It happens every time we mention the possibility of snow in our forecast.
Mind you, words like “possibility” and “chance” go mostly ignored. Most only hear “snow” and then want to know when and how much. This is followed by a mad rush to the grocery store (as humorously depicted in the photo above) to rid the shelves of bread, milk and eggs as people will be making french toast if they get shut in for days.
It’s also a race to be among the ever growing cadre of weather experts that hope to get it right. Scanning social media pages just today, there are literally dozens of snow chance graphics with various colored lines and accumulations on display hoping to be the one that “called it first”. Sure, I’d honestly like to be the weather source that “nails it” but even I know we can’t always do that.
So, if you get it right, what happens? Not much. You may get patted on the back a few times. You may hear snarky remarks like “even a broken clock gets it right twice a day” and your station may even throw together a promo with your smiling face, a serious sounding music bed along with fancy graphics and a booming announcer claiming “we warned you first”. You, as a forecaster feel good about yourself for about 10 minutes.
I know, I’ve been there.
The glory fades when the next storm comes and you realize the bar has been raised. You can only rest on laurels for so long until they become thorns in your side. You feel confident in your ability to forecast and you go with what your gut and the computer models are telling you. Yeah! I’m feeling mighty big on this cloud. Let’s go for two in a row!
Then your forecast goes bust.
Winter weather forecasting is an elusive gamble. A few degrees variance from the surface to a few hundred feet above us can make all the difference between a mix to rain to snow. Or, if computer models – which is guidance, not gospel – don’t pick up the shift that low pressure system just made, the forecast you just posted is screwed.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more of a realist. In my experience, I know we’re going to get it wrong sometimes. The key is to not focus so much on the numbers. Numbers can be wrong. Or, the numbers could be right but maybe I misinterpreted them.
I understand your frustration. You were prepared for a 5 inch snow and you got flurries. You went to the store, stocked up on staple items, filled your gas tank and prepared to buckle down. Turns out, all you got were flurries. Blame the weatherman. He’s the highest paid liar there is, right? I’m sure you could do a better job than I. When we say it’s going to snow, you can bet it won’t happen and vice-versa. I hear you.
Any kind of winter weather is an interruption in our lives. It’s a nuisance. Cold, snow, ice, freezing rain, sleet, wind…I get it. No matter what you’ve heard otherwise, weather is uncontrollable. There’s not an app for that. I have to walk a fine line between ticking someone off or making their day and I’ve lost that battle more times than I can count.
The main thing I want for you is to come away with is a “yes” when answering the question “am I prepared for no matter what happens?” It might come a dusting of snow or several inches. While the numbers have always been a focus of winter weather forecasting, how about we focus on what just a few inches of snow or sub-freezing temperatures might do to your morning drive or how you get the kids ready for school…or will they even go to school at all?
Every storm should be met with an emphasis on potential impact.
If it doesn’t pan out as forecast, then look at your trip to the store as “I’m stocked up for whatever happens”. It wasn’t a wasted trip. Filling your car up with gas keeps lines and valves from freezing up and adds weight to your car which will help with traction.
And what about school? That’s an argument I don’t want to even try and get into. I see the side of the parents and the school system. Sometimes, the call is obvious to all parties. Sometimes, it’s a harder call to make. But I can tell you, school administrators will check roads and will make the best call erring on the side of caution. If it’s an inconvenience to you, just remember it’s an inconvenience to pretty much everyone else, too. All I can say as to whether there will be school Monday or not: be prepared for the possibility and how this will be an alteration to your normal weekday morning routine.
Just remember, we, as a media outlet, have no bearing on school decisions.
In today’s world, people want someone to blame for everything. If things don’t go as planned, someone has to pay, right? All we can do is to give you the heads-up to be better prepared. We can’t make you take the necessary steps to be prepared. This is where we hand off the responsibility to you. We will do everything we can to make better forecasts while you do all you can to be ready.