Friday, December 31, 2010

Grades for New Year’s Eve “Storm” – No Cause for Celebration

For a storm that had been first eyeballed ten days ago and talked about with breathtaking detail almost every day since, this was an underperformer of underperformers for the Twin Cities metro. Thursday’s rain was minimal and I counted 26 sleet pellets on my back deck from today’s much-touted “Round 2.” (OK, so I really didn’t count the sleet pellets.) Effective with this storm, I’ve created a progressive forecast by weather outlet that details the full prediction history for the storm. The summary can be viewed here.

Without further ado, here are the grades for the most recent snow event (grading criteria can found here). In the coming days, an overall average grade-at-a-glance will be provided to reflect how the various weather outlets are performing on a cumulative basis

WCCO: C- Four words: Quit while you’re ahead. If WCCO had stopped forecasting the storm on Monday night, nearly 96 hours before the storm, they’d have been close to dead on (calling for rain and then “just flurries”). Their forecast actually got progressively worse as they moved from “flurries” to “about an inch” to “an inch or two” and finally to 3-4 inches (thru Sat.) on Friday morning. WCCO can’t be accused of over hyping the storm in the days leading up to Friday.

KSTP: D From the beginning, they never forecast less than an inch and predicted 3-5 inches 24 hours before onset of the “storm.”

FOX: B Through Tuesday, Fox was calling for potentially heavy snow. However, by Wednesday p.m., they came the closest to getting it right, using words like “dusting” and “less than inch.” Outside of the early (and wrong) hype, not a bad effort.

KARE: C- Maintained a relatively conservative approach throughout. However, by Friday morning, they were caught in the 1-3-inch fever.

Star Tribune: F One of the first to note the possibility of a New Year’s storm, Paul Douglas in c/o Star Tribune was the most consistent predictor of significant snow, initial tossing out “3 to 6 inches” when the storm was nearly four days away. He mentioned “plowable” throughout and predicted 2-4 inches on Friday morning. Poor performance.

MPR: D+ They were the last to incorporate snowfall accumulations into the forecast, which seemed judicious given the great uncertainty with this storm. However, they predicted 1-4 inches for the metro on Thursday night, lowering it to 1-2 inches on Friday morning.

NWS: C This was the third time in the last four storms that the National Weather Service either inappropriately issued weather advisories or issued one way too late in the game. This is not good. On the plus side, the NWS held tightly to the same forecast of up to one inch since Thursday morning; they were therefore just one inch off the actual trace that fell.


  1. I for one am relieved that they got it wrong in this direction for once, rather than more snow. I would say that in reading your comments, there WERE areas that got quite a bit of rain on Thursday, over an inch in some parts of the North metro, and I had over a half inch of rain here in Eden Prairie, as two examples. This would have been a heck of a lot of snow had it come down in that form. Also, there was a pretty good coating of ice with sleet and a little snow on top last night here in Eden Prairie (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch), making some area roads treacherous. Given that it was New Year's I think creating a little hyper-vigilance wasn't "bad" so that people were potentially paying more attention and safer.

  2. Your thoughts are all well taken. The airport recorded .27 inch of rain and I was thinking that it was more toward St. Cloud where more significant rain fell. And yes, if there were ever a day for hyper-vigilance, it was last evening.

  3. one lives at the airport(I hate when that is the only number people care about)that's way there's always a spread given when there is a snowfall(1-3,2-4,3-6,6-12,etc)but good with grades and I like the progressive forecast,looks like next snowfall on Monday,here's a title "first snow of the new year"

  4. In the case of rainfall, I think the airport is reasonable. For low temps and snow totals, it's not always the best.

  5. This storm was a little more tricky with the rain/snow line being so close, but tossing out early snow total predictions was a little premature. It was difficult to get a real read on this storm until Wednesday night.

  6. I actually find it pretty amazing that this storm was predicted 10 days out and did hit somewhere in Minnesota. It was only 100-200 miles from the Twin Cities! Better than I can do for sure.