WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)

AccuWeather Forecast Puts Others On Defense

By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
2/27/2010, 3:31:56 PM

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DISCLAIMER: Opinions here may not necessarily be those of AccuWeather, Inc.

UPDATE: The Associated Press came to AccuWeather HQ on Friday and filed this report.

UPDATE: This story has gone national on FoxNews and other outlets. And the NWS has changed their tune. The original article has been updated to change the language (and unfortunately I didn't save the original) and their snow amounts have been raised from:

State College: 0-3" to 3-7" (Advisory Finally Issued) Poconos: "No More Than 6" to 12-20"

UPDATE: Thanks for all the great Comments, I'm afraid I must move on now though. As I said, it's time to sit back and watch the wind and snow stats that may indeed prove us right (or wrong), just stay tuned to my blog tomorrow evening as the storm starts cranking.

UPDATE: Here's a great video by our own Evan Myers explaining the headline further. He echoes what I said last year, The Weather Will Not Be Censored! Please watch that video, read the facts below, and let me know what you think. Then tune in here and I'll give you the wind and snow reports as we move forward... I suspect that you'll be impressed with the power of the storm. But if not, I'll admit it, just don't call the game before it's over.

Our headline yesterday "Hurricane-Like Storm" has sent competitors scrambling to respond to an "onslaught" of calls from their viewers.

The NWS is playing this storm very conservative and insists that there will be no hurricane-force winds from this storm, according to this article where they called us "not responsible." They are calling for 1-2 inches of snow here in State College, which falls short of the criteria for issuing a Winter Weather Advisory, leaving a conspicuous hole in their Advisory map.


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The AccuWeather.com forecast for here has been consistently calling for more than 3 inches of snow and the snow map shows us in the 3-6 range.

The Weather Channel is also getting defensive about our prediction of the storm calling it "bad meteorology". What they are saying it will be instead is a storm with "widespread power outages due to tree, tree limb and power line damage, gust may reach 74 mph, a water level rise about 4-6 feet". Well, the good news is, we're not trying to issue website news stories for meteorologists, we're trying to reach the general public and for the average person that's going to feel like a hurricane (and TWC's forecast is probably conservative compared to ours).

Both parties conveniently left our Pressure, the official method of determining a storm's strength, which of course was what made us think of the headline in the first place. The pressure strength of the storm (as I blogged yesterday) was progged by computer forecast models to be below 976 mb pressure, which is a Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Comments (26): Joe:

The storm was as advertised? What? This is just another case of weather over-hype. This was supposed to be a storm that would rival all storms. A "snowicane". I live 2 miles from the Lehigh Valley airport and we had a true accumulation of 4". That's right. 4". I used my push broom more than I used my shovel. The airport is reporitng 12", which is totally inaccurate. We had zero accumualtion on Thursday as all precip melted on contact. The pavements were bare as late as 10:00 Thursday night. This morining, I awoke to a paltry 3" of snow, which I quickly dispatched. Might have added another 1" before the sun came out today. They over- hype is insane.

FROM JESSE: Joe, sorry you didn't get the snow you wanted, but just because the storm didn't happen in your backyard doesn't it mean that it didn't happen elsewhere. Read the articles I referenced.

Posted by Joe | February 26, 2010 3:26 PM K:

Jesse, I understand why you compared this storm to a Cat 2 hurricane based on it's pressure... but the general public does not know a thing about barometric pressure! Ask anyone walking down the street what it means when the pressure is rising or falling and they will not have a clue?!

Poor wording by AccuWx... maybe next time the headlines won't sound like the world is coming to an end.

FROM JESSE: But see, that's precisely why we made that decision, because the public doesn't understand any technical jargon or numbers... but when they go outside tomorrow in the snow with 60+ mph winds they're going to think "it's like a hurricane!" Note that the pressure tidbit was not used outside of my blog, where I believe the readers are more technical.

Posted by K | February 25, 2010 2:12 PM Doneel:

Jesse, I wish AccuWeather would speed up the web site. I love the commentary, storm maps, and discussion on the site. But sometimes it is very slow. TWC and NWS are much faster.

Thanks

FROM JESSE: Absolutely, and we have a short & long term plan to do that. The new website is more efficient, and should help. But to be fair we are seeing traffic this week that's more than twice what it was back in Winter 2007 and we are increasing at a faster rate than TWC & NWS, so we're kind of a victim of our own success.

Posted by Doneel | February 25, 2010 10:10 AM Peter Smith:

See! The proof is in the pudding...I re-read my quote, and later realized that I added a question mark in a place where it should have been a period. Human beings make mistakes!

