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Local Editorials

Don’t let your weather app ruin your weekend

We’ve noticed a weather trend, and we’re not talking about climate change.

The past three weekends, misleading hourly forecasts have been showing up on certain popular weather apps included with most cellphones.

For example, in late September, The Weather Channel forecast, for several days leading up to Saturday, showed a high probability of rain all morning and all day. Even that Saturday morning, Sept. 21, the same app showed chances between 40% and 80% for rain every hour of the day.

A downpour passed through around 8 a.m., but no rain fell for the rest of the morning. No storms appeared on the radar, and the rain didn’t return until about 2 p.m.

Just a handful of people showed up that morning for a fundraising run and other morning homecoming activities at St. Bede Academy, and the usually-crowded Vintage Illinois wine festival at Matthiessen State Park saw fewer visitors than usual.

It did rain eventually.

But a lot of weather apps displayed incorrect hourly forecasts, entirely keeping people away from weekend events.

Nobody wins when their instant feedback through electronic devices causes them to cancel plans.

“It’s bad for business,” a local golf course manager told the NewsTribune, speaking specifically about various apps. Some of those apps and websites make people think the morning’s a rainout when there’s actually time for 18 holes of golf, plus lawn-mowing and a grill-out.

Yes, it rained quite a bit that weekend, when almost 2 inches of rain fell Sunday, Sept. 22, and the two-day Vintage Illinois canceled its second-day activities.

It rained, way too much, the following weekend, as well, but again, many national forecasts and weather apps predicted a terribly rainy morning when it didn’t rain. Organizers of a car show that raises funds for Cops 4 Cancer canceled a Saturday afternoon event, as rain was forecast, but then it didn’t rain until later in the evening. In their defense, they figured owners of cars that never see rain or road salt would not have risked venturing out and did not want to drive into a muddy parking lot. Looking for a moral to the story? Stay prepared for bad weather, but don’t rush to cancel a Saturday morning hike or reunion or event based solely on a forecast from Thursday.

Again, daily forecasts usually prove true, but hourly forecasts vary too widely to give up completely on outdoor plans.

Now, winter weather’s another story. When it comes to planning a road trip on possible snow or ice, it’s better to err on the side of caution and stay home.

Still, with wintry weather more than a month away (we hope), the recent track record of incorrect 24-hour projections also should discourage school superintendents from canceling classes on a Tuesday based on a forecast from Monday morning.

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