Doppler Has a New Friend

The population of dogs named Doppler in Connecticut will increase 2-fold tomorrow. My friend Geoff Fox is adopting a little Maltipoo from a shelter in Wallingford.

Geoff and I go way back including a somewhat scarring trip to visit Santa Claus in 1988 at the Branford Community Center. I can’t find the picture right now but it does exist somewhere!

Like so many TV news promos over the last 2 decades, I’ll be able to say, “My Doppler is bigger than your Doppler!”

Good luck with the pup Geoff and Helaine!

Update to Bradley Snowfall Total

I’ve received some clarification from the National Weather Service about just how much snow fell at Bradley during the October snowstorm. Here are the snow measurements from the official snow board on 10/29 (through 1 a.m. because of DST):

  • 1pm – Trace
  • 7pm – 4.6″
    Midnight – 5.5″
  • 1am – 2.2″

The total for 10/29 is 12.3″ with additional snow after 1 a.m. on 10/30 that is still unclear. If I had to guess I’d say the 12.3″ measurement is a hair on the low side based on some problems with how the measuring was done.

The guys at Bradley do the best they can but unfortunately measuring snow properly is not easy. The additional snow from 10/30 will be added to the climate data in the coming days after the NWS does a bit more investigating. We will likely end up with an official total around 14″ though I think the actual total was about 1″ or 2″ higher.


How Much Snow Actually Fell?

It’s been one crazy year. Arguably 2011 has been the most wild year of southern New England weather in many, many years.

The October 29-30 snowstorm is the most memorable snowstorm of my lifetime for a whole host of reasons. It’s also one of the most anomalous storms I can think of in Connecticut. We get tornadoes, hurricanes, and ice storms every once in a while but the October snowstorm was absolutely unprecedented.

So the question remains – how much snow actually fell. The observation that came in from the official climate site in the greater Hartford area at Bradley was 20.3″. That’s too high. The National Weather Service has removed the observation pending further review.

It’s important to know the official way to measure snowfall to make sure we’re not comparing apples and oranges. Many people think total snowfall is just sticking a ruler in the snow at the end of the event and seeing what’s on the ground. That’s snow depth… not total snowfall.

The correct way is to measure on a white of light colored board (piece of plywood is fine) and away from any obstructions like trees or your house. After the first flakes fall you should measure and clear the snowboard every 6 hours and/or when the snow ends. In certain cases clearing a snowboard can result in higher totals when there is significant compaction (a fluffy snow) or significant melting (when temperatures are above freezing).

Unfortunately after this snowstorm we received very few snowfall reports as did the National Weather Service. The reason why? People didn’t have power! Here are some of the observations sent in to me or the National Weather Service that seem legitimate:

  • Hartland – 25.0″
  • Norfolk – 21.3″
  • Harwinton – 20.0″
  • Litchfield – 19.0″
  • Collinsville – 18.9″
  • Suffield – 17.0″
  • West Hartford – 13.0″
  • Tolland – 12.5″

Based on the neighboring snowfall reports I have a hard time in buying the 20.3″ measurement at BDL. Our observer in Collinsville is meticulous and accurate and I doubt Windsor Locks was able to accumulate more snow than Collinsville. In fact BDL likely saw 1″-3″ less than Collinsville did. My guess is that BDL picked up 15″-17″ of snow from this event if “correct” clearing protocols were followed. The maximum snow depth may have only been about 14″ from the storm.

Still, 17″ of snow would be a top 10 snowstorm for the greater Hartford area. The old October monthly record of 1.7″ has been shattered by an exceptional margin. In fact the earliest 6″ snowstorm prior to October 2011 in Hartford was November 11-12, 1987!!!!

National Grid Next In Line To Make Excuses

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

“They really underestimated the moisture content of the cold weather pattern that was coming in,” said Ellen Smith, National Grid’s chief operations officer.

That doesn’t even make any sense.

“All of those decisions are based off of forecasts that were fundamentally missed by the meteorologists,” Mr. King said. “They missed the amount of snow, and they missed the weight of the snow.”

I can’t exactly comment on this since I wasn’t forecasting for central Massachusetts and didn’t see any forecasts released by Boston TV stations but I have a hard time believing this claim. If the private forecasting company they used missed the forecast then say that – but don’t lump us all in together.

The amount of snow is somewhat irrelevant, to be honest, as most of the damage occurred with the initial several inches of snow that fell that was the heaviest, wettest, and clung to everything. In fact the towns that received the most snow in the Berkshires and Litchfield Hills (20″-30″ in some cases) had the least amount of tree damage. Those areas higher in elevation had the “fluffiest” snow while the valleys were stuck with the paste. In addition the leaves were gone from many of the trees up above 1000 ft.

Widespread tree and power line damage has happened in many areas of the country during freak early season snowstorms. 6.5″ in Kansas City on October 22, 1996 in October crippled the power grid there. 6.5″ in Albany on October 4, 1987 turned the city into a “war zone”. The October 2006 Buffalo lake effect event is another example.

Leaves on the trees and early season snow is a bad combination – it seems that utilities continue to learn this the hard way. This was no doubt an exceptionally rare event for New England but these exceptionally rare October events have happened in other parts of the country before. The damage wasn’t a surprise to me and it shouldn’t have been for the people who deliver electricity to millions across New England.