but this place is just right.
Growing up in the D.C. suburbs, I was an avid reader of The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang — not because I understood anything about weather, but because the website provided a convenient tracker of school cancellation odds, using a ranking system of one to five icons that looked like apples.
When I moved to New Orleans two years ago and began teaching middle school English, I discovered the only thing that beat the feeling of a snow day as a student is a snow day as a teacher. Snow is rare around here, but there a myriad of reasons to shut down school in this town. Last fall, Orleans Parish schools were off for two days because of the threat of rain. The problem wasn’t the severity of the incoming storm, it was that not all of the drainage pumps designed to keep the below-sea-level city dry were in working order. It barely rained that week.
So I started tracking weather again to keep abreast of systems that could cancel school, and more importantly, impact the people and infrastructure of a place I had grown to call home.
This brought me to DaBuh, the official surf reporter and forecaster for the United States Surfing Federation, and now my go-to source for all things brewing in the atmosphere. DaBuh, AKA Chickie Dimain, a former concrete worker in his mid-50s from Jacksonville, FL, provides levity with his forecasts of weather events across the northern hemisphere. Via frequent posts on Instagram and Twitter, he usually zeroes in on events originating in the Atlantic Ocean. Despite his high-profile designation with the USSF, his Twitter follower count is less than 5,000, and he’s a tad short of 6,500 on Instagram.
These low counts baffle me. Leave the EURO predictions and the technicolor spaghetti models to the National Weather Service — give me DaBuh’s hand-drawn details turning an image of Hurricane Michael into a Wu-Tang Killa Bees reference. Do I have any idea what this photo of swirling multi-colored systems annotated with black half-circles means? No. Do I understand the caption (“WE HERE AT DABUH.COM BELIEVE IN SIGNS...LAST NIGHT WE WENT TO SEE @wutangclan AT THE ST AUGUSTINE AMPHITHEATER...THIS MORNING WE HAVE CONFIRMATION....HERE COME DA KILLER BEES
WU TANG CLAN AND DA METHOD MAN...ROLL DA DICE MAN....
M-->E-->T--->H--->O--->D.....MAN”)? Absolutely not. But I love it regardless.
A typical DaBuh post includes a radar photo of an upcoming event, often annotated with black or red lines that indicate the potential movement (or impact) of the system, and an all-caps caption that describes the effects, usually accompanied by lyrics or a movie reference. One example is an early October forecast of Hurricane Michael, which includes thin red arrows and a spin on the lyrics of Fortune Teller by Xavier Rudd (“DA FORTUNE TELLER … WHAT EYE SEA … THIS IS MY WINDOW … YOUR QUESTIONS WITH EVERY ARROW I MAKE … SO MUCH TIME IS MADE UP WITH ANSWERS …).
The rest of my feed is a cornucopia of fall wedding photos and similarly curated morsels of millennial life, filtered and edited to the nth degree. DaBuh’s accounts are a grounding sign that there are things out there more important and unpredictable than any of that.
DaBuh offers no reason to his rhymes, except when he quotes lyrics from Mystikal or Ludacris, and he does not worry about grammar, spelling, clarity, or releasing the caps lock. His captions read like frantic, slightly buzzed updates from a friend who feels they have discovered a universal truth at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night. Sometimes he draws a rabbit over a NASA image and includes Jefferson Airplane lyrics; sometimes he doodles a snake on Hurricane Willa and quotes Sir Mix-A-Lot. In this post, he found a moose out of this “possible coastal event” and “winter swell season,” declaring “WHEN YOU SEE THE ANCIENT WARRIOR SIGN FOR THE MOOSE IN WAVE WATCH 3 … POSSIBLE SURF ALERT COMING SE U.S.” The tweet shows identical images of a weather system off the East Coast of the U.S., but in one, DaBuh drew moose antlers, an eye, a small smile and a black nose right around New Jersey. This type of whimsy doesn’t make me any more knowledgeable about the weather, but it does make me inexplicably happy. My all-time favorite DaBuh tweet remixed Lady Gaga to explain that “tropical cyclones were born this way.”
When a Gulf Coast-leaning system like Gordon comes around, I refresh DaBuh’s pages frequently to see how a storm might impact my home. But otherwise, I go to one of his pages when I’m aimlessly perusing social media. DaBuh has more than 40,000 tweets and more than 6,000 Instagram posts. I can sit back and scroll, and watch the most powerful systems on our planet get described in the quirkiest of ways.
On another level, watching the weather feels like keeping up with the news without keeping up with all of that news. It seems counterintuitive to find calm in a corner of the internet that assesses potential natural disasters. But the divergent nature of meteorology comforts and terrifies me. Storm systems swirl outside of political partisanships and spare no one. Weather does not discriminate based on ideology nor socioeconomic status nor any of the other things that divide. It just happens.
When everything rotten and crumbling in our days and on our feeds seems wrought by man — humans hurting other humans — this is a larger force that reminds us we’re at the whim of elements that answer to no one.