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Snowzilla and the 2016 Winter Forecast

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Frederick Road, about a mile from Mount Saint Joe, on Saturday morning during the Blizzard of 2016. Photo Credit: Joshua McKerrow, The Capital Gazette

People everywhere had a lot to say about our recent snow storm, Winter Storm Jonas (aka Snowzilla). I interviewed two people here at MSJ, each with a unique perspective to share about severe winter weather. First, I spoke with Mrs. Pat Abrahms, a freshman Biology and AP Anatomy teacher, who is also very invested in weather forecasting. I also spoke with Mr. Dave Norton, the principal of Mount Saint Joseph, who is often tapped as a prognosticator of snow events.

DSC00034Mrs. Abrahms:
1.) Based on the forecast for snow, exactly how much will we get in Baltimore County?
“Based on the models I was viewing and the input from several sources that I use like Foot’s Forecast, Justin Berk, and Joe Bastardi, I told students we should anticipate a 30″ snow storm. Based on the results, my sources were pretty much right on target. Justin Berk low-balled things for awhile, but he tends to give us low-end numbers.”

2.) What do you expect to happen to us for the rest of the winter?
“Since we are still dealing with the impact of an El Nino and slowly transitioning to a La Nina, I expect at least one more major storm for the East Coast. I did not expect anything until after January 10th and said the target time for our winter storms would be January 20th through mid-February. I’ll stick with that early call. After a warm up next week, we’ll be on target for another storm sometime around mid-February.”

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A desolate Frederick Road during height of the Blizzard of 2016. Photo Credit: Joshua McKerrow, The Capital Gazette

3.) Do you believe that we will be getting another blizzard on the east coast?
“I’m not sure we will see another blizzard, but I am sure we will see at least one more significant snowfall before March. With Easter so early this year, we will be dressing in winter clothes for Easter, unlike the warm weather dress we wore for our 70-degree Christmas.”

4.) Winter Storm Jonas was the biggest snowfall we’ve had in years. Can meteorologists expect this kind of storm to happen every five years, or does it come uninvited?
“Your question is difficult because of the current global change; however, we do tend to see large snowstorms in about six-year intervals. The worst storm I remember was March of 1958 when I was 6 years old. It dumped about 2′ of snow the Mid-Atlantic area. I was living in western PA at that time but remember it well and seeing photos of the snow drifts over the roof of our house.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.43.02 AMMr. Norton:

1.) How did the heavy snowfall affect any events or plans that were potentially set for that week?
“The whole week off was a fiasco. We are locked into our BCPS policy. Any time BCPS is closed, we are closed. I had hoped that we would be back on Friday, but they did close. The two roads, Yale and Frederick Avenues, were not fully cleaned off and cars were illegally parked, so it was not in our best interest to bring people into the campus. No school, no activities.”

2.) If we have more school days, will we keep taking scheduled days off as full days?
-“Yes. We are required by the state of MD to have 170 scheduled days. In our schedule, we incorporated 173 days as a buffer. As it goes right now, we will continue to take scheduled off days as school days.”

3.) At MSJ, you are seen as the “predictor of snow.” Can you enlighten us, and tell us if we will have any more snow?
“At the beginning, I am always asked what I think. I do not see snow until later the winter. I saw 4-5 days worth of snow off. I hope that that had already passed, but I do not see any more big storms.”

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In the days after the blizzard, Frederick Road was still treacherous, with only one lane opened in some places and cars parked illegally in the middle of the street. Photo Credit: Joshua McKerrow, The Capital Gazette

4.) How will we carry out the rest of the semester if we continue to have more snow days? If we take off the most amount of days that we can, do we take days out of spring break?
-“Yes, only if we have to. I would not want to extend the school year. If we have to make up more snow days, we have only 2 options: Easter break, or extend.”

With these two completely different takes on the previous snowstorm, and possibly more snow to come, we can start to see what might be awaiting us this winter and beyond. Whether it’s 30 inches of snow or a light dusting, only time will tell what the weather will bring for us through this second semester. 

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