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Why Did the Snowstorm Go South?

According to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "If you heard a foot of snow was in the forecast Friday and did not check for updates over the weekend, then woke to see no snow Monday morning, you might think that no storm had ever formed."

Likewise, if you checked the forecast farther south on Friday and did not see weekend updates, the heavy snow Monday morning might have come as a surprise.

What Happened

On Friday, a potent storm from the Pacific Ocean was bearing down on California.

This storm was forecast to bring an extensive swath of snow and ice as it moved into colder air over the Central and Eastern states. While the storm did evolve, the wintry precipitation corridor set up farther south than originally forecast.

The storm was farther south and weaker than originally anticipated, causing the southward shift in the zone of heavy snow and ice.

Storms from the Southwest often lose their punch crossing the Rockies. Since the storm became weaker than expected, it was easily overwhelmed by a push of dry, frigid air from the north.

A narrow swath of snow and ice reached for more than 1,200 miles, but rather than centering near the I-80 to I-70 corridor, the mess was centered on the I-70 to I-64 corridors.

"When the main energy from the storm was over the Pacific last week, the data that was fed into computer models had less detail than when available over land where data sources are more densely packed," Abrams said.

As evidence of the California drought, Pacific storms have been rare this winter. Despite the dry conditions across part of the West, the storm behaved as originally forecast over California with heavy rain, mountain snow, flash flooding, mudslides and severe thunderstorms.

"As the storm moved onshore in the West and we knew more about its nature, the forecasts improved farther to the east," Abrams said.

Snowfall totals trended downward across the north and notice went out about snow and ice hitting farther south.

The very nature of predicting the future brings its challenges. While great strides have been taken and successfully accomplished in the realm of weather forecasting over the years, such as the Blizzard of '93, Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, there is always the danger of changing weather conditions.

Abrams offered a guarantee that forecast changes will happen again sometime.

"This is an example as to why it is important to look at forecast updates as often as possible, whenever you have a weather-sensitive decision to make," Abrams said.

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