Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Winter Storm Forecast Fail

This map, which was produced about 46 hours before the storm, shows my city in a blizzard
Well, you probably have heard this said in several ways; "Weatherman- The only job where you get paid to be wrong". Now, to be fair, I'm sure that weather folks are trying their darnedest to be right. They want to get the forecast right, but predicting the dynamic forces of nature correctly has proven to be a slippery thing. Especially Winter forecasting. This is a story of how that looks. In my opinion, this happens a lot around here, but maybe I am wrong. Anyway......

Starting a week ago we started hearing about a huge storm that was going to strike Iowa smack dab through the center at a diagonal from Southwest to Northeast. Models used to forecast were dead on a track that varied only a tiny bit coming up to Ground Hog Day. Just about Sunday or so, a slight shift in what they were saying to the Northwest was shown. Still, Waterloo, the city where I live, was in the storm's sights and we were to get up to 10" of snow with 40mph winds. Yes, that would have been a blizzard. 
About Monday afternoon, I noticed the radar of the oncoming storm. I saw that the forecast track of the deepening low pressure was to the Northwest of what they had been saying it would be all along. Hmm..... As things progressed on through Monday night, I became more and more convinced that we were not going to have a blizzard. Then the National Weather Service removed Waterloo from the blizzard warning to a Winter Storm Warning with up to 10" of snow. I planned on sending Mrs. Guitar Ted to work Tuesday with an extra set of clothes, in case she had to stay at work all night Tuesday night.

Heavy snow started at about 8:00am in Waterloo. This was about 8:30am on my way to work. 
When I awoke on Tuesday, and looked at the radar, it wasn't looking like we were going to be in the bullseye at all, but we were in for a grazing shot, and if the storm deepened and stayed close to the original track, we could have gotten all that snow, perhaps. When we awoke, there was only about an eighth of an inch of snow on the ground, and it wasn't snowing at all.

Snow started just as I was about to leave for work, at about 8:00am. By 8:30am, snow was coming down in a blinding sheet. I was covered with a coating of snow on my windward facing body parts. The Blackborow DS was cutting along like there was nothing in its way. I made it to work with no trouble at all, but as I got closer, I noticed a change. The temperature was getting warmer, the snow was slowing down, and I was dripping as my body heat was now melting the snow faster than it could accumulate on me.

Gotta love the Blackborow DS in conditions like we had Tuesday.
I didn't stay at work long. It wasn't busy, and I didn't have much to do otherwise, so after I helped a customer or two, I headed back at about 10: 30am. By this time the wind had picked up a tad, but it was no where near what had been predicted. The snow was steady, but now it was very, very wet. The Blackborow DS tires were gripping the snow and surprisingly, it was not sticky! I was riding right through about 5" of fresh snow, and the grip was really quite good.

Just about back home......
The snow was tapering off. I got home a little past 11:00am, and by 1:30pm it was all over. The storm had passed us by far, far to the North. We were in a huge "dry slot" and we could possibly get a back side flurry or two, but it was obvious that the forecast wasn't on target. Not that I was upset. we got some snow, it didn't get insanely cold afterward, and the winds weren't a factor at all. Overall, I was pleased. Even though we haven't had a blizzard in a long time, I don't get the same weird thrill that some people do by having that sort of thing happen. Been there, done that? Yeah, that certainly factors into this, but I also don't care for being confined to quarters for extended periods of time, which is what blizzards do to you. Or should, anyway.....

The good thing about this particular snow was that it sets up really well and I had zero traction issues coming home. I suspect it will make for good fat biking for a while. We are supposed to get pretty warm again by the weekend, so things have the potential to go all to mush since the water content of this snow is pretty high. We will see how it goes. I mean they could be all wrong again, ya know!

So, that wasn't much of a storm for something that was built up over a week ago and hyped like crazy by the media. Oh sure, there were blizzard conditions in Nebraska and Northwestern Iowa, but the blizzard wasn't nearly as widespread as what was promised, and folks were in panic mode in may cases for no good reason. That seems to be the nature of our weather forecasting and how society deals with it now. They have a word for over-protective parenting- helicopter parents. Maybe we also have helicopter weather reactions these days. Bah! Whatever you want to call it, I think it is over-reacting and unnecessarily cautious. 

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