Joe’s Weather Blog: Words matter when talking about ice (SUN-1/15)

Good morning…I’m going to keep this somewhat short and try and cobble together something a bit more comprehensive this afternoon. There are still areas of freezing mist/drizzle in the region. ice accumulations in the KC metro have ranged from a glazing to about 1/8″+ so far. Some may creep closer to 1/4″. Areas south of KC by a couple of counties have seen roughly a 1/4″-1/2″ or so.

Forecast:

Today: Gradual transition to liquid as the morning moves along from the south to the north. Temperatures rising to 32-35° later today

Tonight: Areas of drizzle/sprinkles/fog…then overnight more rain moving in. Temperatures will be well above freezing though when this happens. Northern MO though may hold on to some light freezing rain for a bit longer. Heads up IF traveling towards IA or NE tonight.

Monday: Depending on how much milder air we can get this far north…we may end up near 50°, if the air doesn’t get as far north only in the 40s. There will be rain on and off during the day.

Tuesday: Clouds and chillier with highs around 40°

Discussion:

I’m actually not sure what I want to write about this morning…the ice that came but didn’t add up a lot…or the fact that most of what we conveyed this week was actually correct regarding the impacts of this system. A lot of folks though are not happy with the forecasters (we’re all lumped together in that regard). Many got their information from other sources (computer based apps…whatever) which I know was an issue. We overall had a VERY reasoned approach to this…minimizing the hype when possible (and there was a LOT of hype to this) and trying to convey the seriousness of the situation without freaking people out. The message from source to source though varied. Your apps may have said one thing and the station you watch said something else. The NWS said something else…the Weather Channel went crazy on us (there I said it) and you got confused…or at least the general public got confused.

Don’t get me wrong…I/we weren’t perfect. NOBODY was. Some may say differently and claim that they were right all along after changing the forecast 5 times but AT LEAST I CAN ADMIT IT and address it publicly. I overestimated the amount of ice although in the end, not by that much really…although even that was being pulled back yesterday. How many times did I mention that I was trying to put some “horses back in the barn” late last week when other sources had exploded the walls. How many times did I/we say this WAS NOT a repeat of 2002 for Kansas City…dozens maybe.

Several people that we know of died in crashes due to the icing in the KC area. We’re starting the day today with additional accidents, but because the roads have SO much treatment on them…they are in decent shape. The reason why the treatment was so extensive…the forecast of ice. So in a way the extreme treatment levels are providing safer conditions for many areas.

There is lots of glazing ice out there on untreated surfaces and those are slick right now.

The timing of this was not the best forecast although in all honesty our approach at the station has been, for days, that the worst would be later SAT night into SUN. The worst, if you can call it that, came around 5AM onwards this morning…so in reality we were off by about 4-8 hours on that aspect. Again the amounts were overforecasted for the KC area in particular by around 1/8″ (think about that). Just so you know…our forecast for most days leading up to this was for 1/4-1/2″ of ice. I think on THU we talked about the potential for some areas to get 3/4″ of ice accumulation. Last night that forecast was reduced to glazing to 1/4″ which will be correct in the end for the vast majority (except south of KC) of our viewers. Farther south they got the up to 1/2″ ice amounts. The great thing is that you can just look back at the previous blogs to see if you so choose.

The heaviest icing was several counties out of I-70…still though in the viewing area as mentioned earlier..mess down there this morning.

I’m not overly disappointed in my forecast itself and I’m thankful the actual impacts were lessened by the aggressive approach the road crews took with the storm. Without that aggressive action…even treated roads would have been a bigger issue this morning especially. I’m disappointed though in the communication of the storm’s timing and effects. To a certain degree we did better on that situation than some other outlets. It should also be noted that I’m NOT picking on my local colleagues with this blog (I really don’t have much of a clue about who said what and when after Thursday)…A LOT of this is/was out of my hand…that will never change. Next month when my colleagues, the NWS and the local Emergency managers meet for a one day seminar, I will be bringing this up and seeing, in hindsight, if there was a better way.

Interestingly there were some brief power outages in KC as well this morning even with the smaller ice totals we’ve seen. I’ll assume it was weather related…maybe not though. Most are back with electricity now though, thankfully.

In retrospect perhaps I should’ve detailed my concerns a bit better inthe weather blog at least. I actually sent out a series of “cryptic” tweets on Friday

Finally this is what I posted to FB on THURSDAY. We had fun with it at 9AM Thursday when Nick V read it on the air directly

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IF I had to grade myself…I’d probably give myself a B- or so… IF KC were to have 1/4″ of ice…it would immediately go up to a A- (oh and we may get there yet on exposed surfaces at least) Perhaps you feel differently which is absolutely fair but try and remember what FOX 4 said…not others…not your app…national outlets…etc. I can only control our message if that makes sense.

So I leave you with this..I know there are a LOT of haters on social media today griping about the weather forecast and our profession in general. Again I try and remind everybody that I talk to that we try to predict things that don’t exist…which really is mind blowing if you think about it. When you see somebody take the time to send this to me…you can’t help but feel as though you helped out the viewers…at least a little bit.

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Regardless of the nastiness that some may say…I’m going to have a VERY GOOD day. I’ll have an excellent day IF the CHIEFS WIN though.

Bob Minor sends in our feature photo of the day from Prairie Village, KS

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Joe

 

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6 comments

  • caffeine72

    I’ve been referencing you as keeping my anxiety disorder in check all week. I watched another station yesterday morning (after your morning cast was over) and it was wall-to-wall freakout. I just kept telling myself, “remember Lauria. Remember Lauria.” I, for one, appreciate you and the blog greatly. And I know that you don’t have THAT much pull with the NFL.

  • Nick

    Now, cue Feb… the storm that nobody cares about will be the big daddy. IMHO I think the NWS sould have issued the Winter storm Watch thursday, then a Frz. Rain Adv. Friday morning for Fri. Nite/Sat. And pushed back the watch until Saturday night, then by sat evening issue another Frz rain Adv. For Sat night, Sun.

  • Patrick Trudel (@sedsinkc)

    Joe, I think you did an excellent job downplaying the severity of this ice event. There are so many sources of weather info these days, and when they’re saying different things (or being plainly irresponsible in the quest for ratings, as TWC was in proclaiming a “crippling” ice storm was on its way even though no model I am aware of showed any such thing) it confuses the message and some people tend to remember what went wrong with a forecast, rather than what went right. There was always going to be some level of uncertainty regarding the timing and amounts of ice until it became a nowcasting situation, as in last night when the freezing rain that earlier in the day was thought would hit KC ended up sliding to our south. All things considered, I think the weather team at Fox 4 did an excellent job forecasting this storm. Way to go.

  • Lissa

    I made the switch to Fox 4 a few years ago and have never looked back. As someone who has a grave fear of bad weather, I just couldn’t keep watching fear monger forecasters, sensationalizing for entertainment value. I needed information and education, and the Fox 4 weather teams provides exactly that! I watched post after post on social media, with terms such as “those who are in harm’s way this weekend” and “dangerous storms to cripple the plains,” and that is just plain irresponsible in my opinion. I’m grateful I get my info from here, particular during tornado season, so I’m not scared by the other sources shared. Thank you for always keeping it real and keeping us informed!!