Ahead of Monday's "crippling and potentially historic" snowstorm, city and state state officials took the extraordinary step of enacting travel bans and declaring states of emergency as the specter of heavy snow, flooding, and other weather-related chaos loomed across the northeastern United States. On Tuesday, in places like Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City, where feet of snow had been forecast and only inches arrived, there were more kale shortages than power outages reported.
While plenty of places are still getting snow (and got plenty of it Monday night), meteorologists, whose predictions inspired considerable alarm, are looking a little red-faced on Tuesday as they revise their forecasts.
"From a forecast standpoint, it's been a failure, or better yet, a bust," wrote John Bolaris, The Philadelphia Inquirer's meteorologist. "Whenever you're forecasting six inches or more of snow in the big city and it fails to happen, you disrupted livelihood and ticked off mom, dad, schools, businesses."
Gary Szatkowski, a 34-year veteran at the National Weather Service, was even more contrite:
My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public.— Gary Szatkowski (@GarySzatkowski) January 27, 2015
He added, "You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry."
While dozens lamented that their calculations had misfired, others pointed to the inherent trickiness of the weather forecasting business. "The Euro model, the most reliable of them all, has failed," one New York City-based meteorologist tweeted. "Will the city see a foot of snow? Probably. But all of us have failed to an extent."
As Dashiell Bennett writes, elected officials are similarly handcuffed by forecasts, which guide their responses and often create no-win situations. "When dealing with Mother Nature, you win some and you lose some, but politicians almost always lose. Underestimate, and you weren't prepared enough. Overestimate, and you look hysterical."