Martinsville Weather - Winter Storm Forecast Review for Thu 02/26/04
From most people's perspectives, this was probably my worst forecast of the winter. But, it wasn't quite as bad it may appear, as I will explain below.
Long Range Forecast: This part of my forecast was excellent. I was a day or so off to start with (predicting more of a Wednesday Night-Thursday storm) but I predicted it 11 days in advance (starting Monday 2/16), even mentioning it in my forecast discussion one day before the date entered into my 10 day forecast period.
Short Range Timing Forecast: To be honest, I'm not really sure how to grade this part. If the snow had reached the ground the entire time, my timing forecast would have been pretty good. But since very little snow actually reached the ground, the time frame I predicted became rather irrelevant.
Precipitation Type Forecast: This was basically an all-snow storm, as I predicted all along. This part of my forecast was good, but it was also fairly easy as it never looked like we would get anything other than snow.
Temperature Forecast: My temperature forecast was decent; I predicted a high Thursday of 37° and it reached 36°. The problem was that we never really got heavy snow, which would have caused the temperature to drop to about 27-30°. But since that never happened, the temp actually never made it below freezing. It only dipped down to 32° briefly on a couple of occasions Thursday night, which I assume occurred when the airport received some snow.
Accumulation Forecast: Obviously, this part of my forecast was horrible. But this is where what I stated earlier, "it wasn't quite as bad as it may appear," comes in. The main problem was dry air. There was a very stubborn layer of very dry air right at the surface. This layer of dry air was causing the snow to evaporate before it reached the ground. This is a common occurrence in winter storms, but usually it only takes an hour or two for the air to get moist enough for the snow to reach the ground. This time, for reasons I am not even sure of, the air never really moistened up. It did briefly a time or two, which is why some areas saw periodic snow Thursday afternoon and evening, but the dry layer of air just never went away. It seemed that the moist air won out just to our south and east, as reports from Danville indicate they got anywhere from 6 to 12 inches. As I predicted, the cutoff was very sharp, with just 30-50 miles making the difference between a foot of snow and a dusting. Unfortunately for my forecast, that cutoff was about 50 miles farther southeast than I thought it would be. I have recieved several reports of between 1 and 3 inches in Axton and a dusting or so in Ridgeway. If you go just over the line into southwestern Pittsylvania County, totals increase dramatically. A report from Cascade, about 4 miles over the line in Pittsylvania County, indicated that they received up to 6 inches of snow. Some locations in Danville up to a foot of snow. Had the entire system been a mere 50 miles further north and west than it was, my forecast area (Henry and Patrick Counties especially, and Franklin County to some degree)would have had those much higher accumulations. Instead, the dry air won out, and we basically had a 12 hour virga storm (virga is precipitation that evaporates before reaching the ground). It's really frustrating when things like this happen, but that's just the nature of the weather.
Conclusion: I give myself a C- for this storm. Some may think I deserve a D or an F, but you have to consider that, as I mentioned above, my forecast accumulation would have been right or maybe even too low if the storm was just 50 miles further northwest. In addition, although it didn't amount to much in the end, I did predict the storm 11 days in advance, and even though I was 24 hours off to start with, that is a really good long range forecast in the winter.
New Record: My website set another new record for hits on Thursday. It seems like this happens every time there's a storm big enough to do a forecast review for (but of course I'm not complaining about that). I had an incredible 2,197 hits on Thursday. In case you are wondering, my counter only counts unique visits, and it does not count refreshes. So that means that I had 2,197 unique hits on Thursday. That just amazes me. Late in 2003, I stated in my newsletter that I was hoping to get 1,000 hits in a day at some point this winter. Now I have more than doubled that. Thanks to everyone for your help in promoting my website, as I have reached this number without any paid advertising and primarily just word of mouth. Although this certainly wasn't my best forecast, I hope that you will continue to use and trust my website in the future. Unlike most people who forecast the weather, I believe in being completely honest about my forecasts, which includes my forecast accuracy percentages and writing these forecast reviews. I believe that being completely honest with you will cause you to trust my forecast more, even when I am wrong. I think that admitting when I have a bad forecast instead of trying to lie about it like some do shows you that I am an honest forecaster and that I have learned from the mistakes I made which will only make future forecasts better. I am saying all this because this may be the last winter storm of the season, and if it is, I know that many of you will only return occasionally until next winter. So, thanks again for your support and thanks for spreading the word about my website! I look forward to hopefully providing more accurate forecasts to you throughout the rest of this year, especially next winter, and hopefully for many years to come.