Up here in north-central Washington State, things get tense in the summer, specifically mid-June through July. The cherries are popping! The farmers don’t want rain, but the helicopter operators do. We all watch the skies warily, intently poring over weather websites. In the extended forecast, a day of rain will either be a cause of dismay or joy, depending on which side of the revenue fence you sit.
The trouble is, forecasting the weather for this area must be tough. We watch the Accuweather, Intellicast, Weather.com and Weather Underground sites. None of them agree. There is a lot of inconsistency among their forecasts. One site will call for a day of rain while another says it’ll be sunny. It tells me that nobody really knows what’s going to happen until the day it does. Or that maybe nobody really cares what goes on in this vast, unpopulated section of Washington State between Seattle and Spokane.
Take today for example. All of the weather sites were calling for rain in various amounts today. The usually-reliable Weather Underground was even calling for a 50% chance of rain last night (although none of the others were). I went to bed early (for me), feeling pretty confident that I’d be flying at sunrise. But we did not get a drop. The sun rose into clear skies. And today we’ve only gotten scattered sprinkles – not even hard enough to call it “drizzling.” Bands of rain do move in from the south, but they either fizzle out before they get here or split and go up the ridgelines on either side of the Okanogan River valley. It’s fun to watch…unless you’re a young pilot eager to build flight time. Then it’s frustrating.
I’m living in a camper some 20 miles north of Brewster, based with my helicopter in an orchard out in the middle of nowhere. Last year I was deaf, dumb and blind to the weather (to which my smartass friends would retort, “Just to the weather?”). This year I’ve got a smartphone that has good 3G service here in the LZ (landing zone), so I can monitor the weather more closely, in a detailed, real-time way (and I can make blogposts!). Last year I had to phone people with smartphones and ask, “What’s it doing?” It’s a whole lot nicer when you can actually see what’s actually happening.
And you know what? The more I learn about the weather, the more I realize how little I know about the weather. Apparently the various weather services are in the same boat.