Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011: The Clockwork Storm

There were two impressive things about Chicago's just-concluded snow "event." One, the obvious: it was massive and historical (#3 for the record books). And two, it was about as accurately predicted a snowstorm as you're likely to see. While many are cynical of the weather media, feeling they're prone to sensational claims, this storm left Chicago's weather mavens looking pretty good.

The official total snowfall in Chicago was 20.2 inches at O'Hare and 20.9 inches at Midway. Here are the grades assigned by TCF (grading criteria can be found here):

WGN: A+ We're not easy graders, and an A+ is very hard to come by. That said, Tom Skilling and company nailed this storm from beginning to end. As of Sunday night, WGN noted that Chicago was in the 20-25" band. The final snowfall tally fell squarely in the middle of their final 16-24" range.

NWS: A The National Weather Service followed closely on WGN's heels, but was a bit less aggressive in going with the monumental amounts of snow that eventually fell.

WLS: A There's little fault to be found in WLS's performance.

WMAQ: A- Like most others, WMAQ ultimately established the proper snow range for the storm. However, on Monday night, they forecast "just" 10 to 15 inches, which was less than what actually fell.

WBBM: B+ Maybe we're being a little picky here, but WBBM was actually a little low in its snowfall estimates, with a final pre-storm forecast of 12 to 18 inches.

WFLD: C If there was one weather outlet that stood out, it was WFLD. Their final prediction was for 12-14 inches on the north side, which was considerably below what fell. And on Sunday night, when other outlets were talking about 20-inch snows and the prospect of a record-making event, they saw only "up to 12 inches."

A chronological presentation of the forecasts by weather outlets can be found here.
If you have friends or family in Minneapolis and Boston, or just want to see how groups of forecasters are faring in other cities, check The Minnesota Forecaster (our original forecaster evaluation) and The Boston Forecaster (new). You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

A final reminder: There's nothing official or overly rigorous about our grades. While it's ultimately subjective, we do our very best to provide an objective assessment of the performance of local weathercasters based on information shared with the public.

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