Media effect worse than lake effect

Flood warnings as snow set to melt in north-eastern US

Snowfall in the north-east of the US has subsided, forecasters say, but there are now warnings of flooding as the snow melts.

When I saw this BBC News headline and opening graf just now, I made a Scooby-Doo “Hmmm?” sound and went to the window to see if my mind was going or indeed that there has been no snow that’s stuck here yet.

First of all, it’s usually referred to as the Northeast US without either the “ern” or the hyphen. That’s just a minor quibble. However, the overseas over-generalisation often featured in the news on both sides of the Atlantic is more severe than usual in this case, so someone should at least mention it, and offer the perspective that ought to be provided by…oh, I don’t know, let’s say journalists. I’m volunteering.

The counties in bright green in the centre of the map below are the only places that have flood warnings right now. The blue are just high wind warnings. The light green counties have special weather statements from the National Weather Service in effect, with most of those for expected light rain that might freeze on roads in some places.

northeast us

For comparison, those green counties around Buffalo, the quite narrow actual focus of that BBC News article, have an area perhaps 50% larger than metropolitan London, as demonstrated here, but with several million fewer people than metro London.

The current snow depth map shows why those counties may have some flooding as the weather warms:

sd1_today

Finally, for the wider and long-term perspective, here are the areas in the US and Canada that get lake effect snow – every year, and frequently.

snow.belts

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