Friday, December 05, 2008

Whether there is Weather

Ok, so it's a lame title. Like "I Wonder as I Wander." What was Johnny Mathis thinking? Didn't he realize how many 5th graders like me who had to sing this song at the Christmas Show would be totally confused? "I wonder as I wonder out under the stars..." hmmm, that's an odd lyric. Or: "I wander as I wander out under the stars..." hmm, I think maybe the music publishing company had a typesetter asleep at the printing press.

But seriously, Whether there is Weather.

I'm a huge weather freak. I love extreme, unpredictable, record-breaking weather. Like back in 1978 or so, my brother and I were out in the yard when suddenly the tops of the trees started swaying, and the air temperature dropped about 30 degrees. No kidding. Years later I read in one of my weather calendars (yes, I own weather calendars that I keep to peruse later after I've forgotten some of the factoids, like the ones about the 1888 NY Spring blizzard, etc. you know the one), when I came across that very event, which is the largest single-recorded temperature drop to date. It was just so cool to be standing there in our yard and sense that something really big was sweeping over us, all around us. We were wondering as we wandered so to speak.

But here in LA, there isn't much "weather," so to speak. Yes, technically there is temperature and humidity, and sometimes it rains. But it is so seldom, and the differences from season to season are so slight as to make any comments about meteorological conditions sound ridiculous. For a long time people have made fun of my Weather Channel addiction, and the fact that I know Jim Cantore from Dave Schwartz (not to mention that I used to run into and chat with, Schwartz at the YMCA lockerroom), but I finally figured out why I really love weather. It's one of the only things left in our society that is without bounds, without controls, and impossible to predict.

Sure they can get pretty close, but even hurricanes, which they've been studying for decades, confound them. It's pretty exciting to think that the entire coast of Florida can have a weekend planned, only to have it interrupted for a day or two by a gigantic, cyclonic storm whose birth is somewhere off the coast of Africa days or even a week or more before that very weekend. Tornadoes... just amp up the timing from days to minutes or seconds. One day the house is there, the next, it's gone.

In LA where the rain can refuse to fall literally for nine months at a time, the idea that a white-out blizzard can paralyze the central US and Canada, or that a thunderstorm cannot knock out power to metro Atlanta is pretty awesome. It reminds me that there is more than just the computer, the TV, the car, the electricity. There's something up there that is unconcerned with me. It's daunting, forbidding, and gives me a thrill to think about. Sure, in LA I can feel the earth, move, under my feet, but everywhere else I can feel the sky tumbling down.

For the Whether Channel, this is Graeme Stone reporting.