Snow: Former local weather service boss fires back at Christie

Winter Weather New Jersey
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news briefing at the NJ Department of Transportation Bedminster Yard about the Winter storm that battered parts of the Garden State. March 14, 2017, Pluckemin, NJ. (Bob Karp /The Daily Record via AP)

At his news briefing Tuesday, as our Maddie Hanna reported, Gov. Christie took a shot at the government meteorologists in Mount Holly and Upton, N.Y., who cover New Jersey.

The governor was displeased with the forecasts for the Monday-Tuesday storm, saying it was “a big underperformer.”

"I've had my fill after the last 7½ years of the National Weather Service, to tell you the truth,” said Christie, evidently unhappy with the accumulation forecasts that were too high for a good portion of state.

Gary Szatkowski, the former chief meteorologist in Mount Holly, who was in charge during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, took exception.

“It's a great disappointment to hear the governor speak that way about the National Weather Service,” he wrote in an email.

“The Mount Holly office is a highly regarded office with the NWS, and deserves better treatment than that.

“And considering the outstanding forecast service by the NWS during Sandy, and the disastrous way NJ mishandled using that information … I'd expect a more responsible perspective from my governor.”

In its assessment of the weather service performance during Sandy, the government praised the Mount Holly office for its innovative “briefing” packages, which provided itemized summaries of potential hazards in a PowerPoint format.

Joe Miketta, acting chief at Mount Holly, nor I. Ross Dickman, the New York boss, did not respond directly to the governor's comments, but they defended their forecasting decisions.

Miketta acknowledged that the accumulation forecasts were overdone, but pointed out that other aspects of the forecasts, including precipitation amounts, winds, and coastal flooding, were verified.

He said the using the "b" word -- as in blizzard -- motivated people to take action.

Said Dickman, "NWS offices decided it was best to remain on the high side of the forecast snowfall in the event the rain/snow line remained just east of the major cities, which was still a possibility.

"NWS forecasters also expected a significant band of sleet with this storm in the 'transition' area. Sleet can be as treacherous, if not more so, than snow."

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