Saturday, December 30, 2017
We've gotten used to having pretty good weather forecasts. It's on TV, there are apps on our phones, it's available on the Internet, and radio forecasts are a constant. They are trained professionals, so we've come to rely on decent predictions.
Never lose track of the fact that weather forecasts are only educated guesses. Really educated guesses, I grant you, but guesses none the less.
I grew up and live in the shadow of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Major weather systems meet over the mountains, giving us the worse weather in the world. This week it's been colder in New Hampshire than the Antarctic, Iceland, and Siberia. That's nasty weather. I've learned to take what the weather person says with a grain of salt.
The further out in time, the less reliable the forecast. Most of that are aware of that fact. However, I've seen drastic changes between the evening forecast and the morning forecast. Personally, I think it's even worse for marine conditions. Often a predicted 15 knot wind with 2 foot chop turns into 30 knot wind with 6 foot wave height. True wind direction can be 180 degrees from what they said it would be. That's really annoying in a sailboat. A nice expected downwind sail becomes a bash against the waves with the engine.
Micro climate conditions can be very bad in a very limited area. If that's the area you happen to be in, it really doesn't matter that conditions are good a half mile away. You might be in a notch between mountains that creates a wind-tunnel effect. On the water, a sudden squall can pop up out of nowhere and damage your boat.
That's the situation now, under ideal conditions. Imagine if something knocks out the weather satellites or takes down the broadcast towers. It doesn't even have to be that drastic. Something as simple as water damage could render your electronics useless.
It won't take too long before you are on your own. Situational awareness is the key. Never mind what the weather person says, what does the sky tell you? For thousands of years, people have had to figure out the weather themselves. Usually they didn't have a lot of warning. When conditions started to look bad, they'd head for cover.
Of course, some things don't give you a lot of warning. Anyone remember how nice the weather looked just hours before hurricane Irene struck? There's a good reason the waters around Florida are full of wrecked sailing vessels from the old days. Heck, there's a lot of new wrecks, but usually people heeded warning and left their boats.
Listen to the forecasts, but also trust your eyes. Weather can and does kill.