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January 9th, 2013 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Standard Inquiries

What's the deal with the lights on top of the Standard Insurance building?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

A large pole with multicolored lights sits on top of the Standard Insurance building downtown. The lights shine either white, green or red. Is this Portland’s answer to Gotham’s Bat-Signal? An homage to Christmas? Or a message to aliens? 

—None of My Business

You know what sucks about getting old? Besides the way your skin begins to congeal into something that would be better described by the term “bark.” It’s how nothing is new to you anymore.

When I first started at Willamette Week—back when we wrote out each copy of the paper by hand in mole’s blood—I would have found the Standard Plaza weather beacon utterly newsworthy. I probably would have done a story about it, too, had I not been too busy scanning the street for stray vials of crack to look up and notice it was there.

Now, though, the beacon seems old hat. Hacks like me forget there’s a new generation who doesn’t know this stuff. (Heck, some of you probably don’t even know about the opium poppy fields in Forest Park, or the talking beavers on Swan Island.) So here’s the scoop:

As quaint as it might seem to those of us who routinely check our smartphones to see if it’s raining outside because we can’t be bothered to open the blinds, when it was constructed in 1953, the beacon actually provided a relatively handy weather report.

When the color is white, it means the temperature is forecast to drop by five or more degrees in the next 24 hours. When it’s red, it means a comparable rise over the same interval. When it’s green, nothing interesting is going to happen.

Finally, when the lights are blinking, it means it’s either raining, or going to rain—the very definition of a safe bet.


QUESTIONS? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com

 
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