Some Thoughts on Storm Warnings

It is hard to believe, but I have been making forecasts for the public for 44 years. In the beginning, forecasts of storms were often incorrect and meteorologists – more than anyone – were aware of forecasting’s flaws.

But, these days, forecasts of major storms are amazingly good. Tragically, this triumph of weather science that seems to be have gone unnoticed by a significant portion of the population. Whether NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg or some snarky comments posted this earlier this week on a railroading discussion group the misunderstanding about accuracy of storm warnings can, and does, lead to unnecessarily lost lives.

Take the Blizzard of ’13 two weeks ago. Below is the AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions’ forecast provided to its clients two days before the snow started falling.

 Below is the map of what actually occurred. The peak wind at Boston was 76 mph. At Providence, 63 mph. We explicitly called for widespread power failures and near complete travel disruption. Not only was the 48-hour forecast excellent, we continued to refine it prior to the commencement of the snow. Our clients knew exactly how to prepare. 

With the Blizzard of Oz, here is the forecast posted on this blog the day before:
Of course, Interstates 135, 70, and 35 were closed by the storm and several counties declared "all roads closed."

I’m confident you’ll agree these forecasts were excellent.

Yes, we sometimes get the day-to-day forecasts wrong. Why? Because we haven’t put anywhere near the effort during the last two decades into ordinary forecasts that we have with storms.

We certainly aren’t perfect. But, the vast majority of major storm forecasts are essentially correct. Please take them seriously. 


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