January 29, 2014
This newspaper, as do all our brethren, knows about the need to get it correct.
If we handle 99 out of 100 obituaries perfectly, then we have managed to upset one grieving family; if we deliver 99.9 percent of the papers to subscribers flawlessly and on time, then we have angered a dozen people.
The threshold for meteorologists is similar — and with potentially much higher stakes. A badly missed forecast, especially one that minimizes a weather threat, can put people at risk.
Meteorologists, like referees, are best when unnoticed. But on this day, we think they deserve a shout-out in recognition of their forecast of Winter Storm Leon and how it would affect Robeson County. Let’s just say, that got it precisely right.
Reporters from this newspaper were on a first-name basis with the meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Wilmington on Monday and Tuesday as we tried to gather the best information possible for our readers on when and how hard Leon would hit Robeson County.
Although the time-line did shift somewhat, the meteorologists were in harmony from the beginning, saying this was going to be mostly a snow event locally, and the odds were small that Robeson County would be turned into an icebox and that power outages would follow as trees and limbs came tumbling down. At about 10 p.m. on Tuesday, we are sure there were plenty of Robesonians questioning the accuracy of that forecast.
But right on que, at about 10:30 p.m., the freezing rain and sleet morphed into snow, and it continued for most of the night, just as predicted, and Robesonians awakened Wednesday to a pretty picture that was delivered without much of the pain.
There is some danger still lurking. Freezing temperatures that will return overnight will mean black ice on the roads, so motorists need to guard against a feeling of comfort when driving. Stay alert, and don’t trust that the other guy knows what he is doing. Steer clear.
The Big Thaw will begin in earnest on Friday and should be finished with this weekend’s 60-degree temperatures.
We Southerners are often ridiculed by our friends up North who laugh at our overreaction when snow is in our forecast, but Leon in 2014 will be remembered locally for how easily it passed, and for not much else. Part of that is because we prepared well, and that includes law enforcement, emergency personnel, government officials, and education officials who made the right calls.
It helped that they had a forecast that proved true.