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The Chicagoist Weather Experiment: Week Four

By Sarah Dahnke in News on Feb 19, 2007 2:55PM

2007_2_19_taft.jpgThis was the kind of week we were ready to pack up the whole weather experiment and head to South America. After a week of sub-zero wind chills, we were greeted with never ending snow, meaning the growing pile of salt inside our front door isn't going anywhere anytime soon. However, this week we were able to recapture one of the excitements from our youth: the snow day.

Last week we watched forecasts by Jerry Taft, the weekday evening meteorologist on ABC7. Our friend who recommended we use him in the experiment had experienced great frustration with his forecasts and his generally smarmy attitude, so we stepped in to determine the accuracy of his skills. But since Taft only reports during the week, we were unable to obtain a Monday forecast, since his weekend counterpart provided the weather on Sunday night.

Tuesday: Jerry reported snow would begin Monday night, so we would wake to around 1 inch of accumulation, which would continue throughout the day, resulting in 4-5 inches of snow in the city proper by midnight. He said the high would be 25 degrees, with 25-40 mph winds. The snow thing was obviously right on the money, as our evening commute turned into an hour-and-a-half adventure through unplowed main streets. The predicted high was also within a few degrees of being accurate, but it was much less windier than predicted.

2007_2_19_blizzard.jpgWednesday: Taft said the snow would continue to blow around and drift all night, and there could potentially be even more accumulation by morning, when lake effect snow would kick in. He predicted a high of 14 degrees with a wind chill below 0. And he was right that the snow would continue accumulating all morning, which resulted in us being able to take the entire day off. But he left out a key piece of information: Once the snow stopped falling, the clouds moved away, and it became sunny and incredibly clear. And while it may have been around 14 while the snow was falling, it was closer to 29 degrees around 2 p.m.

Thursday: We were ready for the snow to stop falling and cold air to move in. Taft said the high would be 10 degrees, and it would be mostly sunny and cold. And he was exactly right. It was cloudy for a large portion of the day, and the bitter wind against the snowy ground was completely unbearable.

Friday: The Friday forecast had its ups and downs, since it was supposed to be party sunny and warmer — around 22 degrees — but it was supposed to fucking snow again. It was a very sunny and pretty day that felt mild compared to the bitterly cold temperatures we had experienced for the past couple of weeks, and when the snow began to fall as we ventured out to a bar on Friday night, we cursed Taft for being right this time.

Fourth week's conclusion: Although Taft's forecast for Wednesday was horribly incomplete, we were generally happy with the format of his forecasts. He doesn't spend too much time droning on about weather trivia or focus too much on one aspect of the weather. He keeps it short and simple and tells you the shit you want to know, such as the high temperatures, if it will be sunny or not, if there will be precipitation, etc. We had heard stories of Jerry messing up during the forecast and getting upset. (Once he even said "damn" on the air! The horror!) But sadly, our forecasts last week were not peppered with any explicit language or visible anger. Don't tell us we're the only ones who watch the news with fantasies of a forecaster messing up Anchorman style and saying, "Go fuck yourself, Chicago!"

Jerry Taft photo via jmemhs2000 and "hawk of a winter" photo via bardam_u.