Weathermen throw 2012 Resolution Walk a curve ball

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

Fred Meijer New Year’s Day Resolution Walk 2012 participants gathered in front of the beautifully renovated downtown Rockford Rotary Pavilion. Front and center behind the yellow Friends of the White Pine Trail sign are: (l to r) A newly slimmed-down, Dave Heyboer, chairman of the Friends of the White Pine Trail, and past Rockford Mayor and current City Councilman Rich Moll. Heyboer, a.k.a. “sheepdog,” kicked off the New Year 125 pounds lighter than he was last New Year’s Day morning 2011! Photo by CLIFF HILL

Falling all over each other, in hoping to usher in the New Year with a “sky-is-falling” weather forecast, the weather teams of West Michigan’s TV news outlets forecast a dire New Year’s Day.

In forecasting an “over-the-top” winter blast to arrive New Year’s Day morning the intrepid meteorologists had cast a pall on expected attendance at the newly renamed Fred Meijer New Year’s Day resolution Walk, the 11th walk hosted annually by the Friends of the White Pine Trail (FWPT).

Known in previous years as the Friends of the White Pine Trail Resolution Walk, the walk was renamed “to honor the memory of a man without whom the White Pine Trail would not be what it is today,” said Dave Heybour, Chairman of the FWPT.

Yearly, playing upon a theme of sensationalizing weather forecasts, area weather prognosticators had predicted high winds, freezing cold temps, and 3” to 10” of snow to arrive late New Year’s Day morning, the morning of the Resolution Walk. (It’s easy to be right when the range of snowfall could vary by 7 inches, right?)

As is often the case, the weather predictions weren’t even close. In Rockford at 8:00 a.m. New Year’s Day morning, the temperature was an unseasonable 40 degrees F., the wind was calm, and there was a sporadic mist in the air. As we were writing this article Monday evening, Rockford had received a scant 1-inch of snow covering paved surfaces. Nevertheless, the harm had been done. Because of the ratings driven forecast, attendance at the10 a.m. start of this year’s Resolution Walk was slightly more than half of what was expected.

Following welcoming speeches by both Heyboer and past Rockford Mayor and current City Councilman Rich Moll, the Walk stepped off northward to a turn-around at 12-Mile Rd. then returned to the Walk’s conclusion at the Rotary Pavilion. Moll was the first City official, in the 11-year history of the Walk, to give an official Rockford welcome to event attendees.

Those that showed up that morning, some who had “talked the talk” of a resolution to lose weight and others to simply step into the new year in fellowship with lovers of the Trail and the great outdoors, reaped the added reward of a hearty and bountiful Friends-hosted cook-out at the Walk’s conclusion by simply “walking the walk”.

Expecting to reward and feed 350 Trail supporters the Friends had enough brats and hot dogs, with all the trimmings and toppings including chili and sauerkraut, to more than satisfy the appetites of the 225 attendees and their leashed “best friends” that morning. Also available on the serving line were cookies, granola bars, and dog biscuits along with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Food offerings were made available through the support and generosity of D&W Fresh Markets and Gordon Food Service.

Thanks “Friends” for all you do to maintain and promote the State of Michigan’s longest linear State Park (93 miles) – the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail. More importantly, thank-you “Fred” for all you’ve meant to the trail systems of West Michigan.

Closing this article gives your reporters the perfect opportunity to “vent their spleens” and expose the folly of long-range weather forecasting. Readers may recall that the Chief Meteorologists of West Michigan’s TV outlets and the Grand Rapids National Weather Service Office all predicted a ballpark total figure of 80” of snow for the current winter season. They also safely predicted that temperatures could go either way of average.

The “Henny Penny” school of weather forecasting dictates that meteorologists sensationalize each and every weather event to the extreme in order to pander to their listening audiences addiction to weather forecasts. Forecasting extreme weather is good business. It hooks listeners to their TV’s and adds to the bottom line revenue of the local TV network outlets. Two stations of the four local stations do a better job than the other two. If only they ALL could be more accurate!

So in closing, let us throw our hats in the ring. Since November and December were virtually snow free and unseasonably warm, we’d also like to make a belated prediction. Instead of the 80-inches of predicted snow, we predict something in the order of 50 – 60 inches of snow for this winter season. Temperatures should remain overall unseasonably warm. Also, we promise not to predict upcoming weather events in such a manner that will cause businesses and schools to over react and close their doors in anticipation of a storm that may not be severe, or ever materialize at all.

You can hold our predictions accountable with those of the degreed professionals in April.

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