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Posted at 2:15 PM ET, 12/18/2009

Storm may be historic, record-breaking

By Jason Samenow

*** CWG's Accumulation Map, Timeline, FAQs, SchoolCast & More ***

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Washington D.C.'s greatest December snowfall on record (since the late 1800s) occurred on December 17, 1932 when 12" fell. This storm has the potential to break that long-standing record. I'd place odds at 50/50.

Here are the record December snows for some other regional reporting stations:

Baltimore: 14.1", December 11-12, 1960
Richmond: 17.2", December 22-23, 1908

Baltimore's record is in play (50/50 chance), though it may be a little tougher for Richmond (20% chance) -- because they'll be flirting with the rain/snow line.

Could this storm make it into the top five on record of all time in D.C. (including all months of the year)? I'd give that a 30% chance.

Here are the top five storms:

January 27-28, 1922 ... 28 inches
February 11-13, 1899 ... 20.5 inches
February 18-19, 1979 ... 18.7 inches
January 6-8, 1996 ... 17.1 inches
February 15-18, 2003 ... 16.7 inches

The National Weather Service has a great site which lists the top 15 storms for D.C. and Baltimore. About a 50/50 chance we make it in.

By Jason Samenow  | December 18, 2009; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  Winter Storms  
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Next: Major to historic snowstorm starts this evening

Comments

While I appreciate the stats, your article needs something: a couple definitions.

First paragraph places odds at 50/50 for breaking the 1932 "snowfall" record.

Middle of the article gives a 30% chance of "this storm mak[ing] it into the top five on record of all time in D.C."

So please define "snowfall" and "storm" to explain how you can call it a 50/50 chance of breaking one top record, but only 30% chance of getting into the top five of another record?

Thank you!

Shoe

Posted by: NoJunk | December 18, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Um...the snow looks awful pretty so close to us on the radar. Either this low is moving at record-breaking speeds or the moisture is extending northward faster than swine flu in an elementary school.

It's probably all verga closer to us, but I'm liking the webcam at Virginia Tech to which someone linked in the other post. They already have a dusting down there.

Oh...to stay on topic, I don't think we'll break a top 5 record, just because of the fact that (as some have pointed out, here and at Easternuswx) DCA always measures significantly less than everyone else.

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | December 18, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

this is BEYOND exciting....I was here for 1996, and that was amazing!!!

soooo much fun!

Posted by: MAYFREE34 | December 18, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

@NoJunk

The record I'm referring to in the first paragraph is for December only (which is 12"). Further down, when I'm listing the top 5, I'm including all months -- that's why the odds are less.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 18, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Shoe,

The '32 is the DECEMBER snowfall record, not overall record. Coin's flip to beat that one, 30% to get into the top 5 overall.

Posted by: mbprice | December 18, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

UPDATE FROM FREDERICKSBURG: Just got home. A car fishtaled on the intersection of Pelham and Princess Anne Ast. by the Remax Real Estate Building. No serious damage as the driver was moving pretty slowly due to the lousy visibility. If you have a choice, don't drive out in the stuff! It's getting nasty!!!

Posted by: RMahoney01 | December 18, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

In years past, the Post had a link to an unofficial real-time picture of how many inches of snow had fallen.

Any chance of getting that back up in time for this storm??

Posted by: NoJunk | December 18, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the response about the records. :)

Posted by: NoJunk | December 18, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

@RMahoney01 - don't be a jerk. Its not snowing in Fredericksburg. What is your point with all this?

Posted by: johnnyd2 | December 18, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey, when can we expect a final total prediction from the CWG? You know, for the record?

And I'm not talking about the wide ranges. I mean, pick a number, or maybe a 1 to 2 inch range. I'm very curious about this.

Posted by: PaLun | December 18, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

RMahoney01: Are you in Fredericksburg, Iowa perhaps? Unless an ice factory blew up, there's not a flake flying in Fredericksburg, VA.

http://www.trafficland.com/city/FRE/index.html

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | December 18, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

WeatherdudeVA; Pan over to Blacksburg!

