is the No. 1 reason viewers watch the local news. It’s also the No. 1 reason local TV stations lose their collective minds when there is even the slightest chance of bad weather. TV programmers understand that bad weather equals big ratings. To get those ratings, you must first inform viewers that “White Death” is headed toward us, that Snowpocalypse is destined.
After the warnings have been issued, it’s time to cover the stories that feed their forecast. The news becomes live reports from grocery stores, whether the city will have enough salt and reporters doing “live shots” from ODOT. To further prove my point, ODOT hired former TV news personality Theresa Pollick to be its local spokeswoman.
Last week was a miniature version of TV Stations Gone Wild. To be fair, the stations were not in “Full-Blown White Death Coverage” but it was definitely the lead story on all four newscasts for 48 hours. The predictions ranged from a half-inch to 7 inches of snow.
That’s right: From four stations with seven forecasters, there were 6.5 inches of discrepancy.
If you want to play a great ongoing game with co-workers and you love fantasy sports, start a Fantasy Weather league. It works the same as other leagues, except this one focuses on predictions and actual amounts of precipitation. Draft your favorite local meteorologists and wait for the storms/games to begin.
On Jan. 12, I kept track of what Toledo’s weather personalities were predicting about Friday’s potential storm. Here is what they said.
The 13abc Storm Team, which included Jay Berschback, Stan Stachak and Blizzard Bill Spencer, predicted between 2 and 4 inches of snow by Saturday.
WNWO’s Norm Van Ness predicted between 2 and 4 inches of snow through Friday. But “WNWO Today’s” Jon James predicted less than 1 inch by Friday morning. Same team, two different forecasts.
WTOL’s Robert Shiels predicted light snow, 1 inch or less by the morning commute.
FOX Toledo’s Doug Moats predicted 6 to 7 inches for the total snowfall.
The amount of snow that fell on Jan. 13 was … less than 1 inch!
WTOL is claiming victory in the first “Winter Storm of 2012” in a promo that declares Robert Shiels the most “accurate.” 13abc’s marketing department quickly answered the salvo with a promo of its own touting ratings, or in sports vernacular yelling “Scoreboard!” The one station that is oddly quiet is FOX Toledo. I suspect Doug Moats’ over-guestimating the snowfall by 1,300 percent is not worthy of a chest-beating promo.
Some may say that the difference of a couple of inches doesn’t matter, but trust me, it does!
Fantasy Weather League scoreboard:
1. Robert Shiels, WTOL: 5 points (win-tie)
2. Jon James, WNWO: 5 p oints
3. 13abc Storm Team: -3 points
4. Norm Van Ness, WNWO: -3 points
5. Doug Moats, FOX Toledo: -6 points
Jeremy Baumhower is a self-proclaimed media expert who writes and produces for morning radio shows across the country. Please follow him on twitter@jeremytheproduc.