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The Daily “Probabilities”

The Daily “Probabilities”

(p.71) Chapter 2 The Daily “Probabilities”
Looking Forward
Jamie L. Pietruska
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on controversies over rural access to short-term weather forecasts and storm warnings after 1870, when the US Army Signal Service established the country’s first national weather service and brought official government forecasts into daily life. It describes the operation of the Signal Service’s information network, which collected synchronous weather observations from across the country that were transmitted by telegraph to Washington, D.C. and translated into a daily weather summary and forecast called the “Synopsis and Probabilities.” The chapter focuses on the increasing rural demand for access to government weather forecasts and the Signal Service’s attempts to disseminate weather information to areas beyond the reach of its telegraph network in the 1870s and 1880s. It features the perspectives of rural postmasters and farmers who experienced daily uncertainties regarding when and if the daily “Probabilities” would arrive. The chapter reveals how the government’s problem of short-term weather forecasting in the countryside was solved by the advent of Rural Free Delivery and rural telephone lines at the turn of the twentieth century.

Keywords:   short-term weather forecasts, storm warnings, US Army Signal Service, Synopsis and Probabilities, information network, telegraph, countryside, Rural Free Delivery, rural telephone lines

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