LaGrange Park’s Plymouth Place seniors hear what goes into weather forecasts

Jane Michaels
jmichaels@pioneerlocal.com | @janemichaels22
Aug. 8 9:45 a.m.

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Tornado watch vs. warning: ‘Watch’ for the potential to develop, but in a warning, a tornado or funnel has been sighted; take cover.

Turn around, don’t drown: Don’t attempt to drive through a flooded street; only 2 inches of water can displace a car

When thunder roars, go indoors: Lightning can travel horizontally and strike 10 to 12 miles ahead of a storm

Whether you like the weather forecast, don’t blame TV meteorologist Andy Avalos. He’s just telling it like it is.

The WMAQ-Channel 5 forecaster gave an inside look into weather phenomena and predictions Aug. 6 to residents of Plymouth Place Senior Living in LaGrange Park.

Avalos, 59, is up bright and early weekdays to give weather reports from 4:30 to 7 a.m. on the station’s news program and until 11 a.m. for NBC’s Today show viewers. He has been predicting Chicago’s fickle weather for more than 25 years.

When asked how confident he is about 7- and 10-day forecasts, Avalos responded the closer the outlook is to current data, the more confident he is.

“We use multiple models to put together a forecast with algorithms and calculations crunched by dozens of super computers,” he said. “Even with all the computer models, there is still a margin for error.”

The meteorologist said he considers his forecasts for up to 72 hours highly accurate, able to predict temperatures to within a degree, as well as the time of precipitation onset.

“Even the longer-range models are accurate, but are more likely to follow a trend that it will rain next week, rather than on which specific day,” he said. “At 10 days out, you’re starting to push the envelope.”

Avalos also addressed a frequent criticism of his profession.

“People tell me, ‘I don’t know how you can take a check when you’re wrong all the time,’” he said and smiled. “But it’s your perception.”

Avalos noted Chicago forecasts are formulated for a 100-square-mile area, “not just for La Grange, or Romeoville, Chicago or northwest Indiana.”

“So if the rain doesn’t occur where you are, then you think it didn’t happen,” he said. “But 15 miles from you, several thunderstorms knocked out a row of houses. From your perspective, the forecast is wrong.”

People also complain about the forecast when they receive only a foot of snow, although 18 inches was predicted, Avalos said.

“Just like there are certain ingredients in a recipe to make it perfect, it’s the same with a storm,” he said. “You have to have the elements come together at the right time and in the right place.”

Avalos said although there are vast improvements in radar and technology, compared to 30 years ago, there still are large gaps in the reporting system.

“Gaps in between sensors allow some things to go undetected,” he said. “On a global scale, that has the huge potential for mistakes.”

Still, Avalos said he is proud of his forecasts, which he considers to be 85 to 90 percent accurate.

Avalos said he wasn’t surprised by last winter’s severity, based on global trends and climate information. The audience was relieved to hear his take on what lies ahead.

“I do believe there will be a milder winter ahead for us,” he said. “Nothing could be equal to the winter of last year, and it would be highly unusual to have two such winters back to back.”

Avalos, who decided to become a meteorologist after completing military service, said he couldn’t help but envy fellow meteorologist Tom Skilling’s usual five minutes of airtime on WGN’s full hour newscast.

“Sometimes we’re not as detailed as we’d like to be in a finite world of time,” he said. “On an active weather day, I might get 3 minutes.”

Plymouth Place residents said they enjoyed the presentation.

“He did an excellent job,” said Bea Dockum. “I like him and Tom Skilling. I switch back and forth.”

Tags:

Weather Safety Slogans

Tornado watch vs. warning: ‘Watch’ for the potential to develop, but in a warning, a tornado or funnel has been sighted; take cover.

Turn around, don’t drown: Don’t attempt to drive through a flooded street; only 2 inches of water can displace a car

When thunder roars, go indoors: Lightning can travel horizontally and strike 10 to 12 miles ahead of a storm

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