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A Guidebook to the Phases of an East Coast Snowstorm

As we step into the morning of a nice snowfall for many, I thought I’d recap the phases we all just went through in an effort to remind ourselves how these play out. Every. Single. Time. But like watching your favorite comedy or horror movie – you’ll still laugh or cringe with each step along the way. We can’t help ourselves. It’s in our DNA.

Phase 1: The Long Range.
It has to originate somewhere, right? Usually someone will post a long range fantasy map of the GFS that shows a raging blizzard. You’ll see words like BECS, HECS, MECS and SECS thrown around at 360 hour maps. Deep down, we all know the odds of verification are less than the odds that some of you won’t be in your mom’s basement on Friday night – but yet you still believe. You just know this is the one time the globals sniffed something out that, via the Butterfly Effect, is likely a ripple in the atmosphere picked up by two eskimos humping in Siberia to keep warm. We track.

Phase 2: The King Phase.
Once we get to 240 hours, invariably there will be an 0z run when most of you are sleeping when the Euro, The King, spits out a solution like the above for the same eskimo humping ripple. But now we’re inside 10 days AND it’s the almighty Euro. THIS is it. THIS is the one that’s going to go 10 straight days without moving. But guess what asshats – it’s not a cutter – so it’s going to move 1,323 times before it gets here, if it ever does. We track harder.

Phase 3: The Long-ish Range Phase.
Somehow, someway – ALL of the models have shown the storm as a bomb at some point by about 180 hours. We’re getting closer. But we’re not. Not at all. But some knucklehead posts a CMC map that shows 54” of snow as a maxima and weenie’s weenies (or weenie-ets) are moving involuntarily. The GFS follows with a bomb a cycle or two later and some have full fledged boners (and even ‘jokingly’ post about it). The Euro, however, has refused to show the bomb it showed at 240 and stays nauseatingly off shore but close enough to know it will find its way back. Then – at just about 150 hours, the Euro decides it sees the storm again at 0z on a Tuesday night. The late night coverage was minimal, but by morning you have to sift through 345 pages of verifications that, indeed, the King showed our bomb. We rejoice. We track. We set ourselves up invariably for…

Phase 4: The Weenie Suicide Phase, The Mid Range
This is the phase that happens every time. Every. Single. Time. But it’s just as painful for all of us. Every model has shown our bomb by this time – and then every single model loses it out to sea – seemingly all at the same time! How? Why? What life choices could I have made differently so this didn’t happen? Why do cutters always cut? F*ck the Midwest. What good is snow for the ocean and fish? The GGEM sucks. The GFS is garbage. The Euro is NOT the same since it’s upgrade. This is the phase when you’ll get to learn all about the models of the world – our very own “Weenie Model Universe” contest. There’s a French Model; German; Korean; Japanese; and a Tanzanian. These get yanked out from places on the internet that will probably freeze your computer and offer you real porn (but you X out of that because you’d rather look at the model than that in case it shows our bomb again). Remember this: In the Mid Range, the JMA will stay amped; the NAVGEM will show a couple of bombs; the GFS will be so stubborn you want to bomb NCEP; and the Euro will likely stay fairly consistent with it’s solution. It’s also at this point some knucklehead starts posting the long range NAM, SREFs and RGEM – even though it’s like driving to work with Stevie Wonder at the wheel. You may get there, but your odds aren’t very good. Many will exclaim that they give up but we all know you’ll be there at every model cycle. Spirits are down, relationships with spouses are on the fritz, drinking picks up and children are neglected – until…

Phase 5: The Short Range and the NW Trends
Despite all of the heartache leading up to this point, this always happens. ALWAYS. The storm you saw at 240 on the Euro and on all the models at the Mid Range at some point – starts its inevitable NW climb. It’s never an all out bomb again. No, no, no weenies – it’s a slow and gradual change. A ‘tick’ as most of you would say. “The GFS is a tick NW but, aloft, it should have been better.” “The Euro is NW again but there should be room for more movement our way given the look of H5.” “The Jet Streak on the NAM begs for a deformation band on top of our heads. Still time.” “The German ticked West along with the French” (really? Who gives a flying donkey f*ck). It’s at this point that you’re happy again. You kiss your wife or girlfriend. The air smells fresher. You say hi to all of your neighbors while walking the dog. You even pick up their dog’s sh*t. Then, the day/night before the storm, the short range models like the NAM and RGEM show an all out hit. Meanwhile, the level-headed professionals at the NWS and other outlets get the snot kicked out of them by weather forums around the world. “What are they doing!?!?!” “Can’t they see what the RGEM just did?” “People are going to die at the hands of the NWS. Blood. Yes, blood, is on their hands.” Weenies post snow maps. There are contests for gift cards. Donations to the boards per inch (all of a sudden, because it’s going to snow, weenie’s normally tight wallets are like mini ATM machines). It is the eve before the snowstorm that you’ve tracked so tirelessly for 10 days now and there is bound to be a ‘Weenie baby boom’ 9 months from this night – our next generation of trackers are smaller than a snowflake and look like microscopic tadpoles – but they’ll be on these boards soon enough and neglecting to read this sage advice: Something is about to happen overnight….

Phase 6: The Last Minute SE Ticks
You wake up having impregnated your spouse. You’re exhausted and hungover – but you don’t care because you went to bed with 9 versions of the NAM, the GEM-LAM, RGEM and 13 of the 9,913 SREF plumes showing you’re going to get smoked. You roll over out of bed and grab your charged phone or iPad (or both so you’re ready to track it inside all day versus going out and actually enjoying the fruits of your labor) and, O.M.G. The models ticked EAST? WTF!!!! HOW can this happen? (by the way, it f*cking happens EVERY time!!!). The NAM cut back for all areas, ESPECIALLY N and W. The RGEM is a shell of its former self. Meanwhile, the GFS has never budged (and will be wrong) and the Euro has stayed pretty consistent. But now you’re so pissed you want to reach into your partner’s private area and take back your future snow baby. This storm isn’t worth it. Then you look at the radar and, like being high on shrooms, you realize that the models are completely wrong. It’s snowing in Nipplehair, TN. No model had that!!! It’s snowing in Marryyourbrother, WV. Ha! Nothing was even close to that!

But guess what? The models are going to be right and someone who thought they would see snow will be smoking cirrus. For most, it may just be a slight cutback – but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s the final gut punch of this wild ride but, alas, for most it will snow and will be beautiful and all of the above will have been worth it.

So the next time we start tracking one of these bad boys from 360 hours out, give this a read and know it will evolve this way to a degree every single time.


Steve (Bombogenesis / Mesobanding)

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