Posted by: dprats21 | December 18, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

RMahoney01 - radar doesn't lie. There isn't even snow over Fredericksburg, much less snow hitting the ground.

Stop it. You're not making me laugh.

Posted by: MKoehl | December 18, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

RMahoney: Is that "fishtale" spelling Freudian perhaps?

Posted by: bodypolitic | December 18, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

bodypolitic: NICE catch!!!

Rmahoney: We can all access the traffic cams and see reality, gosh.

Posted by: dprats21 | December 18, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

@dprats21: Oh, I know! I've been watching one of the webcams at Virginia Tech and the snow is has really started to stick in the last hour. I'd say they have .5" so far, but it could be more/less. Can't really tell seeing that the cam is 50 feet up.

http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/webcam_mainegg.php (hat tip to markinva for linking this one post back)

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | December 18, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"...snow is has really started to stick..."?

Yikes. Sorry about that.

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | December 18, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

So what's the latest on a start time for this SNOWFEST?
Somewhere in the 5-7 p.m. time-frame this evening perhaps?

Posted by: bodyiq | December 18, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Any chance we hear/see some thunder snow or are the conditions not right for this?

Posted by: bodyiq | December 18, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Here comes the 18z NAM...

Posted by: DullesARC | December 18, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

bodiq, precipitation is definitely pushing north somewhat faster than expected. I'd say that 5-7pm isn't a bad guess, though I would think, perhaps, closer to 7 than to 5...

Posted by: Josh-CapitalWeatherGang | December 18, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

As the first comment noted, the radar looks close, although I'm assuming that's snow that evaporates before hitting the ground this far out from the heart of the beast, but is it already snowing in Richmond or points north? I gathered from the comments about Fburg that the answer is no.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | December 18, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

It's already snowing in Fredericksburg??!!

Posted by: Murre | December 18, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Please remember that the air is very dry right now and much of what is getting "close to us" on radar isn't hitting the ground.

Posted by: jpl1019 | December 18, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

...sorry, I don't think I phrased that last comment correctly. 5-7pm wasn't a bad guess, but I think it will hold off until after 7. Maybe closer to 9? Tough to know how quickly the lower levels of the atmosphere will saturate.

Posted by: Josh-CapitalWeatherGang | December 18, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I got off work early (non storm related :) and stopped by Giant on my way home- I expected it to be busy, but it was insane! The cashier said it had been like that since 6am. I really thought getting there before rush hour would help. I live within walking distance from Whole Foods, but I just wasn't sure what tomorrow would bring, and I knew supplies were needed-
Anyhow, I'm ready. Wine? Check. Chocolate? Check. Delicacies to nosh on? Check. Trashy reality shows and every Xmas movie known to man DVR'd? Check. LET IT SNOW!!!!!!

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 18, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

My question... are we gonna get any... THUNDERSNOW?

Posted by: samdman95 | December 18, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

samdman95, I'd hazard a guess of a 40-50% chance of some people experiencing thundersnow

Posted by: Josh-CapitalWeatherGang | December 18, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

what did the 18z nam show?

Posted by: derrickd | December 18, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Jason, you sound positively giddy over this storm. I hope it pans out. I was down at JMU for the '96 storm (where we got about 2 feet if I recall) but I was moving house during the '03 storm - not fun! Anyway, I seem to remember an unexpectedly large snowfall on Veterans Day 1987 (I think) - obviously it doesn't make the top 5, but do you know how much snow we got in that storm?

Posted by: jaradel | December 18, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

18z is sticking to its guns...a lot of liquid. 2 feet will be "likely" for many of us. I think that Topper and his crew at WUSA9 may have nailed it early on.

Posted by: DullesARC | December 18, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Conditions starting to look pretty rough down in Blacksburg. Traffic is crawling on parts of I-81.

