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Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

Matt Ross @ 1:00 AM

Snow falls on the National Christmas Tree last night courtesy of Photographer Kevin Ambrose

Storm Recap

At press time with several hours of snow still left, it is clear that's call for 2"- 4" was a very good one. Once the energy transferred to the coast, the precipitation shield became much more North/South oriented. Additionally, the radar started to back fill to the west, and the easterly movement that threatened to rob our moisture and end our snow early, was halted. Some of you may recall an event late last February with some similarities. We didn't get a lot of heavy snow, but the snow kept falling late into the night even when it looked as if the end was near. As of midnight, Dulles had recorded 1.9" and National and BWI airports had recorded 1.4" each. It looks like with a few hours of snow left, all three airports should see 2-3". Isolated areas where heavier bands occurred, and points to the South and East that saw the bulk of the moisture will see in excess of 4". Check here for more area snow totals.

Also be sure to record your snow totals on's new snow reporting page.


Both today and tomorrow look very similar with highs in the mid 30s and lows in the low to mid 20s.
Under more sunshine, tomorrow may be a bit warmer than forecast. Both days and nights should include a stiff breeze. If the breeze should diminish, particularly tomorrow night, look for overnight temperatures to plummet in the Western suburbs into the teens on top of our snowcover. Take note of your mood today, but more likely Wednesday, when the sun is beaming off of snowcover. You may feel a bit more refreshed, alert and energetic than usual.

Models? We don't need no stinkin models

Many of you all may be asking why yesterday's event underperformed some of the forecasts for our area, or at the very least wasn't a blockbuster storm. I think the main reason is because there was too much reliance on models, and not enough on climatology and lessons from the past. We have been spoiled by the December 5th storms of 2002 and 2003, but in fact early December snows are not that common in the DC area. Two of our bigger Early December storms, 1957(11"+) and 2002(6"+), occurred in 2 of our snowiest winters of all time. Both were also El Nino winters, something we do not have this year. Last year we didn't receive our 1st inch until late January. Historically, most of our early season events are similar to this one, a few inches. In fact, most of our events in the entire winter fall into the several inch category. Large storms(6"+) are not that common, and are particularly rare in early winter. Combine this reality with the lack of a consistent model solution and the warning signs were up for us not getting a huge event. Kudos to the team here at CapitalWeather for recognizing these and other factors and forecasting modest totals. While we all love snow, our main goal is to be correct. The 1st step in that goal is recognizing that DC is not a great snow town, and more often than not more things go wrong for big snow than go right.

Snow Lover's Crystal Ball

Next Chance of Snow: Thu, Dec 8th -- Fri, Dec 9th
Probability: 30%
Potential Impact:
Commentary: The potential for another winter storm exists in the late Thursday through Friday period. Right now the details are very uncertain, but another storm looks to approach from the south and west. There is still a great deal of divergence in possible solutions. Some scenarios would take the storm up the East coast and give us a moderate snowstorm with some sleet/rain mixed in. Other solutions keep the storm suppressed to the South and we would be all snow but on the northern fringe. My current guess is that the latter solution is more likely and we are on the Northern fringe of the system. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of time to hone in on the details. To be sure the pattern is ripe for another event. While certainly neither are predicting a repeat, both Dave Tolleris of and Joe Bastardi of Accuweather have compared the current setup for the next event to the President's Day storm of 1979. Stay tuned for updates as always.

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