Posted by wxrisk | GENERAL,WINTER 2011-12 | Saturday 18 February 2012 7:13 pm

1700 EST  FEB 18 , 20012… STARDATE   201202.18





I am hoping that by  the end of this storm will go into  the record books  and  with  people …   as another  considerable    success   for me   and  WXRISK.COM .  From back in beginning of the week I  was very cautious in declaring that this was going to be a all rain event.  Initially that sort of assertion bought a lot of ridicule with one of the Richmond TV meteorologists saying     ”That contrary to some omission may have heard this week and storms going to be all rain”

This afternoon that same TV station of course had to carry the NWS  3 to 6″   and Winter Storm watches.


Its NOT Luck or  hype or  happenstance that this  event has       broekn my  way.   My  reluctance in the declaring this an   “all rain”    event early in the week   was  based upon a extremely well known history or climatology of Virginia Maryland North Carolina snowstorms.  Much of this information I will be posting and providing on the website over the next few weeks now that I have had a chance to catch my breath .      The fact of the matter is that most  meteorologists out there do not know what I know about   Virginia North Carolina and Maryland snowstorms.   But that  is  not all that unusual .

There a lot of meteorologists out there that know a lot more than   me about severe weather and   tornadoes.   or  atmosphere to physics …
or climate modeling.      But during the winter for me  it is East Coast snowstorms in general  of which I given a number of seminars and talks on and  in particular the difference between a Northeast U.S. snowstorm and one for the lower Middle Atlantic region  — North Carolina Virginia Maryland Delaware.

These two animals are not the same thing.  Sure there are occasions where all of these areas…   fFrom North Carolina to Boston see a  heavy major snowstorm.  Some examples of these  are :  January 1996 blizzard…  The great arctic blizzard FEB 11-14 of 1899…   the much  ballyhooed super storm   of March 1993….  The great middle Atlantic    snowstorm of February 1983 and the Knickerbockers storm from January 1922.  But these are exceptions.

The historic  record setting snowstorms of the lower Middle Atlantic   region  was the    JAN 26-27 1940   VA NC  BLizzard   –  did  not bring significant snow north of Baltimore  into the big cities of the northeast.     That  great storm of record in Richmond and all of central and Southern Virginia    was  REAL blizzard and terem was  a  s severe cold wave which followed.  That storm dropped 22 inches of snow in downtown Richmond ….30 inches up by Lynchburg and farmville…   but only 12 inches in DC and nothing north of the Pennsylvania Maryland border.

The March 1-3,  1980 blizzard in eastern and southeastern Virginia or  the one in February 1-3, 1980  or the one  in Jan 1-3  1980  were all total misses   for  the big cities of the Northeast.    Even the surprise blizzard   of January 25,2000   the  brought     huge amount to snow to of Charlotte   (20 inches )   and the entire state of North Carolina … 1 tom2  feet almost all Virginia into Maryland and Delaware …but the snow mounts dramatically fell apart over the big cities of the northeast.

Most of the meteorologists that I have talked to  and/or get information and discuss these synoptic patterns with me   have agree with the argument that I made back the beginning of the week that this coastal storm would NOT have a chance to turn the corner to come up the coast to bring heavy snow to Philadelphia New Jersey New York Boston and New England.  The reason being the system crashing into the West Coast  would act as a kicker — a force of energy which would show the system over the southeast U.S.  off the North Carolina Coast.

At this Point I am pretty much done looking at various weather models and it’s almost time for  “now casting”.  It is also however time to take a look at possible scenarios regarding my forecast  and  forecasts in general as to    WHAT   COULD GO WRONG:

1.  NORTHERN EDGE OF THE SNOW …  some of the 18z  Models and the   12z Saturday European Model do   have snow getting into Washington DC Southern Maryland  the lower Maryland Eastern shore … Southern Delaware even into Cape May NJ.    But not all the models agree about. There could be   pretty sharp cut off on the northern  edge.  It’s possible Washington, DC could see 4 o 5 inches of snow.

2. LOWER  MD  EASTERN SHORE…  Over the past 72 hours as we have moved into the short range models  …all the data has showed that the heavy snow areas in western .. nd Central Virginia narrow  to   a  “V  shaped  point  “    over the lower Maryland Eastern shore.  Some model data shows that the lower Maryland Eastern shore   may  be too warm for  the snow to stick …   but other data shows  there there  could in fact be a  2 to 4″ or  3-6 ” band of snow  over Dorchester   Wicomico Somerset and Worcester perhaps into southern Talbot and  Caroline  counties of the lower Maryland Eastern shore and   Sussex County in Delaware.

