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Weather Forecasters Blow It Again

NEW YORK - AUGUST 27:  In this handout image p...

Jim Cantore: In Search of the Big One in Buffalo


Heaven help us if the snow ever comes to the populous areas of Western New York.

We won’t believe it after all the screw-ups by area weather forecasters this winter and spring.

You knew this blog was coming when the snow didn’t come Monday to the area where most of us live.

In fairness to meteorologists, the weather around here is about as predictable as the National Hockey League playoffs.

But that doesn’t excuse all the fear the TV people instill in WNYers for days as they look at their computer models and see the snow falling.

After a little while, it is easy to become cynical and wonder if all the predictions for days were designed to increase the daily news ratings that slipped during the February sweeps because there weren’t any weather disasters.

After all, the visibility of Channel 4’s Pope Don Paul, Channel 2’s Kevin O’Connell and Channel 7’s Aaron Mentkowski increases dramatically when driving visibility decreases and  TV stations practically live off bad weather.

When they are wrong and the white stuff doesn’t come, you just wish they would all go on camera and say they blew it and the newscasts wouldn’t spend so much time on weather.

Instead, Pope Don and the other forecasters blamed computers, the position of the sun and Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff. OK, I was kidding about Regier and Ruff.

Even when they are wrong, the weather people still give us between five and seven minutes at the top of the news. At times, the attempt to validate the coverage becomes downright, unintentionally comical.

I had to laugh when Channel 2’s Michael Wooten was in West Seneca Monday night in the rain showing us where the snow came and went without leaving a trace.

I also laughed at the site of Channel 4 veteran reporter Rich Newberg doing a live shot in Wyoming County with an old school snow cap on. Being sent to Wyoming County for a snow report might be enough to make most veterans retire. That’s a job for newcomers and Channel 4 has plenty of them.

At 11 p.m., Channel 4 anchor Jacquie Walker led with the accurate line that we were saying all winter long “we’re going to pay” for the surprisingly nice winter and spring.

“And pay day came today,” added Don Postles.

Huh? Not at my house. I expected to wake up Monday morning in time to rev up my snow blower so I could get the car out of the driveway. Channel 2’s Andy Parker warned me as I got up that it was coming to my area. Instead, I think I have the weather people to thank for having the smoothest ride into the city to work than I have had all winter and spring. Practically no one was on the road Monday morning.

The snow did come, mostly to towns and areas that the majority of WNYers couldn’t find on a map. It was reminiscent of the coverage of all of those scary stories in the spring and fall about expected flooding that only impacts a few areas.

I feel for all the people in Salamanca, Scio, Silver Creek, Wellsville, Ischua, Cassadaga, Belfast and all the other places that made Channel 2’s weather crawl as the NBC Nightly News ran Monday night even though I don’t think I’ve ever been to any of them. (I might have but they’re not exactly tourist stops that I’d remember. That’s unless I got a speeding ticket there.)

But residents there know where they live and they know they will probably be hit if the snow flies. The rest of us in the populous areas don’t need to be scared senseless as often as we have been by the weather people this winter.

Good heavens, they even scared Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel to come here in anticipation of landing “the big one.” A reporter for one of the local channels (I think it was Anthony Congi of Channel 4) interviewed Cantore, who seemed disappointed that the white stuff didn’t arrive as much as expected.

He said covering a “big one” in Buffalo would be like going to a New York Yankees- Boston Red Sox game. “You have to do that once in your life,” said Cantore.

Soon afterwards, Cantore landed on the NBC Nightly News, doing a live shot from Orchard Park, which he said was about 12 miles south of Buffalo.

There wasn’t that much snow in OP so Cantore proceeded to report on all the snow in Southwest Pennsylvania. You wish he would have told viewers how many miles that was from Buffalo.

If you’re a WNYer who has a sense of humor about such things, it was pretty funny that a network guy was sent here to report about snow in another state. After Cantore finished his report from OP, anchor Brian Willliams added “unbelievable scene there.”

The only thing that was unbelievable was that NBC tried to pass off Buffalo as living up to its snowy image. But, hey, that’s as predictable as the weather people and their computers getting it wrong this winter.

Jim Heaney, the former award-winning Buffalo News investigative reporter who has started up a new website, Investigative Post, has made a deal with Channel 2 to provide investigative reports there and weekly interviews. He already has made content deals with Artvoice and local public radio, and also may contribute pieces to The News. You can read more about Heaney in my upcoming Buffalo Spree profile of him.


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15 responses to "Weather Forecasters Blow It Again"

  1. JON says:

    Enough is enough. It’s time to change TV newscasts while they still have an audience with a pulse. Drop the weather down to 2 minutes, tops. Less if it’s sunny. Eliminate any forecast more than 24 hours out. They’re almost always wrong after that. And give the extra time to sports–something infinitely more predictable. Cut Don Paul’s blather time and then maybe John Murphy would still have a TV job–it’s a win-win.

  2. Bob says:

    I like the old site better.
    Especially the new white background – it is hard on the eyes.
    And with so many adds now it is hard to tell what is you and what is an add

  3. Rob says:

    Some notes while wondering what happened to Jimmy and Johnny….

