Thursday, February 08, 2018

Was The Forecast Right? Let's Take a Look.

In weather verification, perception is sometimes not reality. By that, I mean that sometimes people expect something different than the reality. So, when reality does happen, they think the forecast was wrong. That's why I like to recap storms, show data to support what happened, and let you decide.

Leading up to the storm, the NWS issued an Ice Storm Warning. We agreed with this call by the NWS. According to the NWS, the criteria for an Ice Storm Warning is:

Ice Storm Warning
Issued when significant or possibly damaging accumulations of freezing rain and/or freezing drizzle are expected. This usually equates to accumulations of 1/4 inch or more of ice.

When people heard about the warning, some instantly thought it was the end of the world or the 2009 Ice Storm, whichever is worse (perception). When the panic started among a small part of the population, I posted this on Facebook and Twitter:
The reality was, 0.25" or more of freezing rain was expected somewhere in the dark purple counties. After going through reports, pictures, and official rain gauges. The forecast was pretty good! 

Was the area of 0.25" smaller than the Ice Storm Warning? YES. But, in an occupation that predicts the future, I'd take this verification every day.

I had some that question whether anyone had 0.25" of freezing rain. Yes. In fact, the official gauge at Jonesboro showed several hours of freezing rain, with a total of 0.40". All of it fell in freezing air and all of it was classified as freezing rain or "unknown precip"... which was freezing rain:

In Paragould, they also met the "ice storm warning" criteria:

So, why are some (not many) saying it was not an ice storm and why are some thinking the forecast was wrong? One of my favorite parts of the weather enterprise is the social science. Here are my thoughts:
  • Roads were slick in spots, but most were OK. I'm not a road engineer. I try not to forecast road conditions. :) Even in 2009, roads were not too terrible.
  • School was not canceled. Some gauge winter storms by school being in or out. See point 1.
  • Most people kept their power. Since 2009, power companies are 100X more prepared.
  • It was not 2009. This is the #1 reason. 
I'm about to make a bold statement. Screen grab it, write it down, or whatever:

"I doubt I will see another ice storm like 2009 in Region 8 in my life" -Ryan Vaughan

Here's why:
  • We had 1.50"-2.00" of freezing rain. That is a CRAZY amount of freezing rain.
  • Even if we had a repeat of that, power companies are so much more prepared, we would not have people without power for 3-4 weeks.
  • Infrastructure is much better now.
Anywho, that was a long post. I had some extra time and wanted to drink another cup of coffee, so hopefully I did not waste too much of your time.

Have a great day!

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