It’s snowing

“It’s snowing” or “Snowing in _____.” These are both good examples of good intentions, but insufficient info. As I’ve previously written, social media has been a game-changer in my field, allowing meteorologists to immediately reach their audience with important weather information. And it’s been a game-changer in another way too, by allowing every single person to become a “citizen observer”, describing travel hazards that they are encountering.

Let’s get back to the “insufficient info” start of this column. Well-meaning folks, who are kind enough to take their time to post weather information, sometimes don’t provide enough detail. And adding just a little bit more can really help out. Let me explain.

Think about a report of “it’s snowing” and then think about what could be added to that. The first thing a person might want to know is, where is it snowing and at what time? Next, a person would want to know if the roads are slippery. Someone would also want to know how hard it’s snowing and, more specifically, what impact there is on visibility. So many people focus on snow totals, but it is low visibility due to falling and/or blowing snow that is one of winter’s greatest hazards for the traveler.

So again, the four key things to communicate when posting are: 1) Where are you reporting from?,  2) What is the time of your report?, 3) Are the roads there slippery?, and 4) How is the visibility? Another potential thing to add, if it is occurring, would be: Is there any drifting? Are you finding any backroads nearly impassable or impassable due to drifting?

Nowadays, we all have these magic little communication devices in our pockets, and in no time flat we can put out the word about adverse travel conditions.

Of course, all of this is of little use if citizen observer posts are not all in one place. Travelers don’t want to go “hither and yon,” looking for them. So, as I have done in years past, I will be using my WAGM Facebook page to serve as the central place where County travelers can look for real-time road reports when winter conditions are occurring. My page can be found at facebook.com/tedsweather.

The best way to post info you have, is to post it in an existing thread I have started. The next-best thing to do is to post it to the wall of my Page. The thing to avoid is sending your info as a private message, since that then requires me to read it and post it, and I might be in the middle of something else. The first two can be seen at once by anyone and everyone, without my involvement.

I wish everyone a safe snow season and remember, when conditions are dicey, the BEST way to not have an accident is to simply slow down.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.  

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