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Cold Today; Ice Changing to Rain Tomorrow

Dan Stillman @ 1:05 AM

3:30 p.m. update: A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for D.C. and vicinity from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday. An Ice Storm Warning is in effect for points north and west of Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince William counties. Looking at the latest information, the forecast outlined below seems to be on track, although the confidence factor is still on the low side. We'll post updates if anything changes.

After a quiet but cold day today, with high temps only reaching near 30, our next round of wintry weather arrives tomorrow as low pressure comes at us from the south. It's another tough forecast with regard to what kind of precipitation will fall and for how long. The bottom line is that the immediate metro area is likely to see a few hours of iciness during the middle of the day tomorrow before warming temperatures change the precip over to rain.

Here's a first look at what to expect:

Winter Storm Forecast: Thursday-Thursday Night, Dec. 15
Click to Enlarge
9 am to Noon: snow, sleet and freezing rain starts from west to east
Noon to 3 pm: icy accumulation possible
3 pm to 6 pm: precip changes to rain from SE to NW
6 pm to 9 pm: rain, heavy at times
9 pm to 1 am: rain tapers
Storm Impact: Travelcast: Schoolcast (for Thursday):

This is a fairly low-confidence forecast, as there is still some question as to when the precipitation will begin and how long the cold air, which will be wedged up against the Appalachians, will hang in before giving way to warmer air pushing in from the south and east.

After the Storm

Friday looks to be windy but not as cold as it has been -- highs in the low 40s. The weather remains quiet over the weekend with highs in the upper 30s to around 40, and lows in mid 20s. Perfect football weather for a Cowboy whoopin'.

Tough Call for Schools

The timing of tomorrow's wintry weather couldn't be worse for school administrators making decisions on delays and closings. If the storm holds off until late morning, then it's likely some school systems will not delay or close based on weather that hasn't arrived yet. Once the precipitation does arrive, superintendents might be tempted to close early. But that might not be the best decision, assuming the forecast is correct and that precipitation changes to rain as the day goes on. In that case, an early dismissal could put kids and school buses in the middle of an ice storm, whereas we could be dealing with just plain rain by the time school normally lets out.

Party-Pooping P.G. County

It's an age-old tradition. Boys and girls wake up to falling snowflakes and promptly run around the house screaming, "No School! No School!" This winter students in Prince George's County have less reason to celebrate.

In a move that smells more of Scrooge than of Santa, the county has built zero snow days into its academic calendar. That means this past Friday's snow day has already extended the school year by one day, to June 8, according to this story from WTOP.

The situation isn't much better in Alexandria, where students have to make up snow days on holidays, or in Arlington County, where students are already going to school a few extra minutes each day in anticipation of snow closures.

At least Montgomery and Fairfax counties haven't lost their sense of fun. Montgomery has four snow days built into the calendar and Fairfax has three.

Channel 4 Weather on 88.5

This from -- Channel 4 weathercasters Bob Ryan and Tom Kierein can now be heard on the local NPR affiliate, WAMU (88.5 FM). Kierein can be heard in the morning during "Morning Edition," and Ryan in the afternoon during "All Things Considered." Read more here.

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