2009-02-05 / Family

The Family Weather Forecast

The moment even the slightest hint of snow is forecast, my phone rings. It's my dad.
By Sarah Anne Clouser CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

My father loves adverse weather conditions. He watches the Weather Channel religiously (the only reason he pays for cable), and he secretly hopes he will one day be featured on "Storm Stories." He thrives on weather-inspired drama, and as a result, my childhood was filled with anticipation of the next weather "event."

When I was 8 years old, I listened with rapt attention as my father warned our family about an imminent hurricane. We drove to the store and bought bottled water, canned food, and batteries. With eyes wide, I kept vigil at the back door until my parents forced me upstairs to bed.

When I woke the next morning, my dad exclaimed, "The hurricane was here!"

I ran to the window, expecting to see torrents of rain and fallen trees.

Instead, I saw a few wet leaves on the ground and a slight drizzle.

At the time, I simply assumed that my parents had let me sleep through the storm, but in retrospect, I now realize the hurricane was the first example of my father's ability to blow every storm out of proportion.

The moment that even the slightest hint of snow is forecast, my phone rings. "This is going to be the big one," he proclaims in a voice tinged with excitement.

I automatically roll my eyes. "It's always the big one," I say. My lack of enthusiasm does not faze him.

"A cold front is rolling in around midnight," he responds. "During rush hour, the temperature will drop, and it will switch to a mixture of moderate to heavy snow. Perfect conditions for a blizzard," he finishes gleefully.

"Dad, you're starting to sound like a weatherman again," I caution. It's useless. He has always sounded like a meteorologist, and no doubt expects me to reply with a statement modeled after his own weather jargon.

When I was a child, he attempted to train me to be a weather reporter.

When I was in elementary school, snow days were filled with the analysis of the depth and weight of snow.

Every hour, I came in from outdoors and walked to the pantry. Positioned among shelves of canned vegetables was an old sewing table. This became the weather station.

I opened the front drawer of the table, took out a notebook, and - with my hands still in mittens - carefully recorded the weather.

My father called every hour to hear an update. He didn't get off from work for snow. Instead, he monitored the condition of roads and pavement markings after crews plowed.

At the time, I thought he did this for fun, but I later realized this was actually his job working for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

In the early years of my weather training, my reports usually consisted of little more than one or two childish lines. 9 a.m.: Still snowing. 10 a.m.: Snowflakes look bigger. 11 a.m.: Good for snowballs.

Still, I took this job seriously. My father relied on me, and me alone, to keep him up to date on varying weather conditions around our house.

Snow days continued this way for the better part of my adolescent years.

By the time I entered high school, my reports had become more complex and included windchill and barometric pressures.

Now, however, my father tries to overlook my lack of interest.

"Make sure you back in your car tonight." he says. "You don't want to get stuck if you have to leave tomorrow. Did you get your shovel out of storage?"

"Yup," I reply, not altogether truthfully. I do this to avoid the inevitable lecture when he realizes I have not properly prepared for the storm.

"How about groceries?" he continues. "Make sure you have enough food for the next couple of days."

"I went shopping today," I reply.

My father explains his own preparations. As he talks, I'm not required to respond with much more than an occasional sound of agreement, so I flip on the television to verify his information.

Sure enough, there is a cluster of snowflakes pictured under tomorrow's forecast. I begin to feel an inkling of excitement. While my dad loves the drama of a good snowstorm, I love snow for the possibility of a day off from teaching.

After I hang up the phone, I find myself periodically flipping to the Weather Channel. My roommates get annoyed, and I unhappily relinquish control of the remote. Before I go to bed, I peer out the window once again.

The next day, I wake early and immediately turn on the television.

Scrolling across the bottom of the screen I see the words "Carroll County schools closed." Immediately, I hear the phone ring. Without even a "hello," my dad asks, "Did you see that you have today off? Two inches here already. What about you?"

Surrendering to his excitement, I stumble to the window. A light dusting covers the ground and trees. Snowflakes slowly fall in the glare of the streetlights. I enjoy the peace and beauty with which the snow transforms my normally chaotic and dreary apartment complex.

I climb back into bed and savor the idea of a day off work with nothing to do except drink hot chocolate and read a good book.

My father begins to compare snowfall depths, but I get sleepy and tell him I will call him later. I sense his disappointment.

Two hours later, I wake up and the snow is still falling. I grab an old, worn notebook from my window ledge and begin to write. Several minutes later, I call my dad and read from the book.

"Heavy to moderate precipitation. Three inches of accumulated snow. We haven't had a storm like this since 1997."

Return to top