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Waiting for the rain

The thunder teased us this afternoon.   It is Monday and it has been hot and muggy up until midday.   The clouds darkened just as the rumbling began but the much-needed water has not fallen yet.  The forecast called for 98 percent chance of rain this morning, but the percentages have steadily dropped throughout the day.  We are currently looking at a short opportunity around dusk, but the storm clouds have already passed our area.

Mary Lou and I are sitting on the front porch patiently waiting for the rain.  It is hard to complain as the temperature has dropped and there is just enough of a breeze to make it seem like a Fall day.   A few leaves have fallen today, the first of the year.  It is the most pleasant afternoon in a month, and we are enjoying every moment.

Hurricane Idalia continues to track further to the east and for that I am thankful.  I get nervous anytime a tropical disturbance has a long-range path forecast near Compass Lake, Donalsonville, or Auburn.  Most of us will never forget the destruction wrought by Hurricane Michael.  Like Idalia, Michael was not even a named storm until a few days before landfall.

There was a time when I could reasonably forecast the weather from the clouds, humidity, barometric pressure, and wind direction.   Now our weather app will let us know almost to the minute when we will get rain.  I was beginning to think these forecasts from my phone were infallible.  Today has proved that these computers and algorithms can still make mistakes too.   

When I was a boy, everyone took an interest in the weather.  That is largely because most families had a vested interest in crops and cattle.  Old timers can still recall certain years when rainy weather prevented harvesting crops that were already made.  The forecasts and machinery are much better these days, but Mother Nature can still wreck a year’s worth of work with ill-timed weather.  

Today, weather forecasting is used in many more ways than agriculture.  Airplanes travel around the world and are very dependent on accurate weather forecasts for safe departures and landings.  Our global economy requires accurate forecasts for the ships that bring everything from cars to straws and toothpaste to our homes.  

Utility companies rely on long range forecasts to help distribute power across the grids that connect even the most remote parts of our country, as well as the most densely populated cities.

In an event that seems to dominate the news more frequently each year, wildfires burn tens of thousands of acres, destroying valuable resources and endangering many people who once considered their homes safe.  A few massive wildfires in Canada this year have been so remote that only a change in weather is likely to bring the wildfires under control.

Of course, the weather still affects the military, like it has for literally thousands of years.  Both Napolean and Hitler discovered their mighty armies were no match for the Russian Winters.   Kokura was the Japanese city initially targeted for the second atomic bomb following Hiroshima.  Only a cloudy day saved the city when the bomb had to be diverted to its secondary target, Nagasaki.  

The Nazis had early success during the Battle of the Bulge in part due to the near-artic conditions that made air support impossible for the Allies.  Only when a break in the weather occurred were the Germans pushed back beyond their original starting position.  It was the bloodiest battle of World War II and the last major offensive by the Nazis.  Today, weather forecasting systems operated by major military powers are some of the most sophisticated in the world.

The raindrops are finally starting to gently fall.  You can hear and smell them, adding to an otherwise delightful afternoon on the front porch waiting for the rain.  It has been worth the wait.


Dan Ponder can be reached at

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