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Requiem for Western Washington’s windstorm that wasn’t

This weekend’s storm didn’t live up to the hype, but that’s better than the alternative

Sometimes as a meteorologist, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If they hadn’t warned us about the potential windstorm that was going to whip Western Washington all weekend and then it hit, we’d all be wondering why. If they told us a massive storm was coming and then it didn’t, we’d all be wondering why they made it sound so bad.

The latter was the case on Saturday when The Worst Storm Seattle Has Seen In A Decade™ came and went, causing outages and damage in a few spots but failing to live up to the hype overall.

Seems as though we come away with two learnings.

  1. At the end of the day, better safe than sorry. And at least now you have a lot of soup on hand.
  2. Meteorology, as advanced as it has become, still has room to grow.

Cliff Mass seems to sum up the disconnect between the forecast and reality best.

...this was not a failure so much of the models, but of communication of uncertainty. My profession has to stop providing the worst case or most probable weather evolution, but provide society with full probabilistic guidance. Yesterday was a good example of the failure mode when we do not. The media, such as the Seattle Times and several TV stations, were happy to hype up the storm because of all the interest in such events. Many events were unnecessarily cancelled or postponed, some on Friday or Saturday morning when there was no chance of strong winds.

So perhaps the problem isn’t that we were presented with the worst-case scenario, but that the other likely scenarios didn’t get enough coverage, likely because they’re not sexy enough.

Besides, it’s not as if Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday didn’t have their weather moments. Some more than others, depending on where you were.