    Good article, as usual, but I would love an explanation on why they overhype and oversell of fear. I like a lot of your theories but also wonder if someday the weather forecast will be brought to us by Tops and Wegmans since that’s the other part of this news story they always oversell and that’s the trip to the store for “supplies.” If WGRZ can have a show called WNY Living, that is nothing more than a local infomercial and AM Buffalo does the same, let’s get it all out on the open and have the local stores sponsor these “fear of God” weather forecasts. Anyone wondering why broadcast news continues to dwindle just use this overblown weather story as a reason why.

    After one week there is still no explanation from the Buffalo News on Rodney McKissic’s suspension. The fluff and puff “Sullyview” never mentions it and I’ll bet my farm that the next time she hosts her chats the question of “why” will not make it past the screener. I always find it hypocritical of a print media trying to duck and cover when it’s their job to expose that policy in the real world.

    Congrats to Jim Heaney on his new endeavor. He’s one of the good ones in the field and he can now do investigative reports on his terms.

  4. Come down to the Southern Tier and then tell me they blew the forecast. If you can trudge through the foot of snow. I WISH they would’ve blown the forecast. In fact it’s still coming down now and the NWS says it’ll keep falling until Wednesday, just in time for the NEXT storm to come. Isn’t that nice?

    I know I was very skeptical of the whole thing this week. It’s just too late in the season and too warm for the kind of conditions the models were predicting. I knew it, and I was discussing it with Bryan Shaw (the weekend guy at 4) and he was skeptical as well.

    • Tina says:

      I still think they “blew the forecast” especially for the northern areas and the amounts predicted. It was a bit silly that on Sunday evening at 11 Channel 2 news had their whole weather team there for the event that never happened.

      I agree with JON, cut the weather down to 2 minutes. Even with Channel 4′s newly updated weather format they were still wrong.. a bit embarrassing after Don Paul had a whole segment on how “accurate” it is.

  5. Bill J. says:

    What is funny is that the huge blown forecast came days after Don Paul was raving how wonderful all his new weather toys were going to improve forecasting. The snow amount predictor showed over 6″ of snow for Buffalo and the northtowns, and all it did was rain. Friday night Don was beating his chest, and saying how this could end up being a storm to remember, Ch 4 really needs to do something about all the hype that Don Paul brings. None of the other weather people do that to his extent, not even his own colleagues. Judging by the number of commercials featuring Amelia these days, Ch 4 may be realizing that.

  6. Dave says:

    I’ve always said, we’re unfortunate to be in a region where Buffalo’s weather center is forecasting from the shores of Lake Ontario to Northern Pennsylvania.

    How do they give a forecast to the remote regions of McKean and Potter County, and not make people here bored, or get them worked into a frenzy.

    And I agree with the commenter above. Andy Parker once said on a newscast that they cannot really forecast out with any accuracy beyond 36 hours. How they managed to go to a 5-day, then 7-day, and some 10-day forecasts is beyond me. They should have been called out on it long ago.

    Too many years have we allowed them to screw up our plans. Weekend has rain? Cancel the backyard party. Oh wait! No rain now? OK, call the neighbors. Shoot! Rain in the forecast again? Call them back. Oops! Look how sunny it is! We could have had the picnic.

    Ugh. Hate the weather mongers and their shark tooth grins.

    • From personal experience, I’ve found that you can get a reasonably reliable forecast out about 5 days. On a good stretch, you can get as far as 10, but that depends.

      This was one of those storms that, alas, could not be forecast with any detail very far in advance and it required close supervision and monitoring in the days leading up to it (and the common sense to know when the models were not making sense). If there was anyone on the TV side that was hyping this as a sure thing, they shouldn’t have. Admittedly (and amazingly), one of the models in Canada almost nailed the forecast for this a whopping 10 days out, but that model has known to put spurious storms toward the ends of its runs.

  7. GMan says:

    Did you catch the Weather Channel’s coverage with reports from Tom Niziol??? Talk about doom and gloom for WNY. I think that being on national TV has gotten to him. This would make a terrible reality show, even though it is “real”

    • Tom NIziol says:

      We called it an elevation snow. We predicted 3 to 6 for the Buffalo area, 12 to 18 for the elevations above 2000 ft. Granted, we expected more snow in Buffalo, about the only place that didn’t get it. I said the devil would be in the details and it was. To the east in Rochester to Ithaca, where it got 2 degrees colder overnight, they has 3 to 4 inches of wet snow and 20,000 without power. Forecasting is a tough game with or without the hype. I call them as I see them, and yes, sometimes, we do miss, but let me assure you, national TV has not gotten to me, and I am the first to get upset when I don’t hit everyone one on the nose. I do however appreciate your comments and hope you continue to watch when I am back on for what I hope will be a real winter next year.

  8. GMan says:

    Do you mean that you do not care about the weather in Shinglehouse and Coudersport???? Shame on you.

    • Dave says:

      Haha! I am saying, why can’t they get their weather from Erie, PA? Why do we have to waste our time listening to, or being subjected to crawlers containing warnings & watches for Pennsylvania?

  9. Sometimes I wonder if these weather people actually root for the bad weather to happen, just so that their forecasts turn out correct.

    • There are quite a few meteorologists out there that get a thrill from the potential for bad weather. It’s something that in fact draws a lot of people to the profession. (I’m not one of them. I’ll take sunny and 72, thanks.)

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