New York Meteorologists Explain the Missed Call

The grumbling would’ve been greater, to be sure, if people were digging out from two (or more) feet of snow. But when the super snowmageddon failed to hit New York with all of its forecasted force, there was plenty of grumbling about predictions for a blizzard that never materialized.

Wrote one Westchester, N.Y., man named Frank on Facebook after his region got six inches: “I may look out of shape, but I had no problem shoveling that 3 feet of snow.” Added his friend, “My guns are so rocking it feels like six inches.”

Since so much of why people watch local news is weather related—including trusted meteorologists providing educated guidance in moments of crisis—one wonders if the meteorologists have some work to do to regain trust. Irv Gikofsky, the famed “Mr. G” who’s been calling New York weather for 37 years, estimates the storm missed its mark by 60-100 miles. With eastern Long Island getting hit with two feet or so, the WPIX meteorologist notes, “The city missed the storm by 30 exits on the LIE [Long Island Expressway].”

WCBS chief meteorologist Lonnie Quinn estimated the epicenter was 50 miles east of what was forecasted. He took to CBS This Morning Jan. 27, explaining the storm’s “wobble”, as he put it, to anchor Charlie Rose. “The calls that were made to shut down the city, close mass transit,” he said. “How do you not make that call if you’re the mayor of the city because you are gambling with 50 miles. If this thing had been 50 miles further to the west, you’d have 2 ½ feet on top of New York City.”

An admittedly sleepy Lee Goldberg, meteorologist at WABC, took to Facebook the morning after to explain how the “monster storm” epicenter shifted off to sea. The weather center’s computer model “nailed Sandy,” he said, but “did not work out” this time.

“We wanted to play on the side of caution,” said Goldberg.

His video elicited scads of comments. Some were harsh, such as Donald Stroman’s: “I missed a day of work for this #blizzard2015!!!!! Channel 4,5,7 and news 12 Meteorologists own me a day's pay for being so grossly wrong, don't care who pay but 1 of you owe me money. I can predict the weather better being drunk married to a polar bear & living in the South Pole.”

That’s quite an image.

For the most part, commenters supported Goldberg and applauded his candor. Said Hector Sanchez, his Caps Lock key apparently frozen in the chilly post-Juno temps: “ALL METEOROLOGIST ARE VERY WELL EDUCATED AND DO THEIR JOBS TO THE BEST OF THEIR ABILITIES BUT NO MATTER THE EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT CONTROL OR FORESEE 'MOTHER NATURE.'"

Gikofsky says he embraces a little back and forth with viewers when he’s off on a forecast; it shows they’re engaged, he says. And this won’t be the last time the meteorologists miss the mark.

“There’s no such thing,” says Mr. G, “as an easy snowstorm.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.