The Storm is Coming (extra)

Remaining Reading time: 4.5 minutes

When the result appeared on a map, he thought he might faint …

“This is incredible if it’s true,” he thought, scanning through the findings. “It certainly made sense. Insurance companies had dubbed it ‘Hail Alley.’ That was where Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska touch. This might not be an error at all.” 

He anxiously re-entered the data and checked the results again. He got the same answer. To back up the map, the human-like voice generator used its most professional tone: “Severe hailstorms likely across Wyoming exactly 6 months from today.” Herbert whistled in surprise.

He messaged his brother, Bill, who was always fascinated by Herbert’s weekend work. Bill blearily examined Herbert’s screenshots and felt a definite tingling in his stomach. There was something here. There was definitely something.

Herbert entered his latest findings on his website’s blog page and slipped quietly into bed, trying not to disturb Lisa. He sighed, feeling satisfied but unnerved by the day’s outcome. 

The next morning, he checked his blog page for comments left by his fellow weather enthusiasts. “Fantastic! I wonder how far into the future it can go while still staying precise. Your previous predictions have been correct every time. I simply cannot doubt you any longer,” wrote @sorryiruinedyourweekend. “I agree. What happens in 12 months? Should I sell my house now and move to Australia. I live in Cheyenne,” winked @barometric_nerds_unite.

Herbert didn’t need to be asked twice. He had woken in the middle of the night thinking the same thing. Projecting 12 months from now was a mind-blowing ask. He organized the data, pressed Enter and waited.

The results loaded onto the map as he took a sip of his morning coffee. He almost choked, burning his mouth, and spilling a good portion on his pants.

“Lunacy!” he whispered under his breath. 

The severe hailstorm was still there, but it was now massive, stretching over 2,000 miles from San Francisco to Chicago. “If this prediction is correct. It would be the largest, most destructive hailstorm ever recorded. The amount of damage to people, livestock, property, livelihoods, and confidence will be staggering. It would cost tens of billions of dollars.

“Maybe, it’s a coding error” Herbert thought. 

He wasn’t the first person to try to predict weather far in advance. There were many and they used an incredible variety of techniques. One of his buddies online had built software that looked at the weather on the date one month from now for the past 30 years, computed the average, which he then used as his prediction. Even that was hit and miss. Herbert, however, was a coding genius, and had amassed a million times more data, collected from all over the world. He merged them all with hundreds of weightings until they created a single prediction. He did it all in his basement on those “off days” on the weekend. His secret software and predictive algorithms put him in an elite category of inventors. 

After hours of testing various dates. He concluded it was indeed the worst-case scenario. He uploaded his findings online with the title “My experimental weather predictor has a success rate of 100%. It says the mother of all storms is on its way.” Then, he went to bed feeling uneasy.

He was shaken awake a few hours later. Lisa was standing over him. “You’re not going to believe this. There was a local news crew at the front door. Cameras and lights. I told them you weren’t available right now. Get up and explain to me what is going on.”

As Herbert dressed, he said: “I’ll find out.”

Then he hurried down to the basement to check his website. Last night’s post had gone viral, he had thousands of comments, with more pouring in at an alarming rate.

He checked his emails and could barely believe his eyes. The Office of the Under Secretary for Land, Air, and Water Affairs (LAWA) had reached out to him. Less than an hour later he was talking to a senior official of LAWA on a Zoom call. 

Herbert interrupted a rather long and convoluted conversation. “So, wait! Are you saying you want to see what I have done with a view to buying my software?”