Posted by Peter Smith | February 24, 2010 10:43 PM Peter Smith:

Hey Jesse! Great blog, quite respected by me. I don't have the URL from last night, but regardless, it's no big deal, as is this non-event criticism towards Accu-Weather for a mistake. Human beings create forecasts, and human beings make mistakes. I can remember in very early 1992, TWC's Jeannetta Jones, my favorite of their on-airs aside from John Hope, said, during a live-shot, that a strong frontal system along the East Coast had, and I am quoting nearly two decades past but close to this, "feeder bands like a hurricane." Within SECONDS, she came back with, "BUT, this is NOT a hurricane!", as if she was corrected by a big blinking red light from Big Brother. I believe that Accu-Weather criticism is the result of jealously towards Joe Bastardi. Joe is a larger-than-live personality, with strong opinions, and outspoken. Joe may have gone a little over-the-top with a hurricane forecast gone-astray or two, BUT, for whatever he could have done, in his strong interest in weather, incorrectly, and has been so harshly judged, WOULD it be better for him to have gone against his natural way, and been middle-of-the-road in hindsight? I really don't think so, and if he did, NO ONE would know him, and he wouldn't have the success he has at the same time? I don't think so. I've faced similar issues, and have been told the same in my own circumstances by a very, very smart friend. I wouldn't change, or reverse myself, in spite of being incorrect, and NEITHER SHOULD ACCU-WEATHER!

Posted by Peter Smith | February 24, 2010 10:38 PM Michelle:

Like TWC is one to talk. By the way, is this storm and its followers still "February Fury" or have they come up with a new name for this new round?

I don't think it's out there to refer to nor'easters as "hurricane-like" or "tropical storm-like." Without some type of intensity rating or scale it's hard for people and municipalities to take the correct precautions and make appropriate preparations. Which leaves the only option of comparing them to something people do understand. When I lived in SE PA, anytime I heard the phrase "nor'easter" I knew it was a good idea to make sure I had batteries, flashlights, etc. so I could deal with possible power outages. I'd also make sure I had all the snow removal supplies handy and all my equipment ready to go. People who move into the area from another region of the country or the world might not have a clue what they should expect or what they should do.

Posted by Michelle | February 24, 2010 5:55 PM Joe:

There seem to be three paradigms here. 1) TWC - Not much meteorology, mainly human-interest fluff. 2) NOAA - Government-run, and very good, but being that they are the sources of advisories used by emergency workers and local governments, they have no choice but to be prudent so as not to unnecessarily use resources and spend too much money. 3) AccuWeather - Great forecasters, solid meteorology, but since they are a private entity, they are able to cut through the red tape that NOAA cannot.

Basically, when I want to get the most perspective out of a weather situation, I read these blogs and read the internal NWS discussions. Those discussions are not too different from what JB, HM, or any of the AccuW forecasters talk about.

It's a shame what TWC has become. They shouldn't be accusing AccuW of "bad meteorology" when meteorology itself seems to be something they are sorely lacking themselves.

Keep up the good work, Jesse, and don't let those that are too afraid to predict the extreme get you down.

Posted by Joe | February 24, 2010 5:41 PM Julian:

Jessee,

I can see both sides of the argument, so I'm not taking sides here. But I noticed an inaccuracy in your blog; 976 mbar is not a Category 2 hurricane, rather equivalent to one. Hurricanes are strictly tropial.

Regards, Julian

FROM JESSE: Check out the link that I gave: "Category 2: Central pressure 965–979 mbar", I'm not making this stuff up folks.

Posted by Julian | February 24, 2010 4:59 PM Mike:

You guys have been accurate all three times when TWC has been slow in forecasting the bizzards (their Weekly Planner had us in for 'light snow' until within a few days).

But I do think the "snow-a-cane" is a bit much though--"blizzard" or "really strong nor'easter" is more accurate and from reading the details of the forecast, gives a better picture of what is really to happen, even to 'normal' people. When I hear "hurricane" I think possible evacuation. That's not going to happen with this storm.

Posted by Mike | February 24, 2010 4:46 PM Jim:

Yes, I can see it now..WWF presents the war to settle the score. Cagematch between the good guys, Accuweather, against the forces of meteo evil, TWC and NWS! LOLOLOL!!!

You guys are the best!!!

Posted by Jim | February 24, 2010 4:35 PM Peter Smith:

I think the problem was not the phrase, "hurricane-like", but rather, "this will be a mini-hurricane". In fact, last night, it popped out at me, and I sent a message to accuweather.com stating my disagreement with it. It probably was a bad headline, nothing more. Accuweather has fine forecasters, and better coverage than The Weather Channel, which has made a big, sucking sound, for years now.

FROM JESSE: Thanks but I didn't see that reference, can you post a URL?