Posted by: uconnflyer | December 18, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

@jaradel

On Nov 11, 1987, we received 11"... and there was thundersnow with that storm.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 18, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The car I have has summer only tires, so I am not going to be able to go anywhere in my car once it starts. I saw the radar at 2 PM with precip on it. I decided to blow off the last hour of work and hit the store, which was busy but not bad. Now I am home and ready for the maelstrom.

Posted by: FusilliJerry1 | December 18, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

@snowlover2,

If you don't mind saying, where was that? My wife went to the McLean Giant and said she could barely get in the front door.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | December 18, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if anyone has considered the political ramifications of this storm yet. The Senate is *supposed* to be taking up health care reform this week, and 12+ inches of snow would definitely put a damper on those plans.

By the way, gas stations are running out of gas in Bethesda (unleaded anyways). Had to go to three just to fill up my car!

Posted by: nlcaldwell | December 18, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I have some great memories from 1996 and 2003.
Hopefully this storm will make some more great memories, especially for my girls.

Still holding out hope that the Christmas party I'm going to tomorrow night won't get cancelled.

Posted by: ResQgal | December 18, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Been to Petco for the four legged children, Target for DVDs and Safeway for everything else... BRING IT ON!!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | December 18, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I actually have to work tomorrow. At least I don't have to drive, not having a car, but I DO have to take the Metro to one of those outside stations. I know Metro closes down if it gets deep enough. Does anybody know how much advance warning they give? I'm seriously considering bringing a sleeping bag to work on the chance that they'll make a snap decision and I can't get to the station before it closes.

Posted by: kejones4 | December 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

FusilliJerry1, I recently discovered that my newly-purchased used car has summer tires, which have been *horrible* in the snow in Colorado so far this year. Smart choice to go home early...

Posted by: Josh-CapitalWeatherGang | December 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

@Jason

Thanks! I remember that we let out of school early that day for that storm. I do enjoy a good thundersnow. My only gripe about the timing of this storm is that I have cantata rehearsal tomorrow morning, followed by the cantata itself Sunday afternoon; otherwise, I'd be gleefully looking forward to hunkering down at home and enjoying the storm. I hope they clear the roads in my subdivision by Sunday afternoon!

Posted by: jaradel | December 18, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

CWG- Seeing Blacksburg with plenty of snow on the ground, and central VA starting to get it too, is the storm moving faster (ie it's duration over DC area will be shorter) than expected? Or is it that it arrived earlier than was expected?

or is this still pretty much what was expected?

I just feel like this one may run up the coast pretty quick as has happened with other coastal storms.

Posted by: markinva | December 18, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

@oldtimehockey,
I was at the Giant off of Duke in Alexandria.

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 18, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Question: my wife has to drive home from work sometime between 10 AM and Noon tomorrow. How much snow will be on the ground at that point? Will her drive (all 2 miles of it) be a disaster?

Posted by: TheTim | December 18, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, gas stations are running out of gas in Bethesda (unleaded anyways). Had to go to three just to fill up my car!"

Thanks for this information. I have more than enough gas to get home and back to work on Monday but nowhere near a full tank.

Posted by: Murre | December 18, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Any tips for taking good photographs in snow? The lighting always makes it tricky for me, and I tend to lack depth and definition in my photos....

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 18, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"Any tips for taking good photographs in snow? The lighting always makes it tricky for me, and I tend to lack depth and definition in my photos...."

I'd say overexpose at least one stop, maybe more. Otherwise white snow will end up gray.

Posted by: gr1231 | December 18, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

So WUSA9 seems to be projecting 15"-25" now. Any ideas on why they're estimate seems to be more than CWG or NWS or anyone else?

http://www.wusa9.com/weather/currents/snow_bands.jpg

Posted by: mirrorball | December 18, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Wow, that is some heavy snow in Blacksburg, judging by those Virginia Tech cams. You can see the snow falling and it is extremely heavy. Again today, the temperature didn't get near what they predicted it would, instead hovering around the freezing mark all day here in Vienna.

