Over the weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed New York’s failure to properly prepare for the massive lake effect storm that hit Buffalo last week, burying parts of the area in more than seven feet of snow, stranding Interpol (and some other motorists) on the roads, and killing at least 13 people. Eager to shift the blame away from the state government, he criticized the National Weather Service. “No one had an idea that it was gonna be that much snow that fast. Snow coming down at the rate of about five inches an hour. No one had an idea. The weather service was off,” he said. “By the way, I said this in my state of the state last year, we’re putting in our own weather detection system.”
It didn’t take long for New York’s meteorologists to call bullshit on Cuomo by pointing out that on Monday, November 17, the NWS had, in fact, forecast a “historic or at least well remembered” storm featuring “localized 3-5 inch/hr snow rates” that would likely leave “some roads … nearly impassable.” The New York Post notes that by Tuesday morning, the NWS was predicting up to six feet of snow.
“Governor Cuomo’s attempt to scapegoat the National Weather Service for an inaccurate forecast in advance is not only completely in error — the NWS did an outstanding job — but is a disservice to the public and to the hard-working staff of this federal agency,” wrote CBS’s Buffalo’s weather guy, Don Paul. “No forecast of such an historical disaster is going to be absolutely perfect, but no one who lives here can say this event was not well forecast in advance, or that the warning headlines of its impact to come were not well explained in advance.”
“We were caught by surprise by [Cuomo’s] comments,” said a NWS spokesman. “This was a very well-forecasted event.”
On Sunday, Cuomo backtracked a bit, saying, “It’s not that the National Weather Service failed us. They perform the best they can with the information they have. They do a good job, but they only know what they know from their weather detection systems.” On Monday, he added, “To the extent any forecaster felt that they were criticized, that was not the intention.” Cuomo again went on to plug his proposed $18.7 million state-run weather detection system, currently in development, which he said would provide “more and precise information as soon as possible.”
However, as Capital New York pointed out, Cuomo (who is still probably thinking about running for president) is considerably less interested in information about the cause of all the disastrous weather he believes his system will predict, which he called “a matter of life and death” on Sunday. “We are experiencing a pattern of extreme weather that we have not seen before,” he said. “I don’t want to get into a political debate at this time about climate change causes, et cetera. Forget the causes. Is it global warming? Is it reliance on fossil fuels? Forget the causes. What is inarguable is the result.” After all, Andrew Cuomo is no scientist.