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Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Spring rains, summer thunderstorms, fall tropical storms and winter freezes. It sounds ominous, until you truly start to look at the facts about how South Carolina’s relationship with Mother Nature. We decided to go straight to the local legend, WPDE meteorologist Ed Piotrowski. The weatherman recently celebrated his 25th anniversary at the station and has become the go-to voice for locals and visitors searching for the most accurate forecasts on patterns big and small alike. Piotrowski took some time with us to clear up some misconceptions, but also offer some advice for golfers trying to take advantage of the weather that has helped the Myrtle Beach golf market continue to stay so attractive for such a long time.
MYRTLE BEACH GOLF TRIPS: We had talked last year about people's reliance on the computer-generated weather apps on phones and how out-of-touch they can be. Can you expand on that and tell us why those are less accurate?
ED PIOTROWSKI: 99% of the smartphone weather apps pull data from one forecast model that updates four times a day. There is no human intervention or quality control.
MYRTLE BEACH GOLF TRIPS: Self-serving a bit, but how much reliable is your local weather man or woman going to be vs. those apps?
ED PIOTROWSKI: Human forecasters know the many flaws of the models and adjust the forecasts accordingly. This is especially true when you get into forecasts beyond three-five days when errors in forecast models and automated apps are increasingly large.
MYRTLE BEACH GOLF TRIPS: Is this area more prone to varying weather conditions than other areas of this size? How much of that has to do with the ocean effect?
ED PIOTROWSKI: The ocean is a big part of why we get the weather we get. The temperature difference between the land and ocean drive the sea-breeze which has a direct impact on where storms may form in the spring and summer and where the rain/snow may be in the winter. The sea breeze does have a tendency to stabilize the atmosphere within 10 miles off the coast during the summer while storms fire along and west of it.
MYRTLE BEACH GOLF TRIPS: How does a meteorologist stress patience, be it with the type of storms that may not be seen as a big deal in the grand scheme but could ruin a day on the course - or at least be perceived that it would?
ED PIOTROWSKI: Hurricanes and winter storms are large, but exact impacts change over a relatively short distance so it is impossible to know precisely what will happen in a given area beyond three-five days. On a local level, thunderstorms are our biggest concern in the summer, but even when the forecasts call for 70-80% chance of rain, it is not an all-day rain. It just means you have a very good chance of encountering a storm that may last an hour while the rest of the day is nice. Again, I'll stress, outside of hurricanes, we rarely see an all-day rain in the spring and summer along the Grand Strand. Bottom-line, no matter how ominous things may look beyond three-five days, I wouldn't cancel plans. If it still looks bad within two-three days, then you consider alternate plans
MYRTLE BEACH GOLF TRIPS: What is a realistic piece of advice for when people should start looking at weather forecasts prior to a specific day they are playing? Three days out? Two? Morning of?
ED PIOTROWSKI:There’s nothing wrong at looking at the long-range forecast beyond five days, but just know it will likely change and could change a lot. If it's not a hurricane or winter storm, the day before or even the morning of would be the best time to decide on whether you'll be able to play or not. Remember, even a forecast the night before of a 70% chance of storms doesn't mean it will rain all day.