Opinion

1 degree of separation

During November, we’ve had a few evening “freeze ups,” where wet roads became icy, as the temperatures fell below the freezing mark. Now, if you are thinking of traveling in such a situation, wet roads with temperatures near freezing, you might like to know what the temperatures are along your route. 

Well, here’s a great website for you, which allows you to get numerous observations, not only for Maine, but for anywhere in the U.S. It’s zoomable as well, so you can really “bore down” into a specific region if you’re only taking a short trip.

Stop reading for a moment now and head over to your computer. Open up a Google window and type, “Mesowest,” then hit enter.

Click the item at the top of the resultant list that says, “MesoWest Data.”

You will get a map of the U.S. Click on Maine. You will then get several reporting stations. The red number is the temperature. The other information shown is the wind direction and wind speed.  The wind direction is indicated by the direction the line, which is attached to the black dot, is pointing. It is pointing toward the direction the wind is coming FROM. At the far end of the line there are other marks pointing out to the right. These are wind speed indicators. Each full line is 10 knots, a half-line is 5 knots. If you ever saw a black triangle, that represents 50 knots. I knot equals 1.15 mph.

Now the good part. You can get many more stations than the ones you have showing on your screen right now. Here’s how to do it. In the upper left of your screen, under the word MESOWEST, look down just a bit to where it says, “Network.” “NWS” will already be selected. You want to go over to the dropdown and highlight “All Networks.” Then hit the red button that says “Refresh Map.”

Now you’ll have many reports on your screen. To be able to see them all, use the “+” button in the lower right. You can zoom in or out as much as you like, and you can move around on the map as well.

It is a really valuable tool to have, to help fill in the geographic gaps in the boots-on-the-ground reports I get from observers.

So from now on, any time you hear someone like me say, “The roads might ice up this evening,” you can always check on the progress of the 32-degree air by using MesoWest. If you need me to walk you through it, feel free to give me a call at the station in the early evening, around 7 p.m. Call 764-4461, then #261 (you must hit the “#” symbol first).

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.

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