Meteorology and mistakes

Warm front on the horizon

So, that might sound like a joke or at very least an exaggeration, but eventually it does warm up every year. Or so I am told. One lifelong North Dakotan was being encouraging a couple of weeks ago, after we approached a 50-degree below zero wind chill that it would all be over soon – that around mid-February was about when the temperature starts to slowly rise. Well, February is a short month, so if it is going to happen by then… the needle is going to have to start to rise.

Weather of course has been the talk of the town the past couple of weeks with conditions ranging from heavy snow to too cold to snow (I’m still curious of exactly what temperature that is!). Keeping Minot Daily News readers abreast of current conditions and what’s to come has been a huge focus of our coverage the past two weeks. What have I learned during this process, in addition to the whole process of adapting to North Dakota weather the past three-plus years?

Covering weather is hard here.

When I was young and lived in South Florida, weather coverage in print and broadcast seemed like the most boring thing in the world. Weather? What weather? Ninety percent of the time the weather is the same every day: hot or warm with plenty of sunshine, brief showers after noon, late afternoon humidity and on lucky days, breezy evenings. Oh, and humidity – almost always humidity. Day after day. Sure, there are huge weather stories occasionally with a hurricane or tropical storm – although Florida natives mostly scoff at the latter (and even smaller hurricanes). But not so much with variation. Cold snaps could drive the temperatures down to the 40s sometimes (egad!) prompting retired New Yorkers to bring out their winter coats, but most of the time, it is shorts and t-shirt weather.

It’s very different here covering weather. Besides the greater extremes here and often dangerous conditions even outside of storms, there is also the rate at which predictions can change. The slightest wobble of a storm track here can mean the difference between two inches of snow and a foot of snow; between light wind or dangerously cold high winds blowing snow in one’s face. Furthermore, at MDN we have sat and watched weather forecasts and projected maps change in the course of an hour or so – with dramatic eventual impact. Official weather institutions often disagree, which doesn’t help. In any event, it is an interesting challenge, and explains why so many people playfully mock media weather reporting as inaccurate. By the time you get a weather report from any media, the forecast might have changed.

It’s a lot easier gig in South Florida than it is here!


Many of you noticed MDN made an oopsie last week when we accidentally published the same comics two consecutive days. Our comics come from a syndicate and we have minimal involvement and in the past, the mistake of a single comic or several being repeated was on their end. Not this case. We apologize, it was our mistake.

Besides apologizing for the mistake, I also wanted to thank those people who wrote or called me directly to let me know about the error. Often when we make an error, the email comments can be pretty harsh. However, this time, even though people were upset missing the comics, the emails were frequently warm and funny. I attribute this to hearing from some people who have become special friends of the paper – my “pen pals.” Largely I heard from this group of men and women who, over the years, have become regular weekly, even daily, email correspondents, sharing their thoughts off the record (usually) on news of the day at all levels from MDN to national politics. I tremendously enjoy these e-relationships. You all know who you are and I thank you for your support, for the intelligent engagement on issues and on your senses of humor. I think my favorite email this week came from a gentleman with whom I routinely “chat.” He suggested he needed a shrink because he was certain he’d seen the second-day comics before. Humor goes a lot further with MDN than abuse. In response I told him that, no, we could probably use a psychologist more than he could. Another woman, not a usual correspondent, wrote to say that she’s subscribed herself for half a century and her parents did before then. She’d never written the editor before on anything because she felt like I’d never read her email, would never respond and that her opinion wouldn’t matter. This lovely woman missed her puzzle.

Republishing a Comics section is a printing nightmare, but we did reprint the puzzle and/or answers to keep on pace.

Lessons learned: I have great respect and affection for my usual “pen pals;” and if someone over my head ever demands we stop printing the Comics (highly unlikely), then I need to grow my beard out, change my name and stay indoors!

Even when we reach the balmy days of 0 degrees.

My apology again, my thanks to friends of MDN reiterated, and please stay warm and safe.