Much of the East Coast experienced record snowfalls last week. While I certainly enjoyed the beautiful pictures and videos that my friends out east shared, my heart went out to those who experienced varying degrees of disruption in their lives. We in the Midwest were spared, but it's only a matter of time before it will be our turn to experience the disruption and chaos that storms bring. In fact, the current heading on weather.com reads, ""Big Midwest Winter Storm Predicted Next Week With Possibile Blizzard Conditions." Whenever a major snowstorm occurs, or for that matter a hurricane or tornado develops, it is common to hear people complain after the storm that predictions of the storm were not accurate. Whether the storm turns out to be better or worse than anticipated people find themselves wondering how the experts could have been be so far off in their predictions. I imagine that some of the questions are simply a product of the general crankiness that people often feel when a storm has disrupted their lives. The weather stations it seems are as good as any other place for people to direct their frustrations.
What I find amusing about people being upset with storm forecasters is that storms by their nature are far outside the range of normal conditions. They are therefore inherently difficult to predict. Behaving in ways that are unpredictable are what make storms, well....storms. It seems clear that even with all our best technology, we cannot control nature. The benefit of most storm forecasts is not that they are perfect in forecasting the exact details of what will occur, but that they give us a warning. They are meant to provide us with a general warning so we have time to get prepared for extreme and unpredictable conditions.
Just this week I, too, found myself in the role of a storm forecaster, and so maybe that is why I am feeling some empathy for those who make their livings forecasting the weather. A colleague was describing a significant change through which she was leading her organization and together we agreed that storms were on the horizon as this change began, emotional storms related to changing the status quo. I also had a conversation with a young couple who is about to have their first baby. We talked about the joy and excitement they felt. I thought it was important to let the new parents know as well that there would probably be some storms ahead as this major change in their current sense of "normal" was sure to feel disruptive and chaotic at times.
As in weather predictions, it is never possible to predict the exact details of what an emotional storm related to change will look like or how severe it will be and how long it will last. It is only possible to predict that whenever significant change occurs, there will more than likely be a period of storminess as the people involved get used to the new normal.
Planning to retire? I predict there will be a storm ahead. Starting or ending a relationship? A chance of storms is clearly predicted. Moving? Starting or leaving a job? Child leaving for a place of their own? A new child in the family? New initiative at work? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then storms are in the forecast.
And as any storm forecaster will tell you, it is important to be prepared. Just knowing that a storm is coming, even if you don't know the exact details of its severity, allows you time to ready yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually for both the challenges and excitement that storms inevitably bring.