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Posted at 3:15 PM ET, 04/ 3/2008

CommuteCast: A Rainy Rush Hour

By Ian Livingston

Rain continues tonight; more wet weather Friday

Latest mid-Atlantic radar loop. Courtesy National Weather Service. Click here to expand.

Thickening clouds have given way to rain (with a few isolated pockets of sleet -- updated 4:25 p.m.) that is now advancing across the area, from southwest to northeast, this afternoon. High temperatures in the low 50s will slowly drop into the upper 40s as the rain continues. Expect light to moderate rain during the commute home -- extra caution is advised.

Tonight: Rain, moderate at times, will continue across the area, with many locations receiving .25" to .50", and some spots more. Lows will fall only into the mid 40s as light winds from the east transport in moist air off the ocean.

Tomorrow: Rain may continue into Friday morning before the main batch of precipitation moves out. Much of the day may just be drizzly or even dry. Highs should rise to the upper 60s, with 70 not out of reach, as winds bring warm air in from the south. When a cold front approaches late in the day, an intense line of showers and possibly thunderstorms could move through after dark, bringing potentially significant rainfall totals to the area Friday night.

See Josh's forecast through the weekend and into next week.

By Ian Livingston  | April 3, 2008; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Forecasts  
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Next: Forecast: Unsettled Until Sunday


"Much of the day may just be drizzly or even dry." Huh? Why don't you just say: we don't know what will happen, look outside the window.

Posted by: Carol | April 3, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Carol -- Thanks for the comment. We're just communicating the forecast as best we can given the science and the data available. Sometimes the data, and our experience, allows us to predict more definitively with higher confidence. Other times, like tomorrow, it doesn't. If you'd prefer a more deterministic forecast, there are plenty of other outlets for you to choose from. But just know you won't be getting the whole story.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 3, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Carol: What we're trying to communicate is not to expect anything more than a little inconsequential drizzle during that particular period of time. That is, there will be a break from the steady rain.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 3, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Still sleeting in Lake Ridge.. Feels more like winter than spring.. at least for the time being.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Is it sleet or hail, cause whatever is, it's coming down pretty hard outside.

Posted by: Ashburn | April 3, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Heavy sleet just started here in Leesburg! What the heck???

Posted by: Greg | April 3, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Another effect of this long-lasting nasty rain: If it lasts a while and gets windy, that's it for the cherry blossoms! The wind will just blow them all down, especially if this cold weather brings ice pellets/sleet in with the rain as has happened in a few areas.

Jet stream update: CRWS 12Z GFS. Jet remains over us for next day or so. It may lift north when this storm passes late Saturday. Interesting Southern Hemisphere situation. The Antarctic trough passed briefly as far north as Tasmania. There is a report that Tasmania experienced a severe windstorm at about that time.

Canadian lightning data has occasional or isolated activity over much of the central and Southeast U.S., including FL and the central Mississippi Valley. Some of this could get here late tomorrow.

Posted by: El Bombo | April 3, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Nice mix of sleet out west here, steady at 35 degrees....and is it me or did Ian get trolled above? lol......j/k Ian!

Posted by: Mike from the Blue Ridge | April 3, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Just got a report of sleet in Occoquan. I have been locked inside in Arlington all day so it might be tropical here for all I know..

work is like jail sometimes.

Posted by: Anne | April 3, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Anne - I hear you on the jail thing. Our school has NO WINDOWS. The only windows are in the front lobby and near SOME of the emergency exits. That's it.

Still hear the occasional sleet pellet on the window. Other than that it's just rain. Also, the temp here has dropped from around 45 down to 37. Brrrrrrrrrrr. I love it - DC's seasons have officially switched. It might snow on my birthday in July now! Wouldn't THAT be a birthday present. WOOHOO!!!!! :)

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | April 3, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Some sleet and snow actually mixed in with the rain here in Dupont Circle.

Posted by: Michael | April 3, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

It is sleet, not hail. Evidently, we have a shallow layer of cold air aloft. But this won't last long.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 3, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Sleeting in Lake Ridge again, at a nice clip too.

