Kevin Deitsch NOAA/NWS St. Louis, Missouri
Jim Sieveking NOAA/NWS St. Louis, Missouri
The National Weather Service is building a Weather Ready Nation by making communities more resilient to extreme weather, water and climate events. The goal is to keep these events from becoming disasters through greater accuracy in forecasts and warnings, evolving services to community decision makers, and providing consistent risk communication.
A timely and accurate forecast, combined with key impact decision support services (IDSS) and consistent messaging to core partners, mitigated nearly all of the traffic impacts from a potentially dangerous three day episode of freezing rain that began the morning of Friday 13 January 2017. Despite the internal success, highlighted by core partner feedback and ice measurements of one quarter to one half inch on elevated and untreated objects, the overarching public perception of the “Ice Storm Warning” was that it was overblown, an exaggeration, and even referred to as “fake weather” due to the apparent lack of impact on area roadways. Many, when questioned about what they expected to happen with the storm, cited a comparison to a more impactful, yet minor icing event, that had occurred less than a month earlier during a Friday evening commute on 16 December 2016. A period of light freezing drizzle, that failed to officially measure at many observing stations, was responsible for a light glazing of ice that caused numerous traffic accidents and resulted in commutes over 8 hours for many residents.
The meteorology and impact to traffic across the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area will be presented for both icing events. The differences and commonalities between the two events will be explored, including the IDSS and risk communication that occurred prior to each of the events. Finally, as the National Weather Service continues to improve services and increase work in their communities to mitigate the impacts of weather, a renewed emphasis must be placed on transitioning from traditional criteria-based watch, warning, advisory products to a suite of impact based messaging, that more clearly represent the risk and impacts.