Snow storm cookin’: Experts say we could get two feet, or maybe not

By on January 21, 2016
An Ephrata Borough plow truck rumbles down Main Street after a storm on Feb . 12, 2014.

An Ephrata Borough plow truck rumbles down Main Street after a storm on Feb . 12, 2014.

Local meteorologist Eric Horst’s forecast Monday organized this weekend’s probable snow totals much like a restaurant menu.

The question is how much will our bill total?

Horst, and his staff at Millersville University, presented a “probabilistic forecast” that “accounts for various uncertainties.

There’s the value menu that offers a 20 percent chance of less than 6 inches of snow.

A bump to the most popular menu selections offers a 40 percent chance of between 6 to 12 inches of snow.

For the reasonably-price specials menu, Horst prepared a 30 percent chance of 12 to 20 inches; and a high-end choice — certainly not for everyone — a 10 percent chance of more than 20-plus inches of freshly delivered, pristine, white flakes.

David Wise apparently had no appetite when he responded to Horst’s forecast on our social media page Monday.

“Where is the ‘UNLIKE’ button when I need it?” Wise joked on Facebook.

Horst was pragmatic and hedged a little more when asked about any changes to the probabilistic forecast Tuesday.

“No big changes today…from the peak of the event which is Saturday morning,” he said. “But yesterday when I issued this forecast I was five days out. I’ve been in this business 30 years and these complex storms things can certainly change over the course of five days. So you know that “probabilistic forecast” really is most helpful to decision-makers that far in advance for instance PennDOT.

Horst’s predictions are also followed by local municipalities and road crews (see Steve Seeber’s story on local snow preparation).

He said the Monday forecast was specific to this section of the state and that it gives (road crews) “a sense based on things that might change with the storm; what are the percentages of different outcomes of there being a 20-inch-plus event or they’re being what I said yesterday, the most likely was a 6 to 12 inch kind of event.”

The tricky problem weather forecasters face is a storm forming and moving off the Pacific Ocean and another approaching from the Gulf Coast that could produce a nor’easter.

It’s too soon to say if the pair will attach and produce 20-plus inches or more here or bring only a manageable 6 inches or less.

One thing certain is that local residents will flock to retail stores to purchase snowed-in staples such as bread, milk, eggs, and more.

We asked readers on social media to share what necessities they’ve required during previous blizzards that shuddered homes and businesses.

Marcia Martin said she makes sure to have paint on hand if you’re going to get snowed in.

“It is a great time to do that painting job that I have been putting off,” she said.

Deborah Patterson’s necessities include staples of “crafting and baking supplies.”

Kathy Flexer Groff has perfected her snowed-in routine based on the increased chances her well may go out during a blizzard.

She stocks a large supply of water jugs well before the storm since “if the power goes out, my well does not work.”

“I fill for drinking, washing hands and I fill up a bucket for flushing the potty,” she said. “ I make sure all laundry and dishes are cleaned up before a big storm.

Sandy Warren Farmer seems to have it all covered and even includes a local product to help kill time while snowbound: “An Auntie Anne’s pretzel kit, lots of hot cocoa and a new jigsaw puzzle.”

Jennie Kettering added a personal food staple: “Chicken for my kids.” So too did Lori J. King who requires “Velveeta shells and cheese!”

Beth Hartenstine Gabriel would never want to go without “Coffee!” and Lisa LoGiudice prepares for the long haul with “Wine and lots of it!”

Stacy Emminger underscored the need for non-food staples including “Toilet paper!” and Matthew Brehm suggested “Fire wood in case the power goes out (and) other emergency supplies — plenty of gasoline.”

Trish Kohlasch noted a good way to pass the time and perhaps educating yourself with “A couple of good books to read!”

Patricia Phillips wants to be busy in the kitchen and requires “baking needs and a large roast for the oven.”

Tina Gossard offered perhaps the most practical necessity during a blizzard: “A shovel”; Crystal Miller added “Sleds” to the list.

Thinking similarly were Nikki Takats Rearich who noted that wine is a good companion in a snowstorm and Dwight Stoltzfus who added simply “alcohol” to the list of possible long-term snow-storm necessities.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer and social media editor for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at or at 721-4455

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