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NYC's not-so-historic blizzard of 2015

As snowfall in New York City fell far short of predictions, sheepishness reigned.
Snow plows clear the streets of the Meatpacking district of Manhattan on Jan. 27, 2015.
Snow plows clear the streets of the Meatpacking district of Manhattan on Jan. 27, 2015.

First came the dire warnings, the institutional shutdowns, the highways and trains emptied by travel bans. Manhattan turned into a slightly less dystopic version of I Am Legend. Then came the sheepishness. And at least one meteorologist's apology.    

As the predicted blizzard was quietly downgraded to a "high impact weather storm," only 5.5 inches of snow was recorded in Central Park — far short of predictions. Tuesday wasn't all anti-climactic, though: Blizzard warnings were still in effect as of 10 a.m. for eastern Long Island and coastal Maine, and the National Weather Service in Massachusetts said that snowfall in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts had exceeded 20 inches, with coastal flooding was reported in Massachusetts. But in many places, including New York City, the storm fell short of historic, the word so many bandied about to describe the storm as it approached.

Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's office in Mount Holly, New Jersey, was out front with his contrition, saying there had been a "big forecast miss" for areas just west of New York City, including New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. But judging from his Twitter replies, many people seemed more inclined to shrug it off and concede that no forecast was perfect. 

"This is a better safe than sorry scenario," New York City mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN Tuesday morning. "We had a consensus from the meteorologists across the board that this thing was going to be easily two feet … two feet of snow would have paralyzed this city. And we did what was necessary to do keep people safe." De Blasio added that getting people off the streets had made plowing that much more efficient — arguably a pretty meager justification for clearing the roads. 

New York mayor Andrew Cuomo relied on double negatives to justify the state's reaction. "If you tally it up, I don't know that this wasn't the most prudent course," he said Tuesday. He also added, "I do not criticize weather forecasters."

As the emergency travel bans were lifted, the jokes started rolling in.

The Philadelphia Police Department also got in on the fun, while still offering a word of caution.

Of course, as Mother Jones writer Timothy Murphy pointed out on Twitter, officials were missing the most effective forecasting tool of all.