Posted by Peter Smith | February 24, 2010 4:31 PM Matt:

Finally, the unspoken difference AccuWeather (AW)has with the NWS is made public!

Regarding the NWS not issuing a headline for 'your county' you sound like one of the self-proclaimed 'futureweathermen' high school kids from the forum complaining that the NWS didn't issue a headline for them. (Seems that there should be at least a WW advisory though considering that WS watches are in place for 8 inches just to your east. I'm not a MET and I don't pretend to know why they do what they do.

The fact is sometimes NWS gets it right and sometimes they get it wrong and sometimes AW gets it right and sometimes AW gets it wrong. But the truth lies in the fact that NWS have no other interest than that of notifying the public of threatening weather conditions.

The same can't be said for AW. If AW doesn't have advertisers then they don't make money. If they don't make money then they don't exist. What's the best way to draw traffic to AW?

Hype/sensationalize the weather.

(Yes, even if they're well intentioned, snow loving, grown up kids who just love a good snowstorm and happen to work at AccuWeather.)

Posted by Matt | February 24, 2010 4:30 PM Robert:

Jesse, any idea why they haven't put at least a wind advisory up for State college and the surrounding area? It seems to me that even if the NWS doesn't believe that there is enough snow for a winter weather advisory, which there will be, that the winds that are anticipated here should be enough to warrent a wind advisory.

Keep up the good work

Robert

FROM JESSE: Apparently, Robert, they think there will be neither snow nor wind, that's a great point that I didn't make above. We really think they will have egg on their face but I guess we'll have to wait and see. If I were you, I'd tie down your trash cans!

Posted by Robert | February 24, 2010 4:21 PM dan:

jesse,i enjoy reading your blog. but admit the truth,accuweather always hypes it up.

does dr joel tell you to do that purposely to get the advertisers on.? obviously you charge the advertisers by the number of people that come to the site.

if there was a potential for another bizzard of 88 then you can hype it up,buts thats not going to be the case this time.

FROM JESSE: This logic is flawed; if we "always hyped" then people would see through that and web traffic would go down. I admit, we have hyped a lot in the past, a couple of times unwarranted, but not this year -- our snow maps have been way underdone on nearly every storm. This is not the year to accuse us of hype, let's wait and see what happens with this storm.

Posted by dan | February 24, 2010 4:02 PM AccuWeather.com Forums:

Here are some comments from the Forum thread where you posted this:

Weather wars!!!! I'm with Accuweather TWC is a joke

Oh its ON now!

I really don't like TWC. Although it was informative, it was just snippy. Nor'easters are winter hurricanes and do more damage to the shore and surrounding areas than hurricanes because we just don't see a lot of hurricanes that stay together long up this way. All I know is, its not going to be pretty tomorrow and Friday.

I love Accuweather's love for the weather and the hype they put into it, but score one for The Weather Channel's reasoned approach.

I hate to say it, but other than the pressure reading they've got ya. This will be a good blizzard, not a hurricane. People need to get their shovels ready, they don't need to plywood their windows and prepare to lose their homes. Too much hype can backfire on the general public eventually.

That's why you work for Accuweather and not TWC, Jesse. LOL!

Jesse, tell the Weather Channel to have a Coke and a Smile and Shut the, well, you know the rest

Posted by AccuWeather.com Forums | February 24, 2010 3:53 PM M2:

TWC does nothing more than parrot the NWS forecast. They are a waste of time if you have internet access and can get to the NWS, which is much more thorough. No surprise they are defending NSW in this one.

At the height of this storm they will probably be showing some "how weather changed history" show, when instead their intrepid reporters should be on a pier somewhere on the New England coast, as they would be in a Category 1.

Posted by M2 | February 24, 2010 3:44 PM phil:

You guys most certainly do "hype" storms at times...Your readers and avid followers out here aren't stupid just because we aren't meteorologists...if you say hurricane-like, what exactly are people supposed to think? The H word implies destruction in the minds of most...

Fierce winds, very powerful, potentially dangerous...those terms are not quite as intimidating or upsetting to people as "hurricane-like"...

These days, "hurricane-like" means Katrina like in many minds...death, flooding, destruction....

we're a headline reading society...

I'm personally not really knocking you guys but am a bit critical of trying to claim there's never, ever any hype to be found here....and i can handle "hurricane-like" by actually reading into the story a bit...but many can't for a variety of reasons...

As for the NWS and the Weather Channel, both are horrible compared to this site...Cantori is ALL they have at the WC....period. Lure him over with you guys and that place collapses...

Posted by phil | February 24, 2010 3:36 PM Joe:

" FROM JESSE: No unfortunately forecasts are not generally archived.

