no avatar

Weather app doesn't care like Mom did

By Debbie Leffler • Mar 7, 2019 at 4:00 PM

When I was a child, my mother made all the weather decisions and I just went along with them. She would listen to the weather on the radio. She would look out the window. I walked to school, so on cold days she would make sure I had my hat, gloves, coat and — ugh — on extremely cold days, she made me wear “leggings,” which were these knit, ugly things that were supposed to keep my legs warm, but I think I was the only kid in elementary school who had to wear them.

Fast forward to today. We have so much technology to tell us the weather. I have a readout inside the house that tells me, via a sensor on the porch, what the temperature is outside. I have a weather app on my iPad and one on my iPhone. I have the number programmed into my cell phone that I can call for road conditions. And last weekend, as I traveled along I-71 from Cincinnati to Columbus, there were signs lit up along the road, telling drivers that winter weather was predicted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. the next day.

One would think that all this technology would make deciding what to wear and whether to leave the house much simpler and much more accurate.

But no.

It used to be that only a blizzard — snow swirling, visibility low, snow piling up on the ground — would keep me home.

Now, it is a snowflake icon on a computer screen.

I see a snowflake and I worry. How much snow? When is it coming? When will it start? Stop? How much accumulation is predicted? What is the difference between “snow shower” and “snow” on the app?

Even the temperature is complicated. Not only does it tell me the actual temperature, but it tells me what temperature it will feel like, taking into account the wind chill.

I can access this information for any city in the world, let alone on the route I am thinking of taking from Norwalk to Cincinnati.

But it won’t actually tell me what to do. That, I have to decide for myself.

So I look at that snow icon and it scares me. The prediction isn’t always right. The weather could be better or it could be worse. And it changes from day to day. So if I decide to venture on the drive to Cincinnati based on the weather app one day, and then it changes the next day, do I change my plans? What do I do when 100 percent chance of “snow” changes to 50 percent chance of “snow showers”? Or if the app is predicting that the snow will start at 7 a.m., how accurate is that? Could I leave at 6 a.m. and avoid the snow? And how much snow is it, anyway?

For people like me who want to know for sure what lies ahead, the weather technology is frustrating. For all of its good aspects, it is not always right. I can decide to stay home, depriving myself of an enjoyable day with my daughter and later find out that the snow was lighter than expected or didn’t last as long.

For all of our scientific ability to predict, a prediction is just that — it is not a certainty.

So I haven’t looked at my weather app for a while. It sometimes betrays me and scares me. Instead I want to look out my window, step outside, and look at the sky. Is it light? Dark? Are there ominous clouds? Which way are the clouds heading? And then just venture out, using my own good judgment, without the weather app.

Sometimes I wish my mother were still here, telling me to wear my leggings. I hated it then, but at least I had someone to blame for the consequences. Now, I can just blame myself and my weather app, and the weather app doesn’t seem to care.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

Norwalk Reflector Videos