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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 10/10/2008

Snow in October?

By Steve Tracton

It's happened before, and although the odds are long, there's no reason it couldn't happen again.

Let's rewind the video tape... It's Oct. 10, 1979. A cold rain the night before, which postponed the 1979 World Series opener at Memorial Stadium between the Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, turned to snow overnight. An official total of 0.3" of wet snow was recorded at National and BWI, and 1.3" at Dulles, before all was said and done. Accumulations were higher -- up to 7" -- well north and west of D.C.

Not only was this the earliest in the season measurable snow has fallen in metro Washington or Baltimore. But also it remains the only October day on record with measurable snow in the area.

Keep reading for more on this historic snow. Any October snow in our immediate future? See our full forecast into next week, and SkinsCast for Sunday's game at FedEx.

Snow coated grass and trees and stuck to roads in Carroll and northern Baltimore counties. The Baltimore Evening Sun that afternoon said more than 80,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric customers lost power during the storm as heavily laden trees, many still in leaf, sagged and snapped power lines.

Of note, too. is that southern New England received between 2 and 7 inches of snow on Oct. 9-10, 1979 -- the greatest amount of snow that area has ever seen so early in the season.

Of course, an event like this could only happen when I'm not around to personally relish it. I was in the United Kingdom at the time and knew of the snow only because it was unusual enough to make the London newspapers.

So, what will the balance of this coming winter bring? Let's go straight to my local winter weather guru...

Source of background image unknown. Foreground images courtesy Kevin Ambrose and Steve Tracton.

As usual, a number of winter outlooks will be forthcoming soon, including (of course) one from the Capital Weather Gang. Whether any of them is more credible than my guru's crystal ball is a dubious proposition at best. Be it woolly bear caterpillars, hording of nuts by squirrels, sunspot activity, the power of wishful thinking, or guidance from sophisticated computer models, outlooks for seasonal snowfall are not likely to be consistently better than climatology (i.e., predicting whatever the long-term average is).

A terrific place to check out the climatology of local snow and the history of winter storms in the area is the Baltimore/Washington NWS Forecast Office Web site.

One thing is certain: The chances of reliably predicting a "Big One" -- a major and possibly crippling snowstorm in the D.C. area -- more than about a week in advance are essentially nil. In fact, the science may never get good enough for such advanced warning (see here; p. 8-9).

Of course, that won't stop some from bucking this fact of life, nor prevent others from believing such nonsense.

By Steve Tracton  | October 10, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Tracton, Winter Storms  
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According to an online almanac (not sure of the exact source), the earliest Washington, DC saw snow in the history of weather keeping was on October 5, 1892, in which a trace of snow fell.

Posted by: mcleaNed | October 10, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I remember the snow of October, 1979 very well. In northwest Montgomery County there was at least eight inches of heavy wet snow if not more. Many of the peach orchards were heavily damaged and trees were uprooted. A lot of them had to replant old trees and there was no crop for several years afterwards.

Posted by: JT | October 10, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I remember the October 10, 1979 snow too. I was driving to work at around 6:30 am (early) to my job in Northern Virginia. I could not believe my eyes! There was surely a half inch on the ground when I arrived at my job, and a steady fall of snow during my commute. I don't remember strong winds, however.

Posted by: Murre | October 10, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

There was no wind. The weight of the wet snow brought down the trees that still had leaves on them. Typical for a fall snow event.

Posted by: JT | October 10, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

WOW! If this lack of sunspots keeps continuing we may see fall-snow in the next 10yrs becoming more common.

Posted by: Heatblizzard | October 15, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I mean you as I live in Silverton OR. I just like your weather and this blog.

Posted by: Heatblizzard | October 15, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

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