‘First Look Weather’: How TV forecasters (and John Bolaris) have predicted, and missed, this season’s snow

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So far this year, seven snow storms have put at least a half-inch of snow on the ground. Until Tuesday none dropped more than an inch and a half. Of course, Philly’s lack of precipitation didn’t stop meteorologists from donning the heavy jackets and telling us how to refill wiper fluid (WHERE DOES THE BLUE STUFF GO???) — especially on January 27 when they predicted double-digit inches and we got about one. It begs the question: How far off have our local weather peeps been at predicting snow?

Billy Penn looked at the forecasts of meteorologists from local TV stations NBC 10, CBS Philly, 6ABC, Fox 29 and ex-TV weather guy John Bolaris (who forecasts on Philly.com and whose website is called “the Weather Savior,” yikes) before each of these seven storms and then compared it to the actual snowfall at the PHL Airport. Each weatherperson, listed alphabetically, has been assigned ratings of 1-to-5 cute snowmen based on their accuracy, their ability to make good predictions their peers don’t and their reaction to totally failing us on that blizzard last month. Nobody’s been good enough to earn five snowmen.

John Bolaris, Weather Savior/Philly.com 
Bolaris snowmen

Correct predictions: 5

Incorrect predictions: 2


Maverick moment: Bolaris stood out from the group with his forecast for the Feb. 17 storm. Whereas nearly everyone else was saying 3-to-6 inches, Bolaris had a shorter range of 2-to-4 for snowfall that reached 3.7 inches.

How did he handle screwing up the blizzard forecast?: Pretty well. Bolaris admitted to incorrectly predicting massive amounts of snow — a cool thing — but also pointed out how he was the “first” to admit screwing up — a not-so-cool thing. Then he went after WIP’s Angelo Cataldi on Twitter. Bolaris was apparently pissed off Cataldi called him out on his show and then wouldn’t let him come on and fire back. Props for wanting to tell the co-creator of the Wing Bowl what’s what.

Katie Fehlinger, CBS Philly  
Fehlinger snowmen 2

Correct predictions: 4 (Kathy Orr of CBS Philly had the Jan. 23-24 prediction)

Incorrect predictions: 3


Maverick moment: For the February 1 storm, Fehlinger steered away from the norm by saying there was a “high chance” we could get four inches or more. Others were saying a possibility of 3-to-6, but she predicted the highest minimum. She was not correct.

How did she handle screwing up the blizzard forecast?: With flying colors. Fehlinger took to Twitter the day after the blizzard that was the exact opposite of a blizzard and struck a nice balance of salty and sweet, retweeting encouraging messages while teasing the people who criticized her.

David Murphy, 6ABC 
Fehlinger snowmen

Correct predictions: 3

Incorrect predictions: 3


Maverick moment: Murphy did still predict a ton of snow that didn’t come even slightly close to happening on January 27, but he hedged his bets early. Non-committal may not be the best strategy for a weatherman but it paid off a little bit here.

How did he handle screwing up the blizzard forecast?: Murphy’s “snow on the lawn” comment didn’t make up for the fact that everyone in Center City had a dusting at best.

Sheena Parveen, NBC 10 
Parveen snowmen

Correct predictions: 1

Incorrect predictions: 3


Maverick moment: Parveen went for the really light forecast in advance of the January 23-24 storm. She called for mostly rain and maybe a mix when everyone else was at least calling for a bit of snow. An inch ended up falling.

How did she handle screwing up the blizzard forecast?: Uh, not well. Wonder why her report card is incomplete? Try to look for a prediction for any storm since then from Parveen or other NBC meteorologists Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz and Brittney Shipp. Their video forecasts aren’t available on NBC’s website — only previews where they briefly mention weather and then ask you to watch the news on TV — and none of them post their predictions on Twitter anymore. Coincidence or not, that’s not cool.

Scott Williams, Fox 29 
Williams snowmen

Correct predictions: 3

Incorrect predictions: 4


Maverick moment: Like Bolaris, Williams did a little better than everyone else on predicting the snow storm we just had. He forecasted 3-to-5 inches, offering a slightly more precise and accurate range.

How did he handle screwing up the blizzard forecast?: He was calling for 4-to-8 inches even at 10:40 p.m. the night of January 26. That’s after other meteorologists were calling for significant reductions in snowfall. To his credit, though, Williams was up at 2 a.m. that night witnessing his prediction fail.

Report card images by Anna Orso

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