By Lynn R. Mitchell
Have you heard? There’s big snow in the forecast for most of Virginia. If you haven’t heard, where have you been? It’s the talk everywhere. A run on grocery stores has left bare shelves and scarce supplies of bread and milk as folks prepare to be holed up for the weekend. Forecasters — The Weather Channel, WeatherNation, National Weather Service, Weather Underground, AccuWeather, — are warning everyone to prepare.
One of the more well-known of a growing group of online meteorologists first gave the heads-up over a week ago. Richmond-based WxRisk’s Dave Tolleris — DT to legions of followers — doesn’t suffer weather fools easily. His desire as an independent meteorologist to give adequate warning about impending snow events has made him a maverick of sorts. If he sees the makings of a big snowstorm days or weeks out, he will give the heads-up of the possibility that it could develop. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.
He has caught heat for his busts, but his forecasting accuracy on some big storms has captured the public’s attention.
His big break came in 2000, as relayed in a Style Weekly interview several years ago:
Tolleris, 52, worked for the National Weather Service for six years, and then struck out on his own. In 2000 he nailed a heavy snowstorm that eluded local forecasters until the 11 p.m. news the night before. Tolleris had predicted it might happen days before. “That put me on the board,” he says.
Right now, his forecast for Virginia’s weekend weather is a doozy, and other forecasters have finally climbed on board. Are you ready for a possible “historic” snowstorm? Because that’s the word being attached to this event. Historic, unprecedented, huge amounts of the white stuff.
What is the forecast for most of Virginia on Friday? One to two feet. Yes … feet. And some forecasters are now suggesting that may be on the conservative side.
As of noon on Wednesday, the National Weather Service had issued a blizzard watch for DC, Baltimore, and Northern Virginia. Some TV meteorologists had upped their snow amounts making DT, never one to mince words, disgusted they had waited so long, and he said so on Facebook. The TV guys, in their defense, cannot have a sky-is-falling attitude about every possible storm that could scare millions of people.
A few years ago WxRisk’s Facebook followers numbered in the hundreds. Today it is approaching 154,000 as people look for an earlier warning system for the larger snow events that require preparation, especially those weather watchers who live in rural areas.
He came on my radar some years ago when a friend in Richmond suggested his forecasting ability was good at predicting snow. It wasn’t long before I was able to test DT’s forecast in a storm in the Shenandoah Valley that most had predicted would bring only an inch or two of snow. DT was suggesting his data showed the numbers were closer to 6-8 inches, and sure enough, he was spot on in his forecast and we had 8 inches of snow. It made me a believer.
For weather, especially in winter, I keep an eye on the local forecasters and WxRisk. I like that DT gives alerts up to a week or two out that there is the possibility of inclement weather — not a forecast — but a heads-up of what could be coming down the pike. That is appreciated by those in outlying areas who haul in firewood for wood stoves, prepare animals and livestock, prep for possible power outages, and other outdoor chores that require more than a few hours’ notice.
And if you’re wondering if this weekend’s weather thing is going to dissipate now that it’s 24 hours out, here’s a clue that the weather folks believe we’re in for it: the Weather Channel‘s long-time meteorologist Jim Cantore, known for planting himself in the heart of a storm whether it’s a blizzard or hurricane, has boots on the ground in D.C.
For some impressive snowstorm totals, check the NBC-29 map above or one from the other news outlets, or check DT’s maps. Charge your electronic devices. Finish errands. Prepare to be hunkered in during the storm.
And next week you can say you survived Snowmegeddon 2016.