Today the National Weather Service wrote an apology letter of sorts to Minnesota residents, explaining why this week's winter storm forecasts went through so many drastic changes.


Dear Minnesota and Wisconsin Residents,

We would like to take a couple minutes to address the latest winter storm to affect our area, and also provide our thoughts on the changes to the forecast the past couple days.

For over a week, the weather models we depend on have been forecasting a significant winter storm across a large portion of the Upper Midwest, including most of central/southern MN and western WI. Nearly all the weather models we use showed a 10 to 20 inch area of snow across the southern half of Minnesota and in western Wisconsin at one time or another. The precise location of this snow band was not certain, but our recognition of the incoming weather pattern and the weather models all pointed to a significant snowfall event for today. Even as late as Wednesday-Thursday, there were still weather models showing the heaviest snow band farther north with heavy snow impacting the Twin Cities metro area.

Our forecasts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday depicted a middle-of-the-road solution in terms of location. By Thursday, it was apparent that the vast majority of the heavy snow would impact northern Iowa, far southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. By Thursday, we used radar, satellite and weather models with higher detail to see how the snow bands were taking shape, and ultimately where the storm was tracking. In the end, the heavy snow continues to fall 50-100 miles to the southeast of where earlier forecasts were calling for heavy snow. There is also a remarkably small transition zone from heavy snow to absolutely zero snowfall. These are quite difficult to pin down even hours before the snow begins.

We understand your frustration with the changing forecasts as this system evolved. We realize many people made or changed plans based on our forecasts. We sympathize with those of you out there who are disappointed with the initial forecasts that didn’t work out. We promise to evaluate our messaging and forecasts this week, and continually work to provide you with the best information we possibly can. Our thoughts are also with the folks of southern MN and western WI, who continue to see heavy snow today and are trying to dig out from the 8-14” of snow that are already on the ground. We would like to thank our local and national media that helped get the winter storm message out. We would like to thank all of the many local, state and federal partners we have worked with this week and continue to work with today. These are the folks making the tough decisions based on the forecasts -- and who are always striving to keep the people of Minnesota and Wisconsin safe.

Thank you to everyone else for your continued support and for following us. Good luck to those dealing with the storm today. We remain committed to providing the most accurate information we can for the rest of the winter and as we head into flooding/severe weather season this spring.


The Forecast Team
National Weather Service Twin Cities

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