“I love it when a plan comes together.” That was the favorite saying of John “Hannibal” Smith, the fictional leader of the popular ‘80s TV show, The A-Team. And it’s my favorite saying as well, though I’d like to substitute the word “forecast” for “plan”. Indeed, I do love it when a forecast comes together.

Last week we talked about how a large storm would sit just off the west coast, bringing big snow to Oregon and Washington but potentially leaving Tahoe on the bubble. Let’s take a look at what the forecast showed, and then look at what is actually happening.

Forecast 3.15.12


This seven-day forecast was made on Thursday, March 8 and is projecting the weather for Thursday, March 15. The big area of blue (with dipping black lines) shows a trough off the west coast, or in other words an area of storminess. Notice how this puts Washington and Oregon on the firing line for snow, but leaves Tahoe on the edge.


Meteorologists are not up front enough about their accuracy and the skill of their forecasts, so let’s take a look and see how this seven-day forecast stacks up to reality.

Actual 3.15.12


Wow! This is what the actual weather pattern looked like on Thursday, March 15, and it’s remarkably similar to the seven-day forecast for this date. To be fair, many seven-day forecasts do not turn out to be this accurate, but we’ll take the victories when we can. The actual trough (area of storminess highlighted in blue) is a bit further west than the prediction, but overall it looks about right.


What we’ve seen this week is over 70 inches of snow at [R266R, Mt. Baker] in northern Washington state, 30 inches at [R419R, Squaw Valley] along the northwestern part of Lake Tahoe, and about 12 inches of snow at [R201R, Kirkwood], which sits about a 45-minute drive south of Lake Tahoe. Indeed, Tahoe was on the edge of the storm track, with areas to the north getting a few feet while areas to the south picked up closer to a few inches. Will this same storm track continue through the weekend?

Absolutely not, and that’s a great thing for Tahoe. The area of storminess (trough) will slowly move inland on Friday and Saturday, which will shift the area of heaviest snow from Washington and Oregon to Tahoe in California. Between Thursday, March 15 and Sunday morning March 18, many resorts around Tahoe will receive between 50-75 inches of snow! And as the storm comes overhead Friday night into Saturday morning, temperatures will drop which will make the snow fluffier and help to pump up those accumulations even more.

I expect some amazing pictures to come out of Tahoe this weekend, and if it’s not too late, you might want to head there ASAP! While this same storm will slowly move its way into Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, the snow amounts in these areas won’t be in the same ballpark as what the forecast is calling for in California.

Fast forwarding to next week, I hope to say “I love it when a forecast comes together!” while jealously flipping through pictures of the big powder days around Lake Tahoe.

Meteorologist Joel Gratz is the creator of opensnow.com and is based in Boulder, Colo.