Our first snowstorm is in the books, and to the surprise of everyone, it ended up being a warning level event--meaning widespread 6" or more of snow outside of far southeast Connecticut. Although the storm wasn't unusual in its evolution, the timing of such a large snowfall was, as well as the severe impact on the roads.
As we have done in the past, we want to be transparent about our forecasts with you, and learn from every event. This year, we will be working with clear criteria to grade ourselves after certain events. The average from the criteria will determine our final score. Moving forward, we will be grading ourselves using the criteria from our SCW Impact Scale: Snowfall Accumulation, Snowfall Rate, Wind, Power Outages, Timing, Road Conditions. In addition, we will also consider lead time, the amount of time we provide warning for potential events.
Snowfall Accumulation: B
It is always a team effort here at SCW, but as the forecaster on call the day of the event/final call, I am giving myself a B for the snow accumulation forecast. I'm not happy about it. Compared to some other outlets, we did pretty well, highlighting higher snowfall totals statewide when the general forecast consensus was a way too low 2-5 inches. However, I didn't trust my gut. The team considered making a general 4-8" or 5-10" map, but I hedged more conservative thinking the guidance was too aggressive. Overall, even a general 4-8 would have probably kept this part of the forecast from being in the A range. The saving grace is that in a lot of instances, we were only off by 1-2 inches. That's not bad, and for that reason the forecast map get a B.
Sadly, I'm not particularly enthused about this part of the forecast either. We were sure to hammer home the thought that we would see heavy snow during the event, but again I hedged conservative and only mentioned snowfall rates topping an inch an hour. There were locations that had 2" an hour rates, and that's significant. At least we were consistent in calling for heavy snow, which provided a lot of notice for commuters.
Not much to say here. We didn't think wind would be a big factor and it wasn't.
Power Outages: A
Same as the wind forecast, we didn't think we would see significant power outages from this event and we were on target.
Timing is one of those things where if you get it wrong, your forecast can end up being a disaster. I called for a bit of an earlier start time, and that worked out for folks in SW CT. The kids didn't have much trouble getting home overall and that's a good thing, because by the evening things were terrible. The heavy snow period was accurate, and the transition from snow to mixed precipitation worked out well despite some early jitters on our end as we saw the waves of snow continue to roll into the state during the evening. The only thing I think I missed was the time it took for snow to start everywhere. Some locations in northern and eastern Connecticut saw snow begin outside of our 2-5pm window.
Road Conditions: C-
This was the worst part of the forecast. Although we discussed the snowfall potential, in my morning forecast I wasn't nearly specific enough about the evening commute impact. I should have been clearer and saw the writing on the wall about the timing and snowfall rate equating to truly severe conditions on the roads. In the future, I'll try be much clearer about what specific road condition impacts may be, particularly if the worst weather falls during a commute.
Lead Time: A-
This is a tricky category to grade, because all storms are different. Sometimes, you know a week or two that something is coming and sometimes it is a total surprise. Here, we had a signal for something, and we did well to mention it early without going crazy. In fact, we declared a period of interest five days before the onset of the event. Looking back at the initial thoughts, it ended up being a good first assessment. That's pretty good. You don't have to worry about hype with SCW.
Final Grade: B
Overall, the first big forecast of the year was solid but could have been better. As always, we learn a lot. There will be plenty of other chances to improve our grade in the future.
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