When Parkland residents woke up this morning and looked out their front window, they might have been greeted by 3 to 6 inches of snow on the ground … or an inch… or less than an inch … or most likely, absolutely no snow at all.
All of the above snowfall amounts, or lack thereof, have been forecasted for this weekend at some point over the past week-and-a-half — and Farmington-based “amateur weather guy” Mike Reeves isn’t happy that forecasts like these have become a regular occurrence on internet and cable weather stations in recent years.
So, why is it so tough to forecast winter weather in southeast Missouri?
“If you’re into real estate at all, you will appreciate the answer because the answer as far as Farmington, Missouri goes is location, location, location,” said Reeves. “That is the biggest reason that you cannot forecast snow accumulations for an incoming winter system — and I don’t care if you’re a paid professional or if you’re just random little old me who does it for fun with no professional background whatsoever.
“Nobody, from the top meteorologist on Earth to me, can ever tell you with 100 percent confidence what a winter system will do where Farmington, Missouri is located. It is mainly because we sit as smack dab as one can right on the border of every possible winter weather problem to try to forecast.
“One, we tend to always be right on the edge of frozen vs. wet precipitation. We’re always right at the edge of ‘It’s going to be 31 degrees’ or ‘It’s going to be 34 degrees.’ Well, those three degrees are going to change the entire outlook. Add to that, we are also far enough south that northern storms — clippers — rarely do anything for us. They tend to hit the I-70 corridor and shoot down. We might get a dusting or an inch or so.
“The southern storms, like this one that’s coming in this weekend, they tend to want to stay just to our south — and even when they get to us, back to the temperature thing — they often end up rain instead of snow because southern systems tend to bring warmer temperatures with them. Warm comes out of the south and cold comes out of the north.”
According to Reeves, it’s extremely difficult to create the perfect scenario for a significant snowstorm in the Parkland.
“To have it be 100 percent efficient, you have to have cold air in place and then a southern system throw moisture on top of that cold,” he said. “Then, we tend to get real good snowmakers — and for anybody who has lived in the area for a while, you know it’s been over three years since we’ve had a significant snow-making event. Those are the reasons we’re not seeing a lot of snow and why it is so darn impossible at times to predict it.
“I mean, 24 hours out is really hard. Twelve hours out, sometimes we don’t know. And with this one we had a few weeks ago, that started off, ‘Oh, this area could get really blasted. It looks like it’s going to be 6 inches, 8 inches!’ It turned out that the 8 inches of snow was about 60 miles west. Nobody had it perfectly right, right up until the time it hit. I mean, as it was developing you couldn’t really 100 percent say where the heaviest amount was going to fall. We knew Farmington would get snow that day, but we didn’t know how much. Nobody knew. Nobody.”
That’s why over the past week Reeves has been having a little fun at the expense of The Weather Channel on his Facebook page.
“A week ago, they put out a forecast that had 1 to 3 inches Friday night, 5 to 8 inches on Saturday,” he said. “They put that out, I think it was Monday, and I posted it on my page just kind of as a, ‘This is why you don’t do this. Just don’t!’ Nobody can know. Here we are — it is Thursday afternoon — this system that has been winding up and making its way into the area for the weekend is now about 48 hours out and they’re still not 100 percent sure about what it’s going to do.
“It really appears that Farmington is going to be absolutely, completely north of any of the snowline. It really does appear that way now, but for the last three days all we’ve been hearing about is the Farmington area could get 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 6 inches — and as of this very moment, all models are keeping it south of Farmington. Branson — that area could get a few inches of snow — the border between Missouri and Arkansas. But right now, it really looks like Farmington is maybe going to miss it completely.”
Reeves noted that it is also impossible for any weather forecaster to know for certain the exact tract a low-pressure system is going to take across the United States.
“That difference changes everything in weather world because if this low that’s coming across this time happens to shift 30 miles — which sounds like a lot, but that’s a tiny bit in weather talk — it affects about 40 to 60 miles worth of geography and all of a sudden, this ‘Oh, it’s a southern storm. It’s going to kind of miss Farmington. It’s going to stay to the south. Maybe Poplar Bluff gets something. Maybe West Plains and Branson. Farmington looks like they’re off the hook.
“If that low decides, ‘Eh, I’m going to veer a little bit further north than any weather model forecasted,’ all of a sudden on Saturday afternoon that low moves 20 miles, 30 miles and Farmington is getting 4 inches of snow. It is that goofy.”
Reeves is adamant that he’s not annoyed by weather professionals who miss a forecast — it’s something completely different that ruffles his feathers.
“What annoys me is that they put stuff out far too early,” he said. “They get people on edge — or for people who love the snow, they get them excited — and then they peel off of it and I find that kind of reporting to be irresponsible. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling people, ‘Hey, we really don’t know. Here’s what might happen, but we can’t promise it and I think they could gain more respect just by doing that because people do plan around the weather forecast. I mean, they make big plans around it and then when it’s completely wrong days in advance, you’re messing with people’s schedules and plans.
“Someone who was going to go to Branson this weekend may have already cancelled plans because of the forecast four days ago. Well, there’s still a chance today that Branson might not get anything. It could happen. It looks like they’re going to get it, but then all of a sudden, people cancel their plans. They didn’t go on their Branson Christmas weekend and, well, not much happens. Now they’re left saying, ‘I wish I had gone now.’"