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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Two events involving the announcement of the annual Weather Journal snowfall contest last fall ensured that we would get not one but two snows after the calendar turned to spring.
The first was my decision to cut the contest off at March 31, instead of April 15 as in previous years. Never before had there been any snowfall in April that factored into the contest, and it just seemed like we were waiting around for nothing each year when we could just announce the winner and move on to spring. This year, of course, there was an April 4 snowfall.
Consider the April 4 snow a basketball shot that left the player’s hands after the buzzer. It doesn’t count. (As it turns out, adding April 4 would shift some of the order of the runners-up, but it would not have changed who won).
The second was incorrectly stating that the end of the snow contest was March 15, not March 31, in a single Weather Journal column in early November. Corrections were quickly made online, and I sent out several emails to entrants who sent me their guesses that morning to remind them that March 31, not March 15, was the correct ending date, as had been posted online and in print several times before. None of them wanted to change their snowfall totals based on that miscue of mine.
That miscue was apparently the butterfly flapping its wings to trigger a series of atmospheric events leading to a sizeable March 24-25 snowfall.
So, just in case, I will name an honorable mention winner below who would have won if the contest had ended March 15.
Despite all of the winter and spring weirdness and my bungling, one entrant, a frequent commenter on the Weather Journal blog, turned in the most precisely accurate winning prediction yet in the five years I’ve been running this.
Merle Spencer, who lives near the border of Patrick and Henry counties, posted a score of three, correctly nailing the Nov. 15 to March 31 snow totals for Roanoke and Blacksburg while missing by just one on Roanoke’s first 1-inch snow date and by just two on Blacksburg’s.
“You and I both know it’s pure luck to guess what the weather will do in a particular season,” said Spencer, who got only 11 inches of snow at his location.
Spencer won by eight points over Kirk Keith of Radford and nine points over Scott Murphy of Roanoke in the lowest-score-wins competition adding inches and days missed in the four categories. There were a total of 223 entrants.
Roanoke’s first snow of an inch or more occurred on Jan. 17, while Blacksburg’s occurred on Dec. 26.
A total of 18.3 inches of snow has fallen at Roanoke. The inch on April 4 didn’t count, dropping the total to 17.3, which rounds to the nearest whole number of 17 for contest purposes.
Blacksburg ended up (if we have in fact ended) with 27.9 inches of snow for the season. However, 6 inches of that doesn’t count in the contest — 0.6 fell in late October before the contest even started, and 5.4 inches occurred on April 4 after the March 31 end date. So Blacksburg’s total is 21.9 inches — or 22 for the contest, rounded to the nearest whole number.
Spencer guessed Jan. 16 for Roanoke’s first snowfall date and Dec. 28 for Blacksburg’s first snowfall date. He guessed 17 inches and 22 inches, respectively, for total snowfall — right on the money, with the help of 4 to 6 inches on Palm Sunday.
Keith was exactly correct on Roanoke’s first snow date of Jan. 17 and Blacksburg’s 22-inch total. He was only three off on Roanoke’s snow total, guessing 14. He fell to second mainly on missing Blacksburg’s first snowfall date by eight, picking Jan. 3. The number of days and inches off totalled 11.
Keith tied for third last year, the most impressive back-to-back snowfall contest feat aside from Jamie Phillips’ improbable consecutive victories in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Murphy nailed Roanoke’s 17 inches, but was three off on the first Roanoke snow date (guessing Jan. 20) and Blacksburg’s snow total (guessing 25), and six off on Blacksburg’s first snowfall date (guessing Jan. 1). His score was 12.
Murphy’s son Charlie, then 6, took third place in the first snowfall prediction contest in 2008-09.
This year’s honorable mention winner — if the contest had ended March 15 as my one mistaken column suggested — is D.J. Cook of Grace Parker’s science class at Lord Botetourt High School. Cook’s score through March 15 was 8, when he had Roanoke with 12 inches (correct at that time) and Blacksburg at 16 inches ( 2 off the 18 total at that time). He picked Roanoke’s first snowfall date as Jan. 13 (four off) and Blacksburg’s as Dec. 28 (two off) for a total of 8 points.
The spring snows threw us all for a loop this year. I think I’ll stick April back in the contest next year.
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM