Forecasters are not often weather beaten
This morning the West Country is waking up to the effects of a storm that is still powering its way through the country.
All the signs are it could be the most devastating for five years – possibly the worst since the storm of 1987.
On that occasion, average wind speeds of 50 mph were observed across South East England, a maximum gust of 115 mph was recorded at Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, gusts of 94 mph were observed in London, the Royal Sovereign lightship on the south coast recorded a mean wind speed of 86 mph and temperatures rose by up to 10C for a short period overnight as the storm pushed north.
The human cost was significant, 18 people lost their lives in Britain, four in France. Devastation costs were reported to be more than one billion pounds, an estimated 15 million trees were lost, thousands of homes were without power for several days and wreckage blocked roads and railways.
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We must hope that the statistics are not as grim in the days to come but one thing is certain, we have the benefit of this objective, factual knowledge of the way the weather affects us because of the diligence and fastidious attention to detail of the Met Office.
This organisation has come in for a great deal of flak in recent years for shortcomings in its longer range forecasting. But few can fault the detail of its advice as today's bad weather system approached, or the care the forecasters took to first of all warn of the degree of uncertainty about the timing, severity and track of the storm, before gradually firming up the details.
We well remember BBC weatherman Michael Fish getting things wrong back in 1987 when he said on the October 15 lunchtime broadcast: "...earlier on today apparently a woman rang the BBC and said she'd heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you are watching don't worry, there isn't..."
But the technologies available to forecasters today are more sophisticated and more reliable. Satellite science has moved on and data flows in to the Met Office headquarters in Exeter from many more points around the globe. It is a far more reliable service than it was. And we should be glad of that fact.
As many individuals and organisations were taking the precautions necessary yesterday to batten down the hatches, the value of the fast-improving science of meteorology was clear. We might like to poke fun of the weathermen. But we need them.