SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


There's Always a Chance


September 10, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - Thank God, that aberrant summer weather has finally left our bioclime.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Dave Kiffer

That endless transient blob of high pressure has finally been chased off by the pack of resident lows that really live here, day in and day out, every danged drizzly day of the year.

I was beginning to get worried there. I admit I was onboard with a generally dry April because we've always kinda snickered at that "April Showers" dribble.

And I've known a few nice Mays, because it's often a tease of a month that promises a "nice year" that June-July-August then invariably fails to deliver on.

But then when June was uniformly nice and actually had a day or two above 80, well that was beyond the pale.

Then the 4th of July holiday came and went and the weather stayed hot and dry. All the way into August and that glorious first week of 75 degree and up (all the way up into the mid to high 80s) weather.

Then it all came crashing down. No transition. No gradual light rain or easy dipping of the thermometer. No period of adjustment. Just cold and wet. Fifty degree temps and an inch or so of rain each day.

And not a moment too soon. I don't know about you, but my skin was actually starting to - gasp - dry out.

If I wanted to have skin that looked like badly tanned leather, I'd live in Phoenix for goodness sale.

Most of all, I was more than a little afraid that if the weather stayed perpetually nice, those firecracker forecasters at NOAA would lose their edge.

We have some pretty creative folks doing those local forecasts, let me tell you.

Sure, you probably think that it is easy to predict the weather in Our Fair Salmon City. Au contraire, mon frere!

Yeah, it would seem easy to just keep predicting "rain, rain, rain" when you write out the daily forecast. We do pretty much know what's coming down the weather-pike to us each day of the year and it tain't "sunny."

You've got to hedge your bets, even on the days when the wind is out of the north and the only thing marring the clear blue are the jet contrails in the "ethosphere."

Have you ever seen a day where the forecast called for less than a 10 or 20 percent chance of showers? Neither have I. Heck, I suppose you could say that any day in Ketchikan has a 100 percent chance of showers because, well, there's always a chance.

But by the same token the weather can change so fast around these parts that if the forecasters said "no way, no rain today, not gonna happen" then you just know that it would.

And that's the way that the forecasters look it. Even when it is raining so heavily that the pinks are trying to swim up your driveway, the forecasters will still hedge with the ever popular "100 percent 'chance' of rain."

And that's fine because tomorrow there's a 100 percent chance that the sun will come up. Unless you live in Point Barrow, of course.

So, you have be pretty crafty to look at a satellite weather map that seems to be a permanently swirling angry vortex of clouds and predict just exactly what's going to happen to Salmon City in any given gloaming..

That's why you sometimes get a forecast that calls for "partly cloudy" skies. And why the next day, it may call for "partly sunny" skies.

I'm surely not smart enough to tell the difference. That's why we have NOAA.

And what about one of my other favorite forecasting differentiations. "Scattered" showers versus "isolated" showers.

If I read the forecasts correctly, scattered is about 40 percent chance (there's that 'chance' again) of rain and isolated is a 20 percent chance.

Clearly NOAA would have you believe that isolated showers are much more scattered than scattered showers. Isolated - on this case - pretty much means that there is one nasty little shower out there.

I know because, if there is one isolated shower out there, it will be isolated directly over my head.

Which means there is a 100 percent chance of rain.

Every day.

On me.


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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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