It was shortly before 3:00 p.m. yesterday when the office manager from a snow plowing company phoned me for details about the upcoming snowfall. Word had it that an overnight snowfall was about to stir up some salting and sanding business in the metro area. The best I can promise you is a dusting. ‘That’s why I hadn’t called you,’ was the short answer.
Now Saturday might be another story, but details will be sorted out later this week.
When I became the chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities in December of 1991, the metro area had already accumulated 50 inches of snow. Yes, in 30 days, there was enough snow to call it a season. The average winter snowfall in the Cities is around 55 inches.
For the past 16 years, I watched in wonder how media weathercasters would tease with the promise or a calamity of snow. Government meteorologists, whom I supervised for 25 years out of my 34-year career at the Weather Service, tended to be conservative on the snow forecast.
Computer models were assessed, lessons of synoptic meteorology were applied, and tried and true cookbook rules of thumb were followed. Projected snow accumulations were based on consensus of sound meteorology by a staff of skilled meteorologists.
As Paul Huttner mentioned in this morning’s blog, snow is a tough element to predict. It’s even tougher when stakes are high. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but it sure appears to me that my dear colleagues in the media have it even tougher. The forecast of snow becomes more than a weather element, it becomes a news story.
Yes, even in the land of snow and cold, the first inch of snow in the Twin Cities can be the No. 1 news story. Let’s see how Saturday plays out!