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Snow, You're My Favorite Work of Art

Matt Ross @ 1:00 AM


After a very chilly start this morning, temperatures will rebound nicely this afternoon. It will be sunny with seasonable highs in the mid 40s. Any melting that doesn't occur today will likely occur over the rest of the week as a brief warm-up sends our temps into the 50s during the Wednesday through Friday period. A cold front will usher in below normal temps again for the weekend. Unlike the cold fronts of January, this one has the potential for some very cold air to come in behind it.

Pictured Above Right: Snow in Oakton, Va Does a Number on a Hoop, Courtesy of Kevin Ambrose

Impact Versus Actual Amounts

There has been a lot of post storm chatter about how the impact of this past weekend's snowstorm did not match the impressive totals throughout the East Coast. One measure of the impact of an East Coast Storm is the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale(NESIS). This scale was devised by Paul Kocin(The Weather Channel) and Louis Uccellini(National Weather Service) to measure the significance an East Coast snowstorm based on its overall impact. The somewhat complicated formula factors in amount of snow that fell, surface area it fell over, and population directly affected. It is my understanding that this weekend's event(Blizzard of 2006) will rank as a Category 3 or Major storm on the NESIS scale. I think this classification of storms is both interesting and important. Yet it doesn't completely capture the impact of the snowfall. Factors like what days it fell, what time it fell, how well it stuck to roads, and how quickly it melted are not figured in. While this past storm was certainly formidable and caused many headaches, we have basically recovered back to normal in less than 48 hrs. Even New York City with its record snowfall has a snow depth less than half of what fell, and clear streets and sidewalks. While not exact, our areas totals for the storm were comparable to those that fell in the surprise storm of January 25th, 2000. Yet that storm in my opinion had a much bigger impact as it fell during the week and with much colder temperatures both prior to and after the storm. Additionally, it fell on some preexisting snowcover. Absent this morning downtown, in 2000 there were large snowbanks all over the city for a good week after the storm as temperatures stayed very cold. The Blizzard of 2006 will most be remembered for its overperformance, beautiful, heavy wet snow, and incredible snowfall rates and banding. Unlike the Blizzard of 1996, Back to Back storms of 1987, etc, the disruption to our lives, and post storm impact are largely absent just a couple of days later. Perhaps that is the way it should be sometimes.

Snow holds its own against the sun yesterday afternoon in Mt. Pleasant, Courtesy of Ian Livingston

Seasonal Snowfall Amounts

This latest storm brings DC's totals to 13.6" or just a couple inches shy of our seasonal average over the last 30 years. It also surpasses the last 2 winters to become our second snowiest season of the 2000's, well behind the monster winter of 2002-03(40.4"). If we are able to surpass 16" for the season, it will be only the 3rd time in the last 17 winters. The Blizzard of 2006 also added substantially to the totals of most other Northeastern cities. Boston is now just 5" shy of its seasonal norm with 37.4" of snow, and New York is now more than 10" ahead of its seasonal norm with 38.6", just short of what would be a record 4 consecutive 40"+ seasons. However, for other locations, especially those that mostly missed the Blizzard of 2006, seasonal averages are still a long way off. Albany, NY only has 26.2", well short of its 63" average, and Raleigh, NC has yet to see its 1st measurable snow this year. For snowlovers, even if it doesn't snow again this winter, we have approached our seasonal average(about 15.5") and hit our seasonal median(about 12.5") for 3 consecutive seasons. While we haven't received the good fortune of New York City, we really can't complain given the worst case scenario at the start of every winter. That we go virtually snowless, like 1997-98 and 2001-02.

Snow Lover's Crystal Ball

Next Chance of Accumulating Snow: Saturday, February 18th through Monday, February 20th
Probability: 15%
Potential Impact:
Commentary: A strong Arctic front with a lot of cold air behind it will affect our region on Friday. A system may ride along the front and bring us some snow on Saturday. Right now it does not look like a big impact event. Thereafter, the pattern will be ripe for storminess and cold air will be locked in for at least several days. Stay tuned, as after the tranquility and warmth of the next few days, we should have plenty to discuss heading into the weekend and next week.

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