Some things about California never change. Water is the essential element in this state, and there is always either too much or not enough. And sometimes the difference between these two states can be measured in a matter of hours. Much like our recent storm, this one sprang up mid-Pacific, got shoved down by frigid air from the Canadian prairie, and ended up in northern California, dumping rain through the mid-state and heavy snow in the Sierras, with some rain heading off to southern California, all helping to relieve a serious drought condition. One big difference. The storm in Stewart’s book occurred in 1941. The latest we just had may been covered digitally, but Stewart’s was all analogue.
So no weather satellites, and no computers. How, then did forecasters forecast (and quite accurately too) these large scale weather patterns? By a network of reporting stations on land and at sea. Ships ranging from fishing vessels to liners were expected to call in once a day with a temperature and air pressure report, the same as did land based weather reporting stations. But data alone is not a weather report. And it takes a master, like the Chief (Meteorologist) to fill in the map with the color-coded information until the extent and movement of the storm is obvious.
And so many depend on this information, from the railroads, the highway departments, and the airports down to the farmers and the manager of a small local department store who, when the Chief gives the definitive signal that rain is finally coming, immediately switches out the planned window display of spring outfits and baby buggies to raincoats, boots, and umbrellas.
Stewart does a masterful job of putting all the participants in play; from an unfortunate owl, to the highway chief desperately trying to keep the Donner Pass open, to the unlucky slip and fall of a wild boar, which nearly derails the superliner from Chicago. I highly recommend this nail-biter.