Weekend Winter Wallop: What You Need To Know

Well, here we go. We’re a few days out from a major, high-impact winter storm pushing into the region. It could bring the biggest snow totals in over 6 years if things work out right.

Before We Get To The Forecast….

On Sunday, the hype for a weekend winter storm really exploded when everyone checked their Weather Channel app and saw hefty snow accumulations for a storm that was 6-7 days away. I posted this:

This was not a denial that there would be a storm, but that the timing and snow amounts should not be taken seriously that far out. If you see this kind of stuff in an app you are using, you are using an app that is going to constantly let you down. The forecast information presented, especially on days 6-7 of a forecast, is almost completely automated, driven by the latest run of a model or a blend of models.

Our Forecast

Snow forecast are some of the most important and highly visible forecasts we do. There are also the most easily verifiable by our audience; most people have a ruler they can stick in the snow! So we try very hard to not only get the forecast RIGHT but to be as consistent as possible. People have access to all sorts of forecasts on TV, in newspapers, on websites, on apps and all this can get to be information overload. LOTS OF NUMBERS! This is part of the reason why you won’t see us on TV showing you three different graphics that show three different models with a variety of numbers painted all over them. Our forecast looks like this: (in fact it IS THIS!)

We waited until Wednesday evening to put out the forecast because, the earlier you issue a snow forecast, the more often you are likely to have to change it. In all honesty, I’d have preferred to wait until Thursday but with the amount of buzz this storm was generating, it couldn’t really wait much longer.

It’s been a while since we have had a double-digit snow event here (official observations at the Youngstown-Warren airport). This storm has a chance to get there.

Impacts

Whether your location gets 6″ or a foot, the impacts will be high everywhere. Travel will become very difficult as Saturday wears on. Businesses and churches may decide to close for a time.

Strong winds during and especially after the heavy snow ends may result in scattered power outages. Not great considering how cold it will be.

Wind chills will be brutal Sunday through early Tuesday. Expect a long period of below-zero wind chills. Layer up and cover your exposed skin if for some reason you need to be outside for a while.

Confidence

Now for a little weather geekery. How confident are we in the snow forecast? I would say “Medium” at this point. Highly confident that this will be a high-impact storm but the snow forecast can still be tricky. You may often see me refer to the “GFS” and “European” models; they are a couple of the major tools in our forecasting tool box. As is often the case, they have some important disagreements on this storm…namely in the exact track of the system. This has implications regarding precipitation type….the GFS wants to bring the storm far enough north that mild air gets dragged toward our area and this can change snow to sleet/rain/freezing rain for a while. That would reduce snow amounts and potentially by quite a bit. The GFS has been trending this was for the last several runs. Check out the last several runs of this model for the same time Saturday evening.

The European, on the other hand, has trended SOUTH. So you want to be a weather forecaster? It’s no wonder my hair is turning grey.

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