Obsessing over fractions of an inch

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It’s 11:00 on Wednesday morning, and I’m obsessing over every little change in the HRRR (High Resolution Rapid Refresh) model’s update. Will it be one inch or 2.5 inches of snow in eastern Wake County? Is that just half-an-inch in northwestern Wake? That’s different from what it said the last hour.

potential snowfall totals

A slide from the NWS Raleigh Office’s 10:30 AM, Wednesday, January 3, 2018 weather briefing

The HRRR is the model we put more stock in for short-term forecasting – of less than 24 hours – because it shows more detail than most of the rest. It’s usually pretty spot on because it updates so often. Each run has a better handle on where the storm will go, or at least, it should. So, we meteorologists watch it like hawks and bog ourselves down in fractions of an inch.

I literally just reminded myself that a half-inch more or less than two inches will still be a mess tomorrow morning on the roads. Yes, snow is much nicer than mix of ice and snow, but face it: we live in the south, and not everyone is a safe driver in the rain, much less on snow.

The major roads are brined thanks to the Department of Transportation. I could see the coating on my way into work early this morning on Highways 64, 96, and 98. The side streets will be another story. If you wake up tomorrow, and the news is reporting that emergency officials are asking you to stay off the roads, please heed that call if you can. I know some jobs are literally essential, but most of us can postpone our driving for better conditions.

If plows are needed, they require room to work to clear the roads. More cars for them to compete with for space means slower progress. Plus, driving before the roads are clear puts yourself and other drivers at risk. Remember what I noted above about not everyone being a safe driver? You might be the ultimate professional at driving on snow, but the guy in front of you could make a rookie mistake that leaves both of you in bad shape. Why risk it? Let the DOT and tomorrow’s sunshine do a little work first.

As for me and my obsession with how this forecast verifies… if we only get a trace of snow, I will be thankful – even if that means a busted forecast.