While winter weather was forecast for several days leading up to this event, there was high uncertainty regarding precipitation type, location and overall amounts. Low forecast confidence resulted in outlooks and products that underplayed potential impacts, even though numerical weather guidance suggested that a more impactful event with heavier accumulation was possible on a small scale. As the event unfolded, two rounds of mostly heavy sleet fell within the Interstate 20 corridor, including the Jackson metropolitan area where up to an inch accumulated on paved surfaces. While the heaviest ice accumulation did end up occurring on a small scale as suspected, location and timing resulted in major impacts to travel with nearly disastrous consequences.
This event illustrates the complexities of forecasting and communicating the various uncertainties for winter events in the Deep South and how subtle changes can substantially change expectations. We will investigate how forecast uncertainty and timing may have worsened the impacts for this winter weather event, and how messaging could be improved to lessen impacts in future events.