Why metro Atlanta did not get as much snow as predicted

Why metro Atlanta did not get as much snow as predicted

Daphne De Francisco, 9, could barely wait to wake up Saturday morning to promised snow. She stayed up late Friday night, hoping to see the first snowflakes fall before going to bed, but by 11 p.m., she started to drift off to sleep. The snow would be there in the morning, she just knew, and as predicted, maybe two or as much as four inches. 

But at about 8:30 a.m., Daphne jumped out of bed at her Clarkston home, ran to the closest window to discover only a mere dusting of snow.  

“I was bummed,” said Daphne’s mom Cassie White. “I had been building this up for days. I looked at the forecast and it was 100 percent snow. I was so sure it was going to snow.” 

But Daphne’s reaction to the tiniest bit of snow? Well, as scant as it was, it was enough to be magical. “It’s amazing,” she said to her mom. “It really looks like powdered sugar.” 

Daphne tried to slide down her home’s steep driveway in a cookie sheet, but didn’t get very far. Daphne remained upbeat, collecting a few clumps of snow, just enough to fill a small Ziploc bag. She placed the bag in the refrigerator for safekeeping. Then it was time to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. 

“She was totally cool with it,” said White. “I guess living in Atlanta, her expectations were low.”

Daphne De Francisco enjoys a cup of cocoa after being out in the cold to enjoy what little snow there was.

And while many kids across metro Atlanta kicked off the day with shock and disappointment, they were also quick to make the most of a puny snowfall, sledding (or trying to sled) down slippery grass. Grass sledding? How about that for being creative and positive? 

Still, many families in metro Atlanta were particularly disappointed by the no-show snow because activities were (perhaps unnecessarily) canceled. Such was the case with Maria Rosa Carrero of Atlanta whose 9-year-old daughter, Paulina, started her day without snow and her scheduled cheerleading was canceled.

 “Total double bummer,” said Maria Rosa Carrero.

No snowmen. No snow ice cream. No need for that makeshift sled after all.

Instead of two-to-four inches of snow, many faced icy conditions.

So why not as much snow as predicted? A warm layer of air is to blame, according to meteorologists. 

Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said a warm layer of air moved in about 5,000 feet above the ground last night. The forecast predicted this warm layer of air to last through the evening and then move out; allowing most of the area north of I-20 to transition to snow. That did not happen – that warm layer hung tight (turning snow into liquid before touching down).  Meanwhile, very cold temperatures at the surface - at or below freezing - turned that wetness into ice. 

Ice covered tree limbs Saturday on Buffington Road in southwest Atlanta. LAUREN FOREMAN / LAUREN.FOREMAN@AJC.COM

For many, the no-snow was one big bummer. 

“I was going to play, to have a snowball fight,” Demarian Acker, 7, said.

Instead, he and his family were picking up heaters at the Target in Camp Creek Marketplace before noon Saturday. 

Robbie Cotney, manager of the Intown ACE Hardware store on North Highland Avenue, said the store had a couple customers attempt to return sleds they purchased but there’s a no return policy on sleds and seasonal items.

“We let them know up front before we sell them just because we never know what the weather is going to be,” Cotney said.

But as disappointed as the younger Atlanta residents were that we didn’t get snow, their adult counterparts were just as frustrated with business closings despite the limited snow.

Not even the local movie theater, Movies ATL 14 on Princeton Lakes Parkway, was open after 4 p.m. Friday.

The theater did however, plan to open 5 p.m. Saturday.

Clayton State University students Cameron Milton and Alsaysha Taylor didn’t get that memo.

They took a bus to the theater to see the newly released “Hidden Figures” film about the contributions of three black women to aeronautics. 

Milton, who is majoring in physics, and Taylor, who majors in biology, were especially looking forward to seeing the movie. 

“But unfortunately we can’t right now,” Taylor said.

About 6 miles south of the movie theater is a small barbershop named Southside Kutz that was very much so open Saturday morning.

Owner Staci Green said he had no intentions of closing the shop.

An Atlanta resident since 1992, he had a sneaking suspicion the city wouldn’t get much snow.

He didn’t mind either way but said the news coverage and warnings to people to stay inside “hurts business.”

Andre Hudson and his son 9-year-old son Dametrice Tims were two of only three clients in the shop around 11 a.m.

Andre Hudson and his son 9-year-old son Dametrice Tims waited to get haircuts Saturday at Southside Kutz Barbershop in southwest Atlanta. LAUREN FOREMAN / LAUREN.FOREMAN@AJC.COM

They said they came to get haircuts because they also figured Atlanta wouldn’t get much snow.

Hudson said when light ice and snow led to massive traffic buildups in February 2014, he remembers being stuck for 16 hours on Thornton Road near Fulton Industrial Boulevard.

He was about five cars away from a woman who went into labor, he said.

“I kind of felt like the city was more prepared this year,” he said.

 Ryan Willis, a meteorologist with the National Weather  Service in Peachtree City, said north metro areas including Cumming and north Cobb County saw the most snow in metro Atlanta with as much as three inches of snow. He said temperatures will remain low today and likely won’t go above freezing. 

“There are ice patches on the interstates,” he said. “If you don’t have to be on the road, today would be a good day to not do it.”

What happened with the weather also illustrates just how tricky it can be to get the weather just right, especially when a degree or so can mean the difference between snow and freezing rain or rain. Monahan said forecasting wintry precipitation is especially challenging in metro Atlanta because the transition line (which is the difference between precipitation types, and in this case from rain to sleet to snow) often sets up right near the I-20 corridor which is the core of where people live in metro Atlanta. 

If meteorologists saw this transition line most often over less populated areas, it would be easier forecast with fewer people affected by a shift of a few miles.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Transportation says roads in many areas are still slick with ice. There have been 35 crashes since 4 a.m. statewide - higher than normal for a Saturday. 

   “The fact is they need to stay off the roads,” GDOT spokesman Scott Higley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this morning. 

   GDOT crews are applying salt and brine to the region’s state and interstate highways. Higley said conditions are worse in the northern metro area, which received more snow and ice. But isolated patches in the south and central metro area – like eastbound I-20 – also are icy. 

 Saturday’s weather forecast for metro Atlanta was for a high temperature of 28 degrees, with clear skies. Saturday night’s low temperature was expected to be 16 degrees.

Willis said Sunday will warm up a little only to the mid-30s, enough to facilitate a little bit of melting. By Monday morning, Willis said most of the water of the ground will likely be evaporated but he expects there will still be isolated ice patches, and urged caution on the roads. 

Isabel (reporter's daughter), who is 9 and her friend Lily Newman, 10, make the most out of dusting of snow.

Here Isabel making the most out of a dusting of snow!

(Video by Helena Oliviero/AJC)

Weather and Traffic