Here is What We Learned From Our First Snowstorm of the Winter

So, we have come and gone with the first snowstorm of 2017 with a bigger impact than first anticipated from the weather department. Once the models had all the players available to it, the storm shifted north and west of the initial snowfall forecast, forcing us to adjust the numbers through the noon broadcast on Friday.

Snow Forecast 120917

Once we set the numbers, the forecast for the most part verified…though, folks across northern Delmarva had to be patient for their snow….as it mostly fell in the second half of the snowstorm on Saturday afternoon in the wrap around. Here are some of our take-away from the storm in general.

Snowfall Verification 121117



– Once the models lined up, the storm behaved as we thought throughout the forecast period. This is usually hard to imagine here on Delmarva, but the forecast verified quite nicely. We had deformation banding set up right across the heart of Delmarva, allowing for the 4-8 inches of snow to fall.


– Storm timing was pretty much on the money. It lasted a little longer then we thought at first, but overall: the heaviest of the snow fell Friday night into early Saturday with just enough snow falling throughout Saturday to keep people happy and content.




– Took a long time for the forecast to come together. Up until the noon broadcast on Thursday, the signals were that the storm was going to be a scraper and just breeze by with a minimal hit of a dusting to 1 or 2 inches of snow. By Friday morning, once the energy from Canada was introduced into the model guidance, this is when the forecast really came into view and we were having to bump up our numbers. The other facts that led to bump up our numbers as quick as we did was the verification of the model forecast of snow down in the deep south, when Alabama and Mississippi were both showing snow fall over 6 inches in places.


– Our perceived misrepresentation of the snowfall forecast across northern Delmarva. If you checked out our weather Facebook page, you would think that the world had ended across northern Delmarva because the snow never fell overnight. I think that was a mistake of ours that we didn’t stress the length of this storm. It lasted nearly 36 hours from initial snowflakes Friday afternoon until the final ones fell along the coast on Saturday night. This is something that is always tough to convey to folks, but something that we could probably help with other graphics and analogies to assist the viewer in understanding the storm.


– Assumptions are bad. We assumed that the ground temperatures and the temperature of the roads would keep the storm from producing the totals that we were seeing. For a couple of the inches, I could understand that. The thing that made me interested was that this storm seemed to start accumulating immediately the minute it did turn over to snow. Also, the reports from the deep south also helped to dismiss the assumption, but it is something that was hard to get over….that the earth had really not much to do with the suppression of the snow.


What we could have done better?


– Given the folks a better outline of the timing of the storm. I felt that after reading the comments, people thought this was a one night thing…instead of how long the scope of the storm really was.


– A better explanation of how this band was going to set up. I think folks assumed that if it said 4-8 inches of snow, they were going to get that total. We, as Meteorologists, should have done a little better job of explaining that this was going to be the general area we were looking for the band of heavy snow to develop, but were not sure where exactly. Hence, the band of 4-8 might have been a little larger on our forecast then what really happened as the storm progressed.



So, with all the factors in play and how the forecast progressed, I would give us a B+ for the forecast. It would have been nicer to hammer out the details a little faster with how much snow and the message of the overall timing of the storm. With regards to snowfall amounts, we could not have forecasted it any better….since most places verified with how much we expected (except in and around the Dover area).

-Mike Lichniak & Alex Seymore