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Jim GallowayJim Galloway

Top weather guy to those who talk of ‘unexpected’ Snowjam: ‘Wrong, wrong, and wrong!’

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Above is a YouTube clip of Al Roker of NBC’s “Today,” calling out Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed this morning on what Roker termed a reluctant response to Tuesday’s paralysing snow.

Roker’s not alone. Marshall Shepherd, a University of Georgia professor and president of the American Meteorological Society, just published a blog post that puts on notice those public officials who have described themselves as surprised by Tuesday’s snow:

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Marshall Shepherd, UGA professor and president of the American Meteorological Society

As I watch the fallout from the Snow Fiasco in the Atlanta area, one thing is clear to me: “The buses had a tough time getting kids home, but meteorologists should not be thrown under the bus.”

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Atlanta issued Watches and Warnings BEFORE the event and provided ample time for decisions to be made.  Yet, as soon as I saw what was unfolding with kids being stranded in schools, 6+ hour commutes, and other horror stories, I knew it was coming, I knew it.

Some in the public, social media or decision-making positions would “blame” the meteorologists.  I began to hear things like “this was not expected in Atlanta” or “they said this was going to all be South of Atlanta” or “there were no Watches or Warnings until snow started falling or “weather is just unpredictable”.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong!

Certainly, the above might apply to Gov. Nathan Deal, who opened a late-night press conference on Tuesday with this: “As you know, we have been confronted with an unexpected storm that has hit the metropolitan area.” Specifically, Shepherd’s post details the advance notice that meteorologists provided:

Watches and Warnings were issued in advance of the snow event and with plenty of time for decisions to be made. Here is text directly from the National Weather Service website on MONDAY at 4:55 am:

CLAYTON-COBB-DEKALB-GWINNETT-HENRY-NORTH FULTON-ROCKDALE-

SOUTH FULTON- INCLUDING THE CITIES OF…ATLANTA…CONYERS…DECATUR…

EAST POINT…LAWRENCEVILLE…MARIETTA

455 AM EST MON JAN 27 2014

…WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY MORNING THROUGH

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON…

Early on Tuesday morning well before the crack of dawn (3:39 am to be exact), the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning with expectations of 1-2 inches of snow. Even for the mountain counties of Georgia, Winter Weather Advisories were issued.

One observation that has become apparent to me is that the public and perhaps some policy officials may not fully understand that a Watch, Warning, or Advisory has very specific meanings. They are not just generic “hey, be on alert” or “hey, get ready” warnings.

But this might be the most applicable paragraph in Shepherd’s message:

We still have challenges in how weather information is consumed, interpreted, or viewed by policymakers and decision-makers. This is ultimately the root of the Atlanta mess from Tuesday, in my view. I don’t believe “anyone” is necessarily to blame. The situation simply points out that we still have challenges in communicating across the science-decisionmaker-public “gap.”

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