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HysteriaWatch: Countdown To A Weather Event

The forecasters are prepping for all-nighters, the milk shelves are already wiped clean at my local Safeway, and the kids are talking snow days. Yes, it's time to roll out another edition of SnowHysteriaWatch.

Media reports are rated on a 1-10 scale. As always, a 1 rating is what you'd give an academic meteorologist preparing a report for fellow scientists, a 5 is a report that would impel most Washingtonians to rush out for the Holy Trinity of TP, milk and bread, and a 10 is what would get Channel 4's Pat Collins to rush right over to your house to plant his measuring stick deep into the snow drifts obscuring what used to be your front door.

Here are the magic words from the National Weather Service: "AT THIS POINT SNOW... SLEET... AND FREEZING RAIN ALL LOOK TO BE
PLAYERS IN OUR WEATHER PICTURE." The feds are also using some nicely urgent phrasing to ratchet up the fear: "A HIGH IMPACT WEATHER EVENT IS LIKELY." Hysteria rating: 4.

Over at the always-cautious and smart, they're not making any specific predictions quite yet, but forecaster Jason Samenow says "some snow is likely everywhere during the early and late phases of the storm." Hysteria rating: 1

"The Big One On The Way?" asks Channel 9, which is so excited, they have snow falling on their home page. Hysteria rating: 6.

Channel 4, in contrast, plays it safe, sticking with the National Weather Service wording. Hysteria rating: 2.

Over on Fox, you get the added bonus of a bit of the fabulous Eastern Motors ad jingle before weathercaster Gwen Tolbart reports the possibility of snow, sleet or ice on Tuesday--a very tempered and reasonable piece recorded on Sunday afternoon. "The models are all over the place, so it's kind of hard to pull it all together," she says. Hysteria rating: 2.

More as the event nears.

By Marc Fisher |  February 11, 2007; 5:33 PM ET
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I find to be the best of these sites.

Posted by: Peter | February 11, 2007 6:41 PM

This is not going to be a major snow event here, not one meteorological model says it will. Yes, its going to snow Tuesday, but the majority of the precipitation from this storm will not be snow.

Posted by: A | February 11, 2007 6:47 PM is prone to take a conservative approach when forecasting. Seeing as many winter events in DC often fizzle out, this strategy usually pays off.

An additional bonus is the comments section to the blog. It is usual to see hundreds of replies to the blog when winter weather rolls around, allowing users to discuss events and view others' opinions.

Posted by: Ned Burchfiel | February 11, 2007 6:49 PM

As a Northern Virginia native, I don't recall the alarmist approach to winter weather during my youth 30 years ago--and I was a major dork, so I watched plenty of news! Is winter weather our local version of Anna Nicole Smith?

Posted by: bigolpoofter | February 11, 2007 8:46 PM

Marc, do you think that the MoCo school system will be brave enough to hold classes on Monday?

Posted by: slm | February 11, 2007 9:38 PM

I called my parents this week-end because I heard about the 6 feet of snow in Oswego near their home...they said that they had got off light with only a foot of snow in Syracuse.

Posted by: Chris | February 12, 2007 7:41 AM

I prefer going straight to the source - NOAA. They give a detailed forecast for your area without the hysterics.

Go to and drill down to your local area.

For example: Lexington park, MD (the southern Maryland that the TV channels are saying will disappear in a foot of ice, or something like that) can be seen at:

If you go to that site you can enter in your city/state or zip code and see what NOAA has to say about your location.

FYI: NOAA is the only organization with the satellites to actually see what is happening. All of the TV sites you mentioned get the raw data from NOAA and chose to "spin" the story however it suits them.

Posted by: SoMD | February 12, 2007 8:53 AM

Forgot something. NOAA has a very cool radar loop available that shows the entire continental US. It is much larger than your monitor but you can scroll left/right/up/down and see your local area. You can also see the storm in the midwest as it approaches. If you were to place your cursor over a location and single-click the mouse you will get a radar loop for the area you were pointing at. The National Radar Loop is available at the following:

Enjoy. This loop is better than anything they are showing on the TV channels.

Posted by: SoMD | February 12, 2007 8:58 AM

The media create the hysteria. Fight your own if you don't like it. I don't even care about the weather forecast, but unfortunately there is always some major news outlet braying in my ear.

Posted by: bkp | February 12, 2007 12:44 PM

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