Monday, December 13, 2010

The Depiction Versus the Reality

Yesterday's "The Other Coast" depicted meteorologists, as usual, as buffoons.
By Adrian Raeside,
Now, go back through the postings on this blog until you land on last Tuesday's. You'll find a "heads up" pertaining to the possibility of a major winter storm in the Midwest over the weekend. Four days of warning for a record blizzard!

Before reliable weather forecasts, it was common for hundreds to die in blizzards like these.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, no one died of exposure during the storm. The only fatality, so far, has been a St. Cloud man who had a heart attack shoveling snow. Ditto for the Des Moines Register and the Chicago Tribune -- no direct storm deaths. The Trib reported 1,700 flights cancelled in Chicago. The remainder averaged 5+ hours of delay. The Minneapolis airport was closed.

Now, go back to Friday and read this posting. Among the things stated,

There will be high winds and rapidly falling temperatures along with the snow in the blizzard areas. If you are planning on traveling by air Saturday through Minneapolis or through Chicago or Milwaukee late Saturday or Sunday morning start making alternative plans. I checked and several of the airlines have issued waivers (i.e., you can change advance purchase tickets without charge).

The entire meteorological profession did its usual outstanding job in the two days prior to the storm. Was the storm perfectly forecast? No. For some reason, Mother Nature is more predictable in some situtions than others. This was a very difficult storm (note the forecaster comments in the Friday posting). That said, a blizzard or winter storm warning was in effect in all of the hardest-hit areas. We not only forecast the blizzard, we had enough specificity in our forecasts to allow people to move their vacation up or postpone it to avoid the storm.

The story of how we got to where meteorologists took on these huge storms and created systems to save lives is fascinating. And, I know where you can go to learn about it while being mightily entertained.

UPDATE: Records set by this blizzard.

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