|Satellite image of snow cover taken at 9:30am.
Light gray is snow except in eastern Oklahoma where it is low clouds.
In Part 1 of the forecast review (below), I discussed the forecasts of the blizzard that began on this blog Friday until the snow began falling in the area of interest Sunday evening.
Now, I’d like to discuss the reaction to the forecast.
Saturday afternoon, I was very confident this was going to be a major storm that would seriously affect holiday travel. So, in addition to posting the forecasts on my blog, I cross-posted that forecast on a railroading blog where I have several friends I knew would be interested. One reader posted a reaction immediately below my forecast:
While it is nice to wish for such storms, I doubt that this is anything more than wishful thinking by the author.
I have seen nothing on any NWS sites that indicate that anything of this sort is forecast for the areas mentions. And, I live there!
This is a problem that was discussed at last week’s Weather Ready Nation Conference in Norman, OK, that people too often hear/see the warning and fail to appropriately respond. The question is “why”?
The rest of this posting refers to the forecasts of the storm in general via the media, internet, radio, etc., not just the forecasts on this blog (which, according to the traffic counter, reached about 5,000 people).
We learn more on the response from USA Today:
In Hays [Kansas], drivers who managed to get ahead of the closing still left the interstate earlier than planned, booking three dozen rooms at the Fairfield Inn in a mere 20 minutes Monday night. Greg Boughton, a hydrologist from Cheyenne, Wyo., and his family quit traveling in the afternoon after their SUV nearly slid into a ditch…
[second article, same source]
At least 40 people were stranded at the Longhorn Motel in Boise City, Okla., where manager Pedro Segovia said blowing snow had created drifts 2- and 3-feet high and closed the main road.
The Colorado Army National Guard said it rescued two stranded motorists early Tuesday in eastern Las Animas County, in the state’s southeast corner, using a special vehicle designed to move on snow. Smaller highways in that area remained closed.
By putting the numbers in various articles together, the order of magnitude of people stranded was well into the hundreds or low thousands.
Is this too high? Low? We don’t know because this type of research has not been done in meteorology to the extent I, and many other meteorologists, would like. I suspect the number of people stranded was higher than it needed to be.
I guess I’m perplexed as to the apparent “wistful thinking” response and the fact that thousands of people drove into a well-forecast blizzard putting themselves — and rescuers — in peril. Why? It can’t be because they believe their cars can handle the measured 7 to 10 ft. drifts…no car or truck can. Is it because they don’t believe the forecast? Is it they are not aware of the geography (i.e., their route of travel was right through the center of the blizzard forecast)? They don’t think to check the weather for a road hundreds of miles away if the sky is fair at home when they depart? What?
Is it because television weathercasters are hurting, rather than helping, our image? This incident occurred in Los Angeles this morning:
I also suspect an element of the problem is too many are unaware of the amazing progress that has been made in storm warnings during the last decade (like the forecast skeptic cited at the top of this posting). Because people are unaware of how accurate the warnings have become, they are disinclined to act on them.
Breakthroughs in medicine are routine news. And, just yesterday, we learned that astronomers have found two new planets. It was worldwide news. Yet, great progress in meteorology rarely makes news. So, we are still viewed by many as the people “who can keep our jobs while being wrong half the time.”
I certainly welcome the introduction of social science into the field of forecast and warning response. The sooner we get some answers to these questions, the sooner we can save more lives.
If you have any thoughts, please feel free to post them in the Comments.
Another meteorologist chimes in here.