We’re now The Minnesota Forecaster

“Grading the Weathercasters of Minneapolis” has become The Minnesota Forecaster. Click here to find us at our new and improved location.

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Washingtonian Comments on Minneapolis Blizzard

From the Capital Weather Gang in Washington comes this interesting comment regarding the blizzard:

I happen to be in Minneapolis this weekend. I never want to hear anyone criticize DC for not being able to handle snow. These people have completely freaked out. The neighbors are all up in arms over the amazing amount of snow…all of 17″.

Airport? Closed
Busses? Cancelled
Public events? Cancelled
Snowplows? Pulled off the roads during the height of the storm
Our street? Unplowed ( although they did plow the alley already?
lots of cars, SUVs, and trucks stuck in the snow and abandoned.

They had already postponed the Vikings game, even before the Metrodome collapsed…

That was yesterday. They get lots of credit…today, the airport and busses are back running and the plows are doing their work and people are shoveling their walks despite the -20 wind chill. But let’s not pretend that they handled this any better than Washingtonians.

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The Grades Are In

How They’re Graded. Just as weather prognostication is as much art as science, so is the grading system for our fearless local weathermen and weatherwomen. A perfect performance is very hard to achieve. For a snow event such as the one just concluded, the criteria include : 1) early identification of a potential storm, 2) preliminary assessment of the storm’s magnitude, 3) accurate identification of onset, particularly when a rushhour is involved, and 4) accuracy in snow accumulation forecast for the immediate Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Here are the report cards for the historic snowstorm of Dec. 10-11, 2010, for which 15-20 inches of snow were recorded in most locations.

WCCO (4): B. There was nothing particularly notable about WCCO’s performance. It was generally in the middle of the pack.

KSTP (5): B-. KSTP’s critical mistake was their Thursday night forecast, which projected the snow to fall just prior to the Friday evening rushhour. Viewers that followed their advice could have made unnecessary changes to their Friday evening plans. Their final snow projection of up to 18 inches was essentially accurate.

KMSP Fox9 (9): C+. Fox9 was the first to project that snowfall amounts would be higher on the south side of the Twin Cities. However, their 10 to 14-inch projection lagged actual totals by about five inches. (An aside: Ian Leonard said on the 9 p.m. news on Saturday that “we weren’t far off on our projections from several days ago.” Not so. Twenty-four hours before the storm, they were forecasting 6 to 10 inches, a far cry from what actually fell. Graders frown on attempts to self justify, particularly when plain wrong.)

KARE11 (11): C. KARE was consistently a step behind on the escalating snow forecast and never truly caught on to the full “epicness” of the storm. KARE is typically not one to proclaim big headlines such as “blizzard” and “historic,” but in this case that would have been appropriate.

Star Tribune/Paul Douglas: B+. As with all other weather outlets, PD initially didn’t see the large potential of this storm; however, PD was the first to recognize that the storm could be more than “a few inches.” From that point,  PD did an admirable job tracking the storm and its potential with the exception that he anticipated the highest snow amounts to be on the northwestern side of the metro. Still, his 15-20 inch forecast was right on target.

National Weather Service: B- The official forecast of the NWS was sometimes difficult to determine as information in their text forecasts was somewhat different than the verbiage contained in their special statements and warnings. However, what seemed to be their official forecast was 13 to 16 inches, not too far off from actual.

The next potential snow system appears to be Wednesday. Check back early and often to monitor the forecasting progress of Twin City weather gurus.

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We paws and wait …..

…. for the final storm tally. In the meantime, this St. Paul canine doesn’t seem appear particularly thrilled about the big snowstorm. Photo courtesy Fuzzy Mutt Photos.

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Snow forecast for Saturday, December 11

As the first flakes began to fall, here is the final pre-storm forecast as of 11:00 p.m. on Friday, December 10. Summary: While there is clear consensus that a big snowstorm is on the way, there is considerable variance among Minneapolis weathercasters as to how much snow will fall. The Star Tribune/Paul Douglas predicts the most with a 15 to 20 inch forecast while KARE11 (11) is on the low range with 7 to 14 inches. Other weather outlets are in the general 12 to 16 range. The final forecasts appear below. Upon the conclusion of this snow event, we will grade the forecasters. Enjoy the snow!

WCCO (4): 12 to 16 inches

KSTP (5): 12 to 18 inches

KMSP Fox9 (9): 10-14 inches

KARE11 (11): 7 to 14 inches

Star Tribune/Paul Douglas: 15 to 20 inches.

National Weather Service: 13 to 16 inches

Forecast as of 10 a.m. on Friday, December 10

WCCO (4): 8 to 12 inches

KSTP (5): 7 to 11 inches

KMSP Fox9 (9): 8 to 12 inches with headline “Probable Blizzard in Twin Cities”

KARE11 (11): 5 to 10 inches

Star Tribune/Paul Douglas: 12 to 16 inches. Tweets: Biggest since Halloween ’91? Models hinting at 1-2 feet , 2-5 ft. drifts poss.

Forecast as of 10 p.m. on Thursday, December 9

Channel 4: 5 to 11 inches

Channel 5: 9 to 12 inches

Channel 9: 6 to 10 inches. Highest amounts in southern suburbs.

Channel 11: 6 to 10 inches

Paul Douglas/Star Tribune: 10 to 16 inches. Highest amounts for nw suburbs.

Forecast as of 11 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8

Channel 4: An inch or two

Channel 5: A couple of inches possible on Saturday.

Channel 9: old forecast on website

Channel 11: Light snow. No mention of accumulation

Paul Douglas/Star Tribune: 3 to 6 inches with a few 8″ amounts close to home

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Poll: How do you feel about the local weathercasters?

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Best Local Weather Site in the Country

For my money, the best local weather site in the country is the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. One feature I especially like is the way they present snow predictions in terms of probabilities. Here’s an example:

As with any storm more than 48 hours away, accumulation estimates are very uncertain. Here’s a preliminary look at accumulation probabilities:

45%: Less than 1″
30%: 1-4″
15%: 4-8″
10%: 8″+

Unlike the Paul Douglas blog, this one features interaction between readers and the weather experts that produce content for the site. The dialogue is at a consistently high level and almost always stays on topic. Although Washington weather is not as exciting as Twin Cities weather, the blog maintains interest with commentary on weather issues of the day.

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