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Published June 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Forum editorial: Weather service gets roses

PRAIRIE ROSES: To the National Weather Service for updating Red River Valley residents on efforts to improve flood forecasting.

By: Forum Editorial Board, INFORUM

PRAIRIE ROSES: To the National Weather Service for updating Red River Valley residents on efforts to improve flood forecasting. NWS deals with few scenarios as complex as forecasting river crests in the valley. Variables of weather, river ice and ever-changing land uses make forecasting an inexact science, at best. The service was criticized during the flood of 2009 for what was perceived as raising the Red’s crest forecast unnecessarily. But in information meetings last week in Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D., the service again stressed the difference between “deterministic” forecasts and “probabilistic” forecasts, distinctions that don’t mean much to the non-scientist. NWS personnel understand that their biggest problem is communicating the science to the public. Several changes in the way information is disseminated are being considered. The meetings last week will help the service do better next time.

LEAFY SPURGE: To Midwest Living magazine for making the improbable designation of the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks as the most-visited tourist attraction in North Dakota. On its face, the ranking is nonsense. Even folks in Grand Forks, who are rightly proud of the finest ice hockey venue on the planet, don’t believe the Ralph is the No. 1 tourist draw. As if to confirm the magazine’s faulty research, the National Buffalo Museum at Jamestown was listed No. 3 with only 20,000 visitors a year. So where does that leave the Fargo Downtown Street Fair, the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Washburn, each of which count annual visits in the hundreds of thousands? Maybe the magazine editors meant the Ralph is the most visited hockey building in the state. Now that makes sense.

LEAFY SPURGE: To administrators at West Fargo High School for the clumsy way they handled the dismissal of the school newspaper’s popular adviser, Jeremy Murphy. The adviser’s offense apparently was teaching his students real journalism – that is, challenging them to write truth about authority. They did that to the consternation of the school principal and others, while at the same time pulling down top honors for The Packer in regional student newspaper competition. It appears doing good work that is recognized beyond the school doesn’t count much in West Fargo if that work criticizes school officials. In addition to learning good journalism, the students – and adviser – have experienced the consequences that sometimes accompany good journalism. Maybe the next report the student should tackle is the ham-handed application of authority.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.