Posted by m | February 24, 2010 1:35 PM "

--------------------------------------------------

That really amazes me consdiering that even online betting services have an roi available ro give you an indication of what trainers or tracks you do well on.

Considering that meterioligists depend on the computer to forecast you would think a scorecard would be kept. Maybe you should consider the idea.

Thanks Jesse

Posted by Joe | February 24, 2010 3:34 PM Bill Hale:

I thought winds need to be sustained at 74MPH or greater to be considered hurricane? Are you predicting sustained 74MPH winds on the coast of Mass? I must admit your headlines are kind of funny in a not so funny situation but still funny nonetheless. I admit i come here to get the latest cause everyone else is way behind and takes the conservative approach. The headline don't do anything for me but if you think for a minute that i'm going to believe that you are not trying to sell the weather .... isn't going to happen.

Posted by Bill Hale | February 24, 2010 3:33 PM Michael Finkbeiner:

With all due respect, a gust of 65 mph is very, very far down-scale from sustained winds of 74 mph.

So your Monday morning review of pressures, winds and accumulation will show whether "strong Tropical Storm" might even have been a hype.

FROM JESSE: Like I said, no one here ever claimed that the storm could have Saffir Simpson Cat 2 winds, only pressure. You're still thinking like a meteorologist... unfortunately we are a minority, only a fraction of a percent of the population... and our forecasts are for the average guy standing at Cape Cod tomorrow night.

Posted by Michael Finkbeiner | February 24, 2010 3:26 PM Zach:

Jesse:

You mention an "article" from the NWS where they said you guys were "not responsible." I can't find it linked in your blog anywhere...am I just missing it?

FROM JESSE: Sorry about that, linked it in.

Posted by Zach | February 24, 2010 3:26 PM Tom S.:

Does anybody really care about the little hissy fits between two competing weather sites? Spare us. Just let us know how much I'm going to have to shovel!

FROM JESSE: Check your zipcode on AccuWeather.com Tom and you'll be able to tap into the latest "collective consciousness" from our 100+ meteorologists.

Posted by Tom S. | February 24, 2010 3:23 PM Mike BABYAK:

Jesse,

Great job with all your posts. I live in Western Orange Ctny NY(Hudson Valley). How long will the precip last from this pending huge storm. And how much snow can we recieve.

Thank You

FROM JESSE: Hi Mike, check your zipcode on AccuWeather.com for details, we've got exact amounts and hourly details!

Posted by Mike BABYAK | February 24, 2010 3:18 PM Ken:

So here's my take: The meteorology in the article is undoubtedly pretty accurate (I subscribe to Accuweather Premium for a reason, and that reason is not the pretty web site), but the headline is needlessly sensational. There's more to a hurricane than central pressure, and the Saffir-Simpson scale is, after all, not designed to measure storm intensity so much as it is damage to human structures (per Dr. Simpson). There is no way this storm is going to cause the level of damage that even a category 2 hurricane would (I think it unlikely that any houses will be lifted off their foundations even if the storm makes landfall at full intensity, for example), and characterizing it that way is misleading at best.

FROM JESSE: Agreed, though power outages could be similar due to the weight of the snow. Remember: We did not say it would be a Category 2 hurricane. What we inferred was that, if you're standing on the coast of Mass. tomorrow, you're going to feel like you're in a hurricane, and we still believe that to be true.

Posted by Ken | February 24, 2010 3:16 PM Michael Finkbeiner:

Henry M. attempted to defend his comments by claiming that Accu-Weather never "over-hypes or even hypes" its forecast.

He then went on to say we could see gusts - he underscored gusts - of 65 mph.

This wind forecast does not come close to the Saffir-Simpson definition of "hurricane."

So the direct evidence is in fact that the headline OVER-HYPED the forecast.

FROM JESSE: Gusts of 65 is not that far from 74 - would we really say "Strong Tropical Storm" in this situation -- again the forecasts are for the public and that term would not cause them to prepare. P.S.: I only referred to the Saffir Simpson scale for pressure, not wind.

Posted by Michael Finkbeiner | February 24, 2010 3:03 PM m:

The 976 mb pressure is when the storm's over the ocean, once it hits land winds die down rapidly (obviously). It's going to be like the Feb 10th storm: accuweather forecasted 60 mph gusts at Allentown, PA and none exceeded 41 mph, and then only briefly at storm's end. I'm curious, is there an archive of Accuweather and NWS forecasts available online? Thanks.

FROM JESSE: True, but hurricanes are the same way, almost never do they deliver to land the wind they promise over the ocean. And, as TWC pointed out, they have different wind fields. No unfortunately forecasts are not generally archived.

Posted by m | February 24, 2010 1:35 PM
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)