Predictable Outcome: Another Blown Winter Weather Forecast in Maryland

I’ve stocked up on milk, bread and toilet paper. I have gasoline in the generator. I’ve backed the truck onto to the driveway and brought the snow shovel in from the shed. I’m ready for the winter storm that will be “dumping 2-4 inches of snow across the area beginning after midnight tonight.”

I’m watching TV and am somewhat distracted by the weather alert broadcast by the local networks and moving across the bottom of my screen. If that weren’t enough, I notice the snowflake icon in the upper left hand corner of the picture with the word “Warning” underneath it. For the last 12 hours I’ve heard from the local meteorologists about the coming winter storm. The National Weather Service has issued a “Winter Storm Warning” for most of Maryland. Wow! This must be it! The Big One!

Heading home from work, I notice the Maryland State Highway dump trucks, plows attached and salt spilling out of their beds, sitting, waiting, in the median of I-95 – a good 9 hours before the first flake was due to fall. Pick-up trucks, more than I can count, pass me by, also with plows attached and salt spreaders in their beds, hoping for that big snow that Chief Meteorologist Tom Tasselmyer says is on its way.

The winter storm is coming! I’ve seen it on live HD Doppler radar, (I even know enough to ignore the “ground clutter”). I’ve tracked it on 11 Insta-Weather Plus. I’ve even tuned to The Weather Channel and caught a glimpse of Jim Cantore telling me that the mid-Atlantic is going to be hit hard by this perfect storm. The confluence of 2 low pressure systems. Futurecast shows the track of the storm in graphic colors. We’re going to get 2-4 inches! School systems are already calling in and canceling tomorrow’s classes.

I know this because I see the crawl on the bottom of my TV screen. I have appointments tomorrow that I’ll need to cancel because I won’t be able to get out the house. The Maryland State Police, I know, will be telling us to stay in and off the roads. I expect to wake up to a scene from a Thomas Kinkade painting.

The local news people will be on beginning at 4:30 a.m. to list all of the closings and keep us informed on this powerful storm. I know I’ll see Rob Roblin out somewhere in Maryland kicking the snow around and telling us to be careful and to stay indoors. I also know that every news person on every channel that has the outside beat will inadvertently outdo one another with a hat that looks, let’s say “unique”. I’ll hear about how many pieces of equipment the state has mobilized and feel relieved to know that we have enough salt for this storm and more salt is on its way.

I stay up to watch the 11:00 o’clock news just to make sure the storm is on track to deliver this late February blow. The Chief says it is! There is it again on live HD Doppler Radar and Futurecast! I go to sleep, snug in the thought that I’ll be off tomorrow, giving me a 3-day weekend.

I wake up a few times during the night (after midnight of course) and look out against the street light. I see….nothing. OK, it’s early, 1:30 a.m. I’m sure the snow is falling because I saw it on live HD Doppler Radar.

Then it occurs to me; the snow is evaporating before it hits the ground. I know that because of all those years listening to the Chief! I fall back asleep waking up again at 4:00 a.m. I look out against the same street light. Still nothing. Mmm, maybe it’s taking a little longer to organize. I could stay up another 30 minutes and catch Rod Daniels and Mindy Basara on Channel 11 sign on. Nope…the snow is coming. The weather experts told me so.

The alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. But why did I set it? I won’t be going to work today. Snow and then ice and then freezing rain. I would have to be crazy to venture out in that!

I go out to get the papers, the one I pay for and the free one and, yes, a little ice mixed with a very little bit of snow has started falling. Hardly enough to cover my truck. The grass is still visible as is the blacktop of the street.

The radio in the shower goes on and the list of school and government closings is long and getting longer. Everything in central Maryland is closed! The “Winter Storm Warning” is still on and in effect until 10:00 p.m. tonight. We’re still looking at 2-4 inches of snow along with freezing rain and up to a half inch of ice and then rain with another “system” poised to follow this one – giving us the dreaded “1-2 punch.”

OK, I’m still staying home. I’m not risking an accident because the weather is going to worsen. I’ve made my mind up until a friend calls me who’s driving on the back roads in northern Harford County and going to work.

I ask him what you’re supposed to ask someone driving in bad weather: “How are the roads?”

“They’re fine,” he says. “They’re just wet and it’s misting a little.”

Hearing this, I decide I’m going to work too. And I did. And I wondered, along with everyone I spoke to today, why the schools were closed. Because we never did get that 2-4 inches of snow, nor any freezing rain.

Another weather forecast gone terribly wrong. The Radar, the HD Doppler, the Futurecast, the satellites and the weather spotters have not increased the accuracy of weather predicting. On the contrary, it’s worse now than ever before! Why is the forecasting so bad?

The spin that the local weather “gurus” put on their inaccuracies is interesting; with as many excuses as there are cloud types:

The low pressure formed further north/south, east/west. The falling snow warmed the atmosphere and turned the snow to rain. The path of the storm changed.

They tell us that the roads are slippery and caution is needed. But contrast this with the spokespeople from the Maryland State Highway Administration, whose job it is to clear the roads, and you’ll hear that the roads are safe and clear and sometimes even dry, as I heard today!

These blown forecasts not only inconvenience parents, caretakers and employees, who have to make accommodations when schools close, but also cause millions of dollars to be spent in preparation for the oncoming, or not, storm.

In fairness to the weather folks, WMAR-TV’s meteorologist Justin Berk admits “overdoing the snow” on his weather talk blog.

Why is it we can shoot down a bus-sized, obsolete satellite traveling at 10,000 mph, 125 miles up in the atmosphere with a missile fired from a rolling and pitching ship, yet we can’t accurately forecast a winter storm?

Oh well, the toilet paper won’t go to waste.


  1. vietnam vet says

    very well said, being a marylander all my life. I’am ashamed to see people act the way they’s rarely closed. but the traffic on the road’s was nothing. I do agree for the saftey’ of the children. they either not go. or be released early.
    watch 3 different weather report’s and they all differ.& then watch them scramble when the prediction’s are wrong.