With a potentially massive snowstorm bearing down yesterday, politicians and transit officials in New York and New Jersey closed the city’s subway system, blocked off interstate highways, banned travel and, for all practical purposes, closed the region. Their decisions were made in part, on forecasts from National Weather Service experts.

 

Unfortunately, those weather experts misjudged the path and impact of the blizzard that struck the Northeast yesterday and today, in large part because they used the wrong forecasting model, several independent meteorologists now say. Rather than rely on their own forecasting system—upgraded in recent weeks—the federal experts relied instead on a well-regarded European computer model that predicted the worst of this storm would squarely hit New York City. That system earlier had outperformed the U.S. forecasting system in predicting the path of Superstorm Sandy.

 

This time, however, the European forecasting model was wrong. The winter storm, predicted to be one of the worst ever to hit New York City, produced only roughly eight inches of snow in the city.

 

Today, as travel bans were lifted and transit services were gradually restored, the impact of yesterday’s decision to shut down the subway and order most drivers off the roads continued to be felt across the region. What’s more, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio now face a blizzard of criticism because millions of people missed work and school even through the streets were largely clear.

 

That’s certainly not to imply the storm was a washout. Indeed, as the storm pushed across eastern New England today, it brought whiteout conditions driven by gale-force winds. As snow continued to fall today, forecasters were still expecting the predicted two to three feet of snow. In Shrewsbury, about 40 miles west of Boston, 31 inches had fallen this morning while nearby Worcester had received 26 inches of snow and was on track to break records. In Framingham, about 15 miles west of Boston, there was about 30 inches this morning.

 

In some respects, it’s easy to say it’s wintertime, and, well, snow happens. However, climate change reports from last year indicate this type of winter storm—and summer torrential rains, for that matter—will become more common.

 

With these types of weather events expected to happen with greater frequency, companies may wish to revisit initiatives to review how suppliers may be effected by storms, and how the supply chain would be disrupted if major highways are closed—as they were yesterday in some areas. It would increase their ability to mitigate risks before they develop and, perhaps, lead to creating plans to react quickly and flexibly in the event of such disruptions. That would enable companies to address the potential for reducing or disrupting production capacity, reduced demand for goods, and even the inability to do business.

 

The challenge for many of these companies is that with a large and increasingly global supply base, and supplier data scattered across disparate and diverse systems, most companies are simply overwhelmed with supplier information management—and applying this information to supplier risk management is even more daunting.

 

Did your company see any impact from this blizzard in the Northeast? Are there any provisions for this type of storm?