Watch CBS News

What Happened? Forecasters Explain Why Snow Missed Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) --- As a major winter storm began to move into the Northeast, many people in the City of Pittsburgh awoke Tuesday with one question.

Where's the snow?

The same powerful nor'easter that's laying down a foot or more of snow to eastern Pennsylvania and points along the mid-Atlantic delivered mere flurries to Pittsburgh Tuesday morning, according to observations at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

Monday night, KDKA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verszyla said conditions may not be as bad as first thought in the Pittsburgh area.

"We've had a hard time pulling in moisture to overcome some of the dry air," he said.

Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service forecasters' discussion detailed the "complicated situation" that caused the snow to miss Pittsburgh.

"First and foremost, dry air just has simply been impossible to get rid of," they said, while pointing to "a chasm between temperatures and dew points in the lower third of the troposphere."

"What happened was, last night we had a pocket of dry air, 15-25,000 feet up in the sky that inhibited precipitation from forming," Fred McMullen, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Moon Township, said.

KDKA's Sarah Arbogast Reports:

McMullen says no moisture means no snow, at least for Pittsburgh.

He said that dry air pocket stretched from about Youngstown, Ohio to Indiana, Pennsylvania. Other locations nearby like Garrett County, Maryland got the snow as predicted.

"With every system there's always a chance of this could happen or that could happen, the atmosphere is a big puzzle and if you're missing two or three pieces of that puzzle, the whole forecast doesn't necessarily come together," he said.

McMullen said if the storm's track would have moved even slightly, Pittsburgh could have been socked.

Although, this one was never going to be like the Blizzard of '93, which dropped 23.6 inches. McMullen said this storm wasn't nearly as strong.

Current Conditions | Radar | Traffic | Weather App | Photos

As for this situation, McMullen said he understands why people are frustrated and that he's frustrated the forecast didn't work out.

"The minute you think you're right all the time, Mother Nature is going to humble you and one of the things to remember is that life is a learning process, we're always learning in life and the same thing with meteorology, we're always learning and we're always trying to get better," he said.

But just because we're not buried under snow like places to the Northeast doesn't mean road crews are just sitting around today and for the next few days.

They're still out making sure the streets are clear from the nuisance snow that is falling. Verszyla says tonight there will still be light snow showers around with an inch or less accumulation, and brisk and cold conditions.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The relentlessness of the type of snow we're seeing means road crews may not be plowing the roads, but must remain on alert.

"This is probably the bigger challenge, not knowing exactly when it's coming and what's coming, and just a little precipitation like this can cause some icy conditions on the roads," said PennDOT Allegheny County Manager Joseph Zang.

KDKA's John Shumway Reports:

And unlike a plowable snow, this kind just keeps coming.

"We're going to have this lake effect stuff, looks like for the next day or two," said Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable.

So the extra manpower remains on duty and on the roads, guarding against what's melted now becoming ice later.

"We're treating with calcium chloride, liquid calcium chloride, so that's going to make everything more effective with the lower temperatures," said Gable.

In terms of total snowfall this season, McMullen said we've had about 26 inches, which is just about the same as last winter.

While most of Pittsburgh missed the snow Tuesday morning, there was significant snowfall not far to the east of the city. A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the ridges of Westmoreland and Fayette counties through 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.