Martinsville Weather - Winter Storm Forecast Review for Sun 03/01/09
Long Range Forecast (Poor): This was by far the worst aspect of this particular forecast. For whatever reason, our best snowstorms often seem to be surprises, and this one certainly falls into that category. In my Thursday morning update (February 26, three days ahead of time), I made no mention of snow in my forecast or discussion. A possibility of something was starting to show up on the computer models, but the way this winter has gone, I dismissed it, figuring it would change. Well, it ended up changing for the better. Friday morning, I introduced a chance of rain or snow showers for Sunday, and my forecast improved from there. However, that was only two days ahead of time, which is why this gets a "poor" rating.
Short Range Timing Forecast (Good): By contrast, my timing forecast turned out to be pretty accurate. We had a little bonus rain and sleet Sunday morning, but I felt all along that the snow would begin around midday or early afternoon on Sunday, and it did start during the 1:00 hour. The reason this has a "good" rating instead of a "very good" rating is because I predicted that the snow would end around or shortly after midnight Sunday night, when it actually didn't end until around 7 AM. Computer models were predicting that it would end around 2 or 3 AM, and systems typically move out even faster than models predict, but this one ended up holding on a little longer.
Precipitation Type Forecast (Very Good): This was the easiest part of this particular winter storm to forecast because this pretty much looked like an all-snow event all along, and that's basically what it turned out to be, even though a little rain and sleet did mix in at times.
Temperature Forecast (Good): My temperature forecast during this event was fairly good, but temperatures ended up being a couple of degrees higher than I predicted Sunday afternoon. Because of that, a little rain mixed in at times and we had lower accumulations than we otherwise might have had by sunset Sunday evening.
Accumulation Forecast (Good): I predicted a total accumulation of 3 to 6 inches, while the National Weather Service was predicting 4 to 8 inches. While I knew 4-8" or even higher amounts were possible, I decided to go with a more conservative forecast, given the way winter weather events tend to play out around here. So, my accumulation forecast was fairly good, but I think 4-8" or 5-9" would have been a better prediction.
Overall Grade: B
Conclusion: The main reason I gave myself a grade in the B range was because of the long range aspect of the forecast. Unfortunately, that's just the way it goes sometimes--nothing really indicated a chance of any snow at all until about three days prior to the event. I also wish my accumulation forecast had been a little better. Overall, though, I was fairly well pleased with how this forecast turned out.
Review my forecasts:
7 AM Monday 03/02
8 PM Sunday 03/01
2 PM Sunday 03/01
8 AM Sunday 03/01
8 PM Saturday 02/28
8 AM Saturday 02/28
8 PM Friday 02/27
7 AM Friday 02/27
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1. Robert: I don't agree with you when you said the storm was kind of a surprise. The storm had been on the models consistently for almost a week. I think you should have mentioned the possibility at the very least by Wednesday. Also your initial accumulation forecast was incorrect. You originally predicted 1-4 inches and you busted on the low side of that. What really bothered me though was the fact that you based your forecast on what has happened previously this winter instead of focusing on what was modeled and the current weather pattern. I suggest that you quit letting your feelings have an effect on your forecasts. But anyways, I guess everybody can make mistakes but overall, I think you do a really good job with the site. Keep up the good work.

2. My Response: Unfortunately, I don't have a way to go back and look at the models from a week ago, but I maintain that this storm was a surprise. Yes, the system itself was showing up on models a week or more ahead of time, but it was showing up as a rain event on Friday and/or Saturday, then models were moving the cold front away and didn't form another system, or at least not one anywhere near our area. Please keep in mind that initial accumulation forecasts are extremely difficult, and that I will almost always go on the conservative side because that's the direction in which things typically trend. The National Weather Service wasn't even attempting to put out an accumulation forecast yet when I put out my initial one. Finally, I do take issue with your last criticism. I don't let my feelings influence my forecast. (I did many years ago when I predicted 10-14" snowstorms over and over, but that's in the distant past.) However, any experienced meteorologist would agree that trends are extremely important. Most of the time, what happens with the first potential snowstorm in a winter is similar to what happens the rest of the winter. The trend this winter has been for snowstorms to appear stronger in the longer range then eventually weaken or not affect us at all, and 9 times out of 10, the best idea is to continue following that trend. That has worked with every system so far this winter, prior to this one. Just because it didn't work out this time doesn't mean that I was using poor judgment, it just means that there is always room for error when making forecasts and dealing with setups as complex as this one.

3. Lisa: I think you did a great job of predicting this storm. I didn't even know a storm was coming either! The storm totals were accurate! The only thing I wish you could do is make the schools follow your forecast when making closing decisions! It would speed things up!

4. Jonathan: There wasn't a WINTER storm on the models until about 2-3 days out; and like you said, at one point, the models completely dropped the 3rd low pressure system that untimately brought us the snow. Anyway, I think you did the best job on this one than you have in a good while. I definitely give you an A and APPLAUD your conservative nature, because 99 times out of 100, that's the way things end up. And we wouldn't have made it above that 4-6" mark that your forecasted if that last band of snow hadn't have hung on as long as it did. That was a freak thing haha. Anyway, keep up the good work. We'll see you next winter! :)

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