Educated guesses

So apparently Blizzard Juno was officially a bust. But was it really? If the weather forecasters hadn't made it sound quite so severe, quite so dire, quite so apocalyptic, maybe the FAA wouldn't have decided to shut down the entire East Coast, causing absolute mayhem for anyone that was supposed to get from one place to another, and maybe everyone could have just enjoyed a nice snowfall! As it is, expectations were raised to panic level (justified in the end, up in New England) and all anyone could talk about is how so much could have been made of so little.

Weather forecasts are something that I basically left behind when I moved to Israel; or at least, for the most part. For approximately eight months of the year they're simply not relevant to my comings and goings, to how I dress, nor to how I organize my day. While I understand that the information the forecasters provide to farmers and the transportation industry, for example, may be crucial, for the everyday Jane it's fairly meaningless. The reality here in the Middle East is that for most of the year the daily temperature ranges somewhere between comfortable and hot (say, 20-35 degrees Celsius) and there's very little, if any, rain. That means that no matter how many times you check in with the weather App you're going to find that little picture of a sun, either smiley and full, or, on occasion, covered by a little cloud.  In other words it's going to be some degree of sunny. And frankly, the minute that long stretch of summer begins, shoving Spring out of the way far too early and lasting what seems like forever, squeezing Autumn into a brief few weeks before December, it's all about whether it's going to be comfortably hot or uncomfortably hot; one or the other.

For this reason it's extraordinarily amusing to hear of hurricanes, vicious tropical storms and school-closing blizzards in other parts of the world. Look how much excitement we're missing! (This isn't the place to discuss the fact that we have our own brand of local excitement.)

That brings me to winter and that brief period when the weather forecast gets a bit more interesting (and relevant). Lest one think otherwise, we definitely have winter here in Israel; albeit a unique one. First of all it occasionally rains; precipitation that would probably be considered insignificant anywhere else in the world but is welcomed with a large "Thank God" in this water-starved part of the world. Next, unlike the "steady drizzle" known in other locations, the kind that can continue all day, we specialize in rain of unusual intensity. It is quite common to experience short, but torrential, downpours; something in the range of "raining cats and dogs." I love my father's nutshell description of the distinct nature of rainfall in Israel: Blue sky, darkened sky, rainfall so heavy that it's as though someone is dumping a bucket on your head, grey sky, then back to blue sky--the whole cycle completed in, say, ten minutes. Pretty unique! One last aspect special to Israel is that despite the fact that we're such a small country, we seem to be a micro climate; that means that while it might pour in one place, not 500 meters away it might very well be dry as a bone. Go figure!

Of course any precipitation whatsoever is eagerly cheered on by the ravenous local weather forecasters. They celebrate during the winter season when there's finally something to report--desperate as they are to jump on the international bandwagon of forecasting replete with souped-up, entertaining, graphically-scintillating weather forecasts. Instead of those boring "sun" icons, they get to decorate their elaborate graphs with a wide range of others, including, perhaps, "the cloud," "the lightning bolt" and "the thick rain drop." On a rare occasion they are even fortunate enough to throw in a "snowflake" or two! Of course these forecasts are usually transmitted on location, not in front of the big board in the studio--the forecaster bundled up in a North Face down jacket, hair blowing in the wind and shivering to emphasize just how excited they are about the weather opportunity awaiting the People of Israel.

The possibility of snowfall here in Israel precipitates (nice word choice!) its own special eventualities: First, traffic jams of the likes no one anywhere (except Japan) can imagine; those characterized best by the fact that virtually no one arrives at their destination, and many turn around and head home. Second, the executive decision to pull the kids out of school, forget about whatever meeting one had scheduled and head North, preferably to Mt. Hermon, to romp around in all that white fluffy snow. This is what our variety of bad, wintry weather adds up to: choice one, choice two or very possibly both.

The Israeli fascination with all things American has no doubt affected the local weather forecasting industry. Although this is somewhat understandable (I mean, who isn't turned on by a weather forecast?) it sometimes borders on the ridiculous. I would have expected that local awareness of the dangers of accelerating educated guesses to hysteria-producing predictions (and I'm not just referring to the weather here) would have discouraged hyped-up forecasts.  After all, exclusive of the winter, when I'll admit that the drama of "something different" justifies the song-and-dance treatment by the nightly news, it might be nice to just enjoy the fact that over here in Israel, almost every day of the year, we have one or another variety of sunshine. Aren't we lucky!