By Ralph Hood
Back when I was selling airplanes for Montgomery (AL) Aviation, we checked the weather before every flight.
It could be a problem. We’d call the flight service and request weather for a flight to Huntsville, AL. That was easy unless we got the talkative reporter—let’s call him Gabby. Gabby started his report by saying, “The area will be under the influence of a low front coming across the Bering Sea just west of Alaska.” For crying out loud, I wanted the weather over Alabama, and he’s giving me the weather for 3,900 miles away!
After an eon or so of such technical gibberish, Gabby would finally wish me a happy trip and hang up.
Then a miracle took place! A professional pilot we knew, trusted, and liked went to work at the weather station. Let’s call him Good Ole Boy, or just Gob. The next time I called for weather, Gabby answered the phone. I asked if I could speak to GOB.
When Gob answered I said “This is Ralph, Gob. Can I fly to Huntsville this morning?
Gob said, “Well, it’s OK with me if it’s OK with your mother!” I swear that is the truth. He knew the weather and, since he had flown with me, he knew me. What else did we need to discuss?
Today, I check the weather, not for flying but because I want to go for a walk at Rock Creek or because I want to know if the tomatoes need to be watered, or a myriad of other reasons. I check it online because they will answer 24/7.
Still, there are problems.
Online weather seems to be in show business rather than weather business. I ask for weather, but also get horrible stories—complete with photos—about weather pretty much all over the world. To get my attention, they present some horrible headlines to lure me into searching for the dramatic weather stories.
One recent headline announced, “Grand Canyon Full To The Rim!” Well, heck, I had to see that. I figured it would take a couple of fire hydrants working around the clock to fill the Grand Canyon to the rim. I immediately skipped over to that story and guess what? The canyon was filled, not with water, but with clouds! Even then, it did not get to the rim! Talk about fake news!
Just today—for example—the weather report urged me to see a special video which screamed to me that “Officials Warn of Crocodile Attacks in Streets!”
Holy cow, I was terrified. Figuring the crocodiles must be in New Orleans or Florida, I forgot all about my need for local weather and flipped faster than instantly to the crocodile story. Oh, for crying out loud—it was in Sri Lanka!
And this is from a weather source that claims to provide “Local and National Weather.”
Also today, that same site warned me, Alaska Red Alert, US Eruption Prompts Highest Warning. Now, that is national. I’ve been to Alaska, and immediately feared lest the volcano buried Anchorage, Kodiak, or Fairbanks.
I went to that video. The volcano erupted on an island that I’d never even heard, much less visited.
Then there was the video about the humongous shark. That story was not local, national, or even about weather.
Maybe I should go back to flying. You reckon?
Ralph would love to hear from you. Email him at [email protected]