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Weather factors and distracted driving, temperature swings and more from AccuWeather CEO Joel Myers

February 05, 2019; 9:51 AM


AccuWeather founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers discusses weather-related driving decisions, rapid temperature changes and more.

1. When weather makes bad decisions worse

I have often wondered about the multiplier effect of texting and drinking and driving. Looking at a text takes your eyes off the road an average of 5 seconds, according to one report. That is enough to cover a football field when driving at 55 mph.

If the effect of texting doubles the risk of accidents and drinking also doubles the risk - I am just speaking hypothetically - then does texting and drinking at the same time double the risk again or multiply these to get four times the risk?

And then what happens when the weather is bad, with snow or icy roads? Suppose that alone doubles the risk of an accident. But if all occur together, what is the real risk? Four times, eight times or what?

Whatever the number, bad weather clearly compounds problems for drivers making bad decisions.

2. Weather whiplash

How fast did the temperatures drop when the polar vortex struck? The high temperature in Chicago on Jan. 28 was 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature dipped to -23 F two days later, making it the coldest Jan. 30 in Chicago since record-keeping began almost 150 years ago.

That's a temperature drop of 58 degrees in less than 48 hours. That's severe, but not as shockingly fast as what happened in Spearfish, South Dakota, in 1943.

At 7:30 a.m. that day, in Spearfish, the temperature was -4 F. A Chinook wind blew through rapidly, and two minutes later, the temperature jumped to 45 F, which is the world record for the fastest recorded temperature change, a rise of 49 degrees in 120 seconds.

And perhaps even stranger is the Great "Blue Norther" of Nov. 11, 1911, during which the central United States experienced one of the country's most dramatic cold waves, according to the National Weather Service. Record warm temperatures hit areas such as Missouri and Oklahoma, with Oklahoma City hitting a record for that November day of 83 F and Kansas City topped out at 76 F.

Then the winds shifted to the northwest and temperatures plummeted, with some locations having temperature drops of 50 degrees in one hour. And the drop continued.

By midnight, Oklahoma City hit a low of 17 F and Kansas City dipped to 11 F. For that November day, the two cities hit record highs and record lows on the same day, an almost unheard-of phenomenon. They had temperature drops of 66 and 65, respectively, in about 12 hours.

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3. Will existing-home sales rebound?

Total existing-homes sales in December decreased 6.4 percent from November; sales were down 10.3 percent from a year ago, according to a recent release by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Though disasters, such as hurricanes Florence and Michael as well as the California wildfires, disrupted entire regions of the country and caused substantial losses, weather was not noted as an overriding factor in the 2018 sales drop, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, and I agree with his analysis overall. However, wildfires and hurricanes did cause some local negative impacts on home sales.

The decline is partly a result of higher interest rates during much of 2018, said Yun, who is optimistic for 2019. "Now with mortgage rates lower, some revival in home sales is expected going into spring."

My view is housing prices may have climbed too fast during the past two years and, though interest rates had some impact on the decline in recent existing-home sales, interest rates actually declined over the past three months, so it's more than simple interest rates. Probably the rapid rise in home prices put a temporary damper on existing-homes sales, but sales will likely rebound in the months ahead.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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