5 days in the life of ...

The inquiry officer at the Met Office is bombarded with telephone calls
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Indy Lifestyle Online
MONDAY: I knew as soon as we had all the gales on Sunday that I'd be in for a busy day. When you see a lot of trees falling it means a lot of calls. I came in at 7.30am and went through to 5pm without stopping for lunch. I dealt with 82 calls - that's about three times as many as we normally get. Then there are letters and e-mail. The range of questions is almost limitless. Lots of people ring in who've had their property damaged and they seem to think they need to know the speed of the wind for insurance claims purposes. People making ferry crossings want to know what the weather's going to be like. A woman rang in from Yorkshire saying a block of ice the size of a dustbin lid had fallen into her back garden, which she thought we ought to know about. And because it's Ramadhan there were quite a few calls about the times for sunrise and sunset.

TUESDAY: Again fairly busy - 62 calls - but the wind was starting to abate. A lot of people rang in wanting to know about the best bet for good weather on their summer holidays. I've become quite a travel expert. El Nino is also a raging topic at the moment, and at this time of the year people are always ringing up with quiz questions they want answered. What was the warmest country in Europe in 1997? How many white Christmases have there been in London since the war? They do get a bit tedious. Everyone seems to have been given a barometer for Christmas, and they want to know how to set it. But I quite enjoy talking to people about it.

WEDNESDAY: Very quiet. Only 45 calls, and I managed to get out to lunch. A lot of the calls were about skiing conditions. I refer them to the Ski Club of Great Britain. I dealt with some letters - mainly complaints. A lot of these are the result of people mishearing forecasts. And one of the papers last weekend printed completely the wrong forecast. Compared with some situations when we have been chasing our tails, we've been pretty good during the stormy weather of the past three weeks. But if you've got it wrong you have to admit it. The technology has moved on since I started in 1961, but even the perfect computer with the perfect input of data would still be pushed to come up with an accurate forecast for more than a few days. The atmosphere is full of surprises. The trouble is a lot of people look at the five-day forecast at the weekend and reckon to be able to go by it for the rest of the week.

THURSDAY: Things went truly ballistic after the tornado that hit Selsey on the south coast. I'd had a call earlier in the week about a tornado on the Isle of Wight, but it hadn't caused any damage and these things are pups compared with the ones in the States. Still, when I switched on Radio 5 at 5.40am and heard what had happened I knew what was in store for me. I took more than 90 calls - curious weather freaks or just people who were worried a tornado might come their way. And I helped out the press office because it was getting so many media inquiries. No lunch today.

FRIDAY: We were hoping the weather would start to ease and that's generally what happened. But the unusually high temperatures caused a lot of interest. We had parts of north Wales that had their warmest ever January day - 16 C. It still wasn't the all-time record for anywhere in Britain - that's held by Aber in north Wales which reached 18.3 C in 1971. A woman rang in from north London to report that one of our weather balloons was dangling from her telephone wire and what should she do about it? I put her in touch with one of my colleagues. It's certainly a busy time of the year. I prefer August, when the weather's usually quieter. There's a lot that's mundane about the work, but still every day is different.