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Doing the Weather In Mexico

Excerpt from "Mexico by Touch, True Life Experiences of a Blind American Deejay"

One of the nightly services which we provided to our Radio Capital audience was the weather report. Weather forecast information was not generally broadcast over Mexican radio stations. Nevertheless, I wanted to make my program sound as much as possible like a stateside deejay show. So, I turned to Diana's father, who was the Flight Control Chief for Mexicana Airlines. His job at the International Airport in Mexico City gave him direct and up-to-the-minute access to the most accurate meteorological data.

I asked him if his night crew could provide me with weather information for my program, and he agreed.

Over the next dozen years, until I ended my program in 1974, I regularly provided my listeners with two nightly forecasts, one at 11 p.m., and the second at 12 midnight.

The weather in Mexico City is divided into two seasons: the rainy season, which begins in late April or early May and runs to October. The other half of the year is known as the dry season and is characterized by hazy skies and blowing dust. To add some variety to the weather scene, Mexico City is affected by storms which blow in from the Gulf of Mexico called "nortes" or (northerns) or those which may sweep in from Acapulco and the Pacific.

Mexico City, although located in the subtropical zone, has a temperate climate, due to its high elevation. Temperatures are generally in the mid 70's during the day and the low 50's at night. However, I can testify to having experienced a couple of winters when the temperature dipped into the teens, and several summers when we had some days where it reached the sizzling 90's.

Because most homes and office buildings are not equipped with central heating or air conditioning, such extreme temperatures can be downright uncomfortable.

To deal with the excessive cold, residents would layer on lots of extra clothes, drink lots of hot coffee, tea or tequila, light their fireplaces (if they had them), use electric heaters, electric blankets and turn on the kitchen stove.

On those occasions when it got really hot, we'd switch on our electric fans and place a pan of ice next to the fan so that the air cooled by the melting ice would be circulated around the room. We'd also drink a lot of lemonade, bottled soda and beer.

These were the times when Mexico City residents like us would flee the capital on weekends to popular nearby resort areas like Cuernavaca and Cuautla, to swim and play in cool, refreshing public or private pools.

The language used by weather forecasters is a very special one. A typical forecast for Mexico City weather might sound like this:

"Scattered to partly cloudy skies tomorrow, with a possible chance of scattered light showers likely in the late afternoon or early evening. Variable light winds from the south southeast at 5 to 10 mph., occasionally gusting to 15."

What did all this double-talk really mean? Well, it meant that tomorrow maybe it would rain and maybe it wouldn't. And, if it did rain, maybe it would rain in one part of the city and not in the other. The prognosticators were very cautious and deliberately used language which allowed for a margin of error. Even with all the advanced technology, Doppler radar, satellite tracking etc., if you listen closely to the weathermen on television today you will still hear them hedging their bet by using a lot of these same kinds of qualifiers which give them an out when their forecast misses the mark.

I made it a habit to call Mexicana Airlines Flight Control Center every evening about 20 minutes before the first scheduled reading of the weather forecast. The crew was pretty faithful about having it ready for me on time. But, once in a while, if they were really busy, they'd ask me to call them back in 10 more minutes. As it got closer to 11, I'd start feeling uptight.

One night when I tried calling, I kept getting a busy signal. Eleven o'clock came and went. The line was still busy. Then it was 11:15. I still couldn't get through. Obviously, something was wrong with the phone line. When the studio clock showed 11:30, I decided it was time to become creative.

I made up my own weather forecast, with predicted high and low temperatures, cloud conditions, wind direction and velocity and chances of precipitation. I used all the appropriate vague language.

When I finally was able to get through to the Flight Control Center at 11:45, and they read off the forecast to me, I was amazed. It was exactly the same as the one I had created and read on the air.

From that night forward, I worried a lot less about getting through to the experts. If the Flight Control crew was too busy to prepare the weather report for me, or if I had difficulty getting through to them over the phone by the scheduled broadcast time, I’d simply make up my own. I was accurate about 75% of the time. And that’s better than a lot of today’s TV star forecasters.

Larry P. Johnson, blind from the age of 6 months, has never let blindness stop him from living the fascinating life chronicled in his first book, “Mexico by Touch, True Life Experiences of a Blind American Deejay" (from which this is excerpted, with permission). His story, woven with his insightful views on the fascinating country, culture and people of Mexico, tells an exciting and entertaining tale of one man’s dreams and his numerous adventures, a book for those who enjoy inspiring stories of courageous optimism and perseverance.

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