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | April 3, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Sleet in Darnestown too. Quite a curiousity for mid-day in April...

Posted by: Curtis | April 3, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Noooo cherry blossoms I won't see you until Sunday!!!

Posted by: Jake in Reston | April 3, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Another effect of these continued cold temperatures: not only can I not put away my winter jackets to free up closet space, I also can't put away my winter gloves to make room for spring and summer caps! I still need the gloves, especially if this cold weather brings ice pellets/sleet in with the rain as has happened in a few areas.

Posted by: El Wishin' It Were Spring | April 3, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

AT 5pm in
damascus, md it was snowing!

Posted by: alan | April 3, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

whats the difference between sleet and snow

Posted by: sam | April 3, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

at this point in time, they both suck! I'll let the experts make the distinction tho.

Posted by: weathergrrl | April 3, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

37F and rain here in Arnold..very pleasant weather for the third day of April.

Posted by: arnoldkh | April 3, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Quite a shock to see persistent sleet outside for a few hours this afternoon. Of course, winter weather fans like me might call it a pleasant surprise.

Posted by: mcleaNed | April 3, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Sam - for one, sleet has five letters, and snow has four.

Posted by: Kalorama Park | April 3, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Folks, this is what a negative NAO will do for you!!!

Imagine this occurring 3 months ago for an extended period!!!!!!!

Enjoy the much needed rain, and pray it continues for at least another 48 hrs!!

.48 in the gauge at 8 pm and praying for at least 2.00" more by 8 pm Sat.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | April 3, 2008 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Come on, Kalorama Park, let's get serious. Enough jokes.

Sam.....sleet occurs when precipitation develops in air warm aloft to start as rain, then encounters a layer of cold air below it that freezes the raindrops into ice pellets. The air right at ground level late this afternoon (35-38 degrees) was not warm enough to re-melt the ice pellets before they hit the fround.

Snow occurs when the temperature both at the surface and aloft is cold enough so that the precipiation does not melt at starts frozen, stays frozen all the way to the ground. However, if the temperature right at ground level is at or close to 32, you often get heavy, "wet" snowflakes.....that is typical of many Washington, DC snowstorms during an average winter.

Posted by: Mike | April 3, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Sam....please excuse the nonsense Kalorama Park posted.

Sleet occurs when precipitation in warm (above 32 degree) air aloft encounters below-32 degree air underneath and freezes into ice pellets on the way down. This afternoon, the air right next to the ground was 35-38 degrees....not warm enough to re-melt it before it hit the ground.

Snow happens when precipitation forms in below-32 degree air aloft and stays frozen al the way to the ground...there is no air above 32 degrees on the way down. If the air is very cold at all levels, it will be a dry, fluffy, powdery snow. More typical of DC-area snowstorms, however, is when the temperature at the surface is right around 32, allowing for large, heavy, "wet" snowflakes that stick together on the way down. The "wet" snoflakes have a much larger moisture content than the dry, powdery snow, mainly because of the higher dewpoint.

Posted by: Mike | April 3, 2008 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Are we looking at a washout on Saturday or just for the first half of the day?

Posted by: Kenny | April 3, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

For about fifteen minutes there was a significant sleet episode with about a minute of big wet snowflakes mixed in around 4:00 pm in upper Montgomery. Temperature at the time was 40!

Posted by: JT | April 3, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Sorry guys. I just got some good news, and was a little silly...I'll take the next one seriously.

Posted by: Kalorama Park | April 4, 2008 2:56 AM | Report abuse

AJim, I was thinking the same thing...where was the negative NAO when we needed it? Too little, too late.

Posted by: missy | April 4, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Boy, we have really had our share of cold-air-damming and wedges lately, haven't we? Seems like the last several systems have been pretty much the same.....high pressure off New England setting up a strong wedge east of the mountains, with overrunning precip from the warm air aloft and lows to our west. That's pretty common here in the late winter and early spring.

Posted by: Mike | April 4, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

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