Snow or No Snow? That is the Question.

In light of all the frustration I see on Facebook, I thought I would express my opinion and experience with snow forecasting. I don’t think it is that difficult for a qualified person to predict snow, or no snow, for Atlanta. (I could be wrong – I’ve been wrong before – I have two divorces to prove it.) Somewhere in this house is a folder with the label, “Johnny Beckman’s Sure Fire Snow Prediction Kit.” I took it with me when I left Channel 11. There really was no secret about it. It was just a “sequence” of things (mostly paper charts) that I checked in a certain order when there was the possibility of frozen precip for our area. It was based on all the factors that were required to come together to produce snow, and the amount that would fall and where those amounts would occur. I methodically followed that sequence and it never failed. But once it came close.

In 1993 we had a possible snow event. I followed my routine when I went to work. It was raining that afternoon and there was an upper level Low over Alabama moving our way. Using my faithful “kit” I very confidently told our viewers that when that low moved over us, there was not going to be a slow transition. The rain would flash over to snow immediately, and the next morning we would have lots of snow. (I should point out, and I repeated it often enough, that my forecasts were for an area that encompassed 60 miles in all directions from the center of Atlanta.)

On that occasion in 1993 I had 90% “confidence” that my forecast would verify. So I told our viewers what would happen, and I went home and went to bed. Of course, I had to get up early to go back to work and I distinctly remember waking about 5:00 AM – and it was still raining. Lying in bed, listening to the rain, I told my wife, “How the hell, am I going to explain to everyone that it’s raining and not snowing?” I showered, shaved and dressed, and went down to my car. It was still raining. When I pulled out of the garage, it was almost as though God had turned the switch. The rain instantly turned to heavy snow and I honked the horn so my wife would take a look out the window.

By the time I drove the 10 miles to the TV station we had at least four or five inches of snow on the ground and the wind was beginning to blow. For that entire day, Chris Holcomb and I took turns doing “snow reports” from the lawn in front of Channel 11. (I had an old wool cap you could pull down over your ears, and we would each wear it when it was our turn to go outside.) The snow was piling up into drifts and the wind was blowing 20-25 knots. It was a real blizzard. The snow actually hurt when it hit your face. I think it was a Saturday, so very few people were inconvenienced by the snow, so it was a day to just enjoy it unless you were working in it.

My “snow kit,” I’m sure, is old fashioned now and not graphic enough for today’s television. But it worked for me then, and since it was based on the science and dynamics of the atmosphere (which haven’t changed since God made the world) it might even work today. But it’s not nearly flashy enough.

About johnbeckmanbooks

John Beckman, a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecasted the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. Also a well published author Beckman now devotes full time to writing fiction. He currently has several eBooks on, "Tropical Knights," first in a series of adventure/mysteries about a sailor and his lovely CIA cohort on a mission to save America. Now available the sequel, and second in the series: "Tropical Daze." The third Jack & Amy adventure is "Tropical Rage" which became available on 30 April 2014. All of his books are highlighted on and available from . .
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