Nate Silver of The New York Times has a new book out titled “The Signal and the Noise.” In it, the expert statistician dissects many of the methods used to make predictions and offer forecasts. He points out that with ample information and the right assumptions, it is relatively easy to predict all kinds of outcomes.
While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service put their models to the test, Vermont is not taking any potential outcome for Hurricane Sandy for granted.
And that is smart.
More than a year after some of the most extreme weather in the Green Mountain State’s history, including Tropical Storm Irene and the May floods, we can no longer take meteorology for granted. In fact, we all have to take it seriously.
This storm, which was in the Caribbean on Thursday, is making its way up the coast, and, according to some models, Vermont could be in the bull’s-eye of a storm even more powerful than Irene. Other models are less dire.
Regardless of the odds, we would be remiss after the hard lessons we have learned over the last few years not to be ready. It would be negligent not to test generators, make sure emergency plans are updated, buy extra food and water, candles and fuel, and be sure all medications you might need are in hand.
The state and various utility companies, as well as towns and cities, are also putting plans in place, hoping that Sandy just keeps on going or simply drops some rain and wind.
But as Silver is quick to point out, when most forecasts point to a likely conclusion, you can’t ignore any factors leading up to it.
Our memories are not always long. In the coming days, think back to 2011, and be ready.
The best thing that can happen is for the forecast to be wrong.