3. DELAYED START TIME …  Earlier in the week it looked  like the rain would come in   before  dawn Sunday over much of the southern third of Virginia and of course temperatures would  still be way too warm for the precipitation to fall as snow.  However over the last 36 to 48 hours the models have delayed the start of the precipitation.   By Sunday g 7:00 AM the rain is just across or along the Virginia North Carolina border.  This allows more cold air to get into the commonwealth  and   this air also  will have   lower  Dew points so that when the precipitation begins   and the  air   saturates   — where the temperature and the dew point meet — it does so at  or  below 32°.

4.   TEMPS  SUNDAY NIGHT IN CENTRAL VA….  I anticipate temperatures to drop down to 32° for most of the storm Sunday evening…  some areas might get as low as 31.  Either way it will be just cold enough for this snow to accumulate.  But  the  snow will  be a heavy wet snow especially the beginning and that will cause   some compaction with the snow on the ground.  In other words suppose you measure the snow at one particular time…  at say   4″.    But then you measure it 2 hours later and it’s snowing like hell  but  you  only   measure  5 inches.   This could be   the  type a storm which presents real problems with regard to measuring snow amounts correctly.


On a sidebar let me point out some problems that exist  with the forecasts that I see from NWS.  Now  I hope this does not come across as a NWS  Bash…  because that is not what it is intended as .  I have gotten a lot of emails and face book postings regarding the forecast for southwest Virginia especially in and around Roanoke  and Lynchburg.  The problem is that the official forecast from NWS is correct.  Roanoke for example is under a winter storm warning for   at LEAST   4-8 inches of snows..  and  the   term  ” at least” implies   it could be little more than that for Roanoke.  That is a GOOD forecast.


BUT some of the NWS sites however do not show that.  As of 5:00  or 6:00 PM  Saturuay …after the winter storm warnings have been issued by the Roanoke/ Blacksburg office …other web sites was still showing this.

As you can see this forecast so calls for 2 to 4 inches.

Many TV and radio stations including some of the weekend idiot weather people in southwest Virginia apparently did not know about this confusion.  So they been telling their viewers winter storm warnings for Roanoke  with 2 to 4 inches of snow.  This of course makes no sense since the criteria for winter storm warning in Roanoke and southwest region VA is more than 4 inches of snow.  I do not know what the problem is but I do know that this sort a communication breakdown is very bad news for professional meteorologist everywhere and for TV and NWS people as well.  You cannot  have one end of the body not knowing what the other end of the body is doing…  This needs to be fixed  right away.


Second I don’t understand the forecast for Lynchburg.  If you look at the zones here in southwest region VA  you will notice that Lynchburg and counties to the north are not in official winter storm watch are warning…  But counties to the east and southeast ARE in a winter storm watch.  This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  In addition all the data even the warmest models show at least 6 inches of snow in the Lynchburg area accumulating and much of the data shows 10 or 11 or 12 inches.  Now you could argue that Lynchburg is not to see that would snow.  But how then do you argue that areas to the east which were largely would be a little warmer  — areas such as farmville and Prince Edward county   are in a  winter storm watch?  I sure hope that is fixed soon because that is a busted forecast waiting to happen.




  1. Comment by Craig C. — February 19, 2012 @ 1:51 am

    Great discussion DT! You have really stayed on top of this storm throughout..

    Another crazy NWS forecast is for Fredericksburg…currently calling for rain and maybe 1 inch. No discussion, nada..Lol

  2. Comment by CW — February 19, 2012 @ 10:25 am

    Great information

  3. Comment by Robyn Hagen — February 20, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    I read this again this morning (Feb. 20th) and just don’t see how you could have even thought your forecast was a bust. I looked again at your 1st guess map, and it was pretty much right on. You talked about the temps Sunday and how the snow would be heavy and wet, and not accumulate like it would if it were colder. To me, just about everything you said, actually did happen! I started preparing from the very first time you mentioned it, even though I was a little skeptical, but I did, and it was fun following your facebook posts and anticipating the storm.
    Looking forward to following you this summer, and especially next winter!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment