Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Perfect Storm...

...of Distractions.

It's been a slow news week here in the land of Howard. Couple that with the Terps game against the hated Dookies, the Olympics starting in earnest, and the impending snowstorm, and today becomes a day of distractions meant to keep me from blogging about anything important. Which is fine with me.

I don't want to shift the focus of this blog to weather only, but when we're looking down the barrel of what will be the biggest storm in three years, it's hard for a weather nerd like myself to want to write about anything else. I hope tomorrow's Sun brings news worthy of comment, but for today, all I've got is the set up for our second installment of Weatherman Accountability.

For those of you who don't know about this little gimmick of mine, here's some background from the first storm in December. However, the short answer is that, after complaining for years about the inaccuracy of our local weather forecasters, I've decided to see how good (or bad) they really are at predicting snowfall. The only other measurable storm we had this year was in early December, and Topper Shutt and his WUSA team came the closest to getting it right.

I spent last night capturing the forecasts of all our local weathermen, as well as those of the national outlets. To keep things fair, I am using forecasts given between 11 pm and midnight last night. Since that time, some have changed their totals, but with flakes already falling, the updated forecasts won't count. (I figure the 11 pm news the night before is the last time most people will check the weather until the storm is underway.)

So, here's the run down of forecasts:

Baltimore Stations

  • WMAR-Channel 2: To quote meteorologist Norm Lewis: "I just can't buy this being a big winter storm." "Minor snow for the Baltimore area." Will Norm have to eat his words? Maybe. His prediction: 2" - 4" for I-95 and West/North; 3" - 6" I-95 South/East. "Even these may have to be pushed down."
  • WBAL-Channel 11: 4" - 8" Balt/Wash Corridor and West/North; 8" - 12" Annapolis/St. Mary's and South/East.
  • WJZ-Channel 13: 6" - 10" for the whole area.
  • WBFF-Channel 45 (or 5 on Comcast): 4" - 8" I-95 and West/North; 6" - 9" for South/East I-95.
Washington Stations
  • WRC-Channel 4: Said Bob Ryan: "I've very confident this will be the biggest storm in 3 years." 5" - 9" DC/Balt/I-95 and West/North. 6" - 12" South/East of cities.
  • WTTG-Channel 5 (or 75 on Comcast): 3" - 5" I-95 and West/North. 6" - 10" South/East of cities.
  • WJLA-Channel 7: 4" - 8" I-95 and West/North; 6" - 10" South/East of cities.
  • WUSA-Channel 9: 4" - 8" I-95 and West/North; 6" - 12" South/East of cities.
National Outlets:
  • National Weather Service: 4" - 8" for our area.
  • Accuweather: 7.4" for Columbia (Do they really need to predict snowfall to a tenth of an inch?). 6" - 12" for whole area.
  • Weather Channel: 6" - 12" for whole area.
As you can see, consensus last night was pretty much around the 4" - 8" for Howard County. Well, this morning, presumably backed by new model guidance, the National Weather Service upped the totals for Columbia to 8" - 14". As I said, however, it's too late in the game for them to change their calls, but this new prediction at least bears mentioning to give you a sense of what might be happening.

Though I won't be live-blogging the snowstorm -- too many other distractions -- the super weather-nerdy website Capital Weather is a great place to go if you want real time updates from a bunch of people even more obsessed with the weather than myself. The site is run by several well-trained weather buffs (read: some work in weather, most have college degrees in it) who produce their own forecasts based on the same National Weather Service models used by every other forecaster. Their forecast from last night: 5" - 8" for most of the area, with 8"+ for Annapolis and east. They plan to issue an update today at 11 am.

In addition to my usual excitement over snow, I've got a financial interest in this storm. A friend of mine sent me the "Vegas" over/under for the storm -- 3.5" for Columbia. I've got $10 on the over.

Well, with the set up out of the way, it's time to sit back, relax, watch the Terps win, watch the flakes fall, and wait to see what tomorrow brings (hopefully a foot of snow and several bloggerific news stories).

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