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James WX Blog: After pushback, NWS bringing back lake-effect warnings

The National Weather Service did a bit of backpedaling over the past year because of major pushback from the public in western New York. Let me explain.

There’s been a big push toward making the Watch/Advisory/Warning system more user friendly to help people understand it better (see my previous post about this here). This time they may have gone too far.

Back in 2017 NWS offices all across the western and northern Great Lakes consolidated the “Lake Effect Snow Warning”  into one “Winter Storm Warning” that already existed for other snow events. In 2018 it was changed for all offices including the NWS Buffalo. The only problem with this is it gets rid of the locality and type of snow with the title. It grouped together Lake-effect snow with nor’easters.

Sure, if you actually looked at the warning there would be much more specifications on location, type of snow, and threats, but it made things difficult for broadcast meteorologists and others alike to delineate what type of threat was upon us, and it required more communication, not less, which is what the consolidation was hoping for. 

The good news: Over the past two winter seasons, thousands have voiced their opinion and the NWS heard those loudly. After major pushback, it took just one year for western New York to get the change, and we will again see Lake-Effect Snow Warnings (and Winter Storm Warnings). This will help us describe what you can expect when we forecast a foot of snow or more for an area! The start is October 1. Let’s hope we don’t have to use a Lake-Effect snow warning on October 1!

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