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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/22/2008

Where Would You Put Washington's Weather Ball?

By Dan Stillman

The Grand Rapids Weather Ball, courtesy WZZM 13.

Weather Ball, where have you been all my life?

No, I'm not talking about a black-tie affair for weather junkies. (Though who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall in that room?)

The Weather Ball I speak of watches high over cities like Grand Rapids, Mich., and Sioux City, Iowa. It doesn't waste our time waving its hands at confusing maps and yakking about high pressure, low pressure, stalled fronts and stationary fronts. Rather, it gets right to the point, using colors to signal the weather to come:

Keep reading for more Weather Ball. See our full forecast through the holiday weekend, and our beach forecast.

In Grand Rapids...

Red = warmer ahead
Blue = cooler in view
Green = no change forseen
Colors blinking bright = rain or snow in sight

and in Sioux City...

White as snow = down the temperature will go
Red as fire = tempearture going higher
Emerald green = forecast says no change in scene
When color flashes in agitation = there's going to be precipitation

I would *love* to get one of these in my house. This would make up for never getting that traffic light I wanted in my room -- you know, like the one on Silver Spoons.

I know, I know. Being a meteorologist and all I shouldn't need a ball to tell me what the weather will be. But it sure sounds easier than looking at those darn computer models. And if all these cities have one, why can't Washington?

Think about the value. With taxpayer money, the city funds a 600-bazillion-dollar baseball stadium that only gets used a few hours a day on 81 days per year, plus some concerts and papal visits thrown in. Weather Ball, at a fraction of the price, would operate 24/7/365. At any given time of day or night, dozens if not hundreds of people could be gazing upward at Weather Ball. And talk about a conversation piece.

Instead of colors, Washington's Weather Ball could light up with presidents' faces. I already have one in mind to indicate "hot air on the push."

On a more serious note, in the absence of tornado sirens, wouldn't Weather Ball make a great tool for warning Washingtonians of an approaching twister? Seems like it might be more effective than fire engines blaring their sirens and honking their horns -- virtually the only form of warning Atlanta residents received before a tornado struck the downtown area on March 14. Weather Ball could do wonders for the challenge of warning people in urban centers about dangerous weather.

So , where should we put Washington's Weather Ball?

WJLA-7 had the perfect vantage point for one of these guys -- overlooking D.C. and the Potomac River from atop its high-reaching Rosslyn skyscraper. That is until the view was recently obstructed by its new neighbor.

If it were me, I'd go for the gusto. I'd bring in a top-notch engineering team to balance it on the pointy tip of the Washington Monument. Hey, it can't be all that much harder than when a seal balances a beach ball on its nose.

Or, we could balance it on the head of that gal at the top of the Capitol Dome.

Have some less (or more) silly suggestions? Let's hear 'em.

By Dan Stillman  | May 22, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Humor  
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That's not a guy, that's a woman. Her name is Freedom

Posted by: dk on Capitol Hill | May 22, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

dk -- Thanks for the correction. In reading about her, it seems like she has the right stuff to take good care of our Weather Ball.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | May 22, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

WEATHER BALL!!! i want one. how about in the middle of the air force memorial -- the contrails would set it off just so.

it also sounds like a fun recess game. "hey, guys, let's play weather ball!"

Posted by: dinergirl | May 22, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"Have some less (or more) silly suggestions? Let's here 'em."

Uh, that should be "Let's hear 'em."

Let's put the ball in Rosslyn. We don't need clutter over the District.

Posted by: Gilbert Adams | May 22, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

In Boston, the Old John Hancock Tower is topped with a weather beacon with its own poem:

Steady blue, clear view,
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead,
Flashing red, snow instead.

Except in summer when flashing red = Red Sox game cancelled. And after the Sox won the world series in '04 this was added:

Flashing blue and red, the Curse of the Bambino is dead.

Posted by: Dirty Water | May 22, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

The roof of the Gulf Building served this purpose for me when I was growing up in Pittsburgh. Apparently it also flashes when the Pirates hit a home run -- about once every year or two.

With no skyscrapers in this town, though, you're in trouble. What about dyeing the Potomac the appropriate color for the day?

Posted by: doug | May 22, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Any ideas for Weather Ball poems based on presidents' faces? Here's a couple, in addition to the one subtly slipped into the post above:

Reagan -- here comes precipitation
Harding -- clear skies in the offing

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | May 22, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Since we are DC, lets do this a little different and have a weather oblisk....just change the colors on the Washington Monument to reflect the forecast (although, I admit, the sight of that structure flashing red might scare all of tourists away...hmmm).

Posted by: ft washington | May 22, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Possibly related, but there is a green or blue or purple "box" behind the White House ("behind" when standing on Constitution Ave looking at the White House.) I have no idea what it is - if it isn't a weather box, we should hijack it to be one.

Posted by: md | May 22, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of the weather rock we use in scouting:

a dry rock means fair weather.
a wet rock means it's raining.
a dusty rock means a dust storm.
a swaying rock means it's windy.
a shadow under the rock means it's sunny.
a white rock means it's snowing.
if the rock is jumping up and down, an earthquake is upon us.
if the bottom of the rock is under water it's a flood.

Posted by: Uncle Dak | May 22, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Modify the lighting on the washington monument so it's along the lines of teh Hancock tower. No need to light the whole thing--just the tip.

Posted by: ah | May 22, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

That's awesome, Uncle Dak! And don't forget: a rock that melts in your hand means volcano.

Posted by: mcleaNed | May 23, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

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