So, the freakout over Storm Stella would have been completely justified, had it followed through on the dire predictions made about it. Prior to yesterday, forecasters warned that Stella could produce 30 inches of snow in New York City, a blizzard the likes of which no Manhattanite has seen since 1888. Dealing with that kind of mammoth snow dump would have been an enormous and unprecedented task in the modern era. But, as New Yorkers know, Stella dropped just 7 inches on the city — an extremely modest March storm. Inland New York and surrounding states were not so lucky.
New York City missed most of the downfall because of the persnickety and impossible-to-pin-down nature of weather patterns. Dennis Mersereau has a great rundown at The Vane of exactly why New Yorkers' anger at the "lies" of weather forecasters is not wholly justified. (Beyond the cognitive dissonance of complaining about the absence of a crippling, state of emergency storm.) There were indications that Stella might not hit NYC with the kind of panic-level severity many assumed. It all depended on where the storm formed, and what path it took from there. Given that it is the job of weather forecasters to warn of worst-case scenarios, prepping New Yorkers for the possibility of record-setting snow was non-negotiable.
In fact, a few short miles away in Long Island, the Stella storm hit hard, with some areas getting up to 2 feet of snow. And for millions of people in the Northeast, the snow dump of Stella was not understated whatsoever, from Connecticut to Massachusetts. Parts of New York state itself clocked up to 42 inches of snow.
Anyone who has lived through a predicted blizzard that turned out to be a dud can attest to the small annoyances of that experience — elevated stress, pointless extra trips to the grocery store and/or pharmacy, scrambling to get everything charged up in case of a power outage, etc. But those minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the actual dangers implicit in a major blizzard that arrives with no warning. Had Stella formed a mere 20 miles west of where that process ended up actually happening, New York City would have been hit with a veritable deluge.
It's a simple matter of luck that NYC missed Stella's most brutal storminess. And that's just the way it goes when it comes to that fickle thing we call weather.