Loads of hype, but will it snow? One model calls for a foot of snow in Chattanooga

Loads of hype, but will it snow? One model calls for a foot of snow in Chattanooga

February 1st, 2014 by Mary Helen Montgomery in Local Regional News

POLL: Do you worry about a foot of snow next week?

It may or may not snow next week, but the hype is really coming down out there.

A map predicting heavy snow on Feb. 7 or 8 started circulating on social media Thursday, and local meteorologists addressed the map on evening newscasts. Paul Barys at Channel 3 and David Glenn at Channel 9 both stressed that it's the only model predicting snow right now, but that hasn't stopped the buzz.

"It might be 10 to 12 inches of snow up here next week ... I hate snow with a passion I gotta get away lol," Will E. Reese of Chattanooga wrote on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

"There is supposed to be a snowstorm next week, too!" another Chattanoogan tweeted Friday.

After meteorologists failed to foresee the snow that crippled the region earlier this week, perhaps it's better to go ahead and get all the possibilities on the table, however slim.

"You can hope for it or hope it does not happen, but in either case no one really knows this far out," Barys wrote on Facebook. "It is a computer model, not a forecast."

The weather model in question is the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The weather center, which is based in Reading, U.K., had been predicting 10 to 12 inches, but was showing a "warmer and wetter" forecast by Friday afternoon, according to Glenn.

The last time Chattanooga saw that much snow was in 1993, when it snowed 20 inches.

The European model garnered new attention in the United States when it predicted Hurricane Sandy eight days before the storm struck in late October 2012. The overseas forecast beat American predictions by four days, according to The Associated Press.

"I'm really hesitant to put a lot of stock in it," David Karnes, the morning meteorologist at WRCB, said in an interview. "Do we need to go ahead and start freaking out and going into the snow mode? I think it's way too early for that."

Right now, Karnes said, rain looks more likely than snow for the end of next week. The high next Friday is expected to be 45 degrees. He said the European model is "just one piece of the formula," and that the public should be wary of making predictions based on that map alone.

Tod Hyslop, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tenn., said Friday afternoon he hasn't yet made a forecast for the end of next week.

"It's a little too early to be making predictions," he said.

Karnes said technology contributes to the hype.

"Before the Internet and social media, nobody would see these models on their own," Karnes said. "If you're not taking everything into account, you're only getting one slice of the pie."

But, people may be tempted to take weather predictions into their own hands after the surprise storm that paralyzed the region Tuesday.

Matthew Adams, of Chattanooga, wrote on Twitter that newscasters had no choice but to mention the model after this week's "fiasco."

"I don't think the [European model] will hold," he wrote on Twitter.

Still, Karnes said that in his personal experience, people still have faith in the weatherman.

"As far as the trust issue, I've had a lot of support," Karnes said. "I think that people understand what goes into a forecast."

Contact staff writer Mary Helen Miller at mhmiller@timesfreepress.com.