Posted by: rocotten | December 18, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

One question I should have asked on the chat: what are the odds my WaPo will be there Saturday or Sunday?

Posted by: oldtimehockey | December 18, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Snowlover- Damn, thats the exact Giant I was going to stop at in about 15 minutes. Guess I'll chuck that plan. Not for snow mad rushing, but I was going to take deviled eggs to a party I was going to tonight. Oh well! That's what I get for not going yesterday.

nlcaldwell- Even worse than that for the Senate, they were supposed to be in on Sunday due to Health Care. My husband is scheduled to work. Not sure how that's going to go down (or he'll get in since we are at an outside metro station and he doesn't have an SUV) if we get the higher snow totals. He was joking that he may have to start walking Sat night and may get there in time Sun morning.

Posted by: kallieh | December 18, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Now that we know snow is certain for tomorrow, can we talk about Christmas? NOAA is forecasting a chance of snow Christmas Eve. CWG made a comment on a previous post about a white Christmas.

Posted by: crumbrye1 | December 18, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

shoe, his comment about the record is the december record. the other numbers make sense

Posted by: juliusc91 | December 18, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, gr1231!

@kallieh, while Giant was a complete pain, loads of people were just getting a few items, all the registers were open, and the lines moved relatively fast.

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 18, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

@snowlover2: HAHA...that is where I went to pick up a little bit of supplies. It was surprisingly quick.

@Josh-CWG: Not even going to chance it. Summer tires with a high horsepower V8 to boot = probably wrecking it. Friend of mine has the same car and he tried to drive it on his neighborhood road 3 weeks ago and he couldn't go anywhere. He couldn't even get it back in his garage.

Posted by: FusilliJerry1 | December 18, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I went to the Safeway in Belle View for essentials and, while there were lines, they were moving and people seemed to be in a festive mood. Also the case at the ABC store, wehre I went for other essentials.

Posted by: bodypolitic | December 18, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

How often does snow cause power outages around here? I can't remember it happening in a snowstorm, but it seems like the power in Montgomery County goes out every time we have a high wind.

Posted by: kmr76 | December 18, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Prince William County/Manassas/Manassas Park zone forecast calls for total storm accumulations of 15-17 inches.

http://weather.noaa.gov/pub/data/forecasts/zone/va/vaz052.txt

Check yours out here, just click your county:

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/lwx/forecast.htm

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | December 18, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

There is a webcam shot of I-81 just north of Blacksburg where southbound traffic is a parking lot already. That is at the bottom of the christiansburg mountain climb which is nasty in good weather. Those folks are going to be stranded given the rate at which it is already snowing down there.

Posted by: ashburnman | December 18, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"I'd say overexpose at least one stop, maybe more. Otherwise white snow will end up gray."

And your shadows will "block up" (no details). Bright light and snow tends to fool the light meter, so compensating up a stop or two usually works.

I'm counting on Sunday being a prime photography day with the storm ending and the sun just starting to peek out. I'm a black and white film guy so I'm really looking forward to this snowfall-should be gorgeous.

Posted by: mcaicedo | December 18, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I have a photo from the 1979 storm of my 63 inch self standing in snow up to my armpits (dug down to bare earth and climbed in). That was drifted snow of course but it's the worst one I can recall in this area. People were skiing down Utah Ave NW and my office was closed for three days. We were young and the booze held out, it was great fun.

Posted by: greyK | December 18, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The 18z NAM is still out to lunch. It is depicting 25 to 30 inches for DC and immediate suburbs. This has been the story for two days now with this model. Are we to take these amounts seriuosly?

Bob Ryan is now saying 8 to 16 inches and maybe a place in the all time top ten snowstorms for DC.

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 18, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, mcaicedo! I have little experience shooting in snow, so this should be some good practice. Black and white will be gorgeous!

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 18, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Check out this VDOT camera at I95/Keene Mill. Beautiful Hawk just sitting there waiting for the snow. Very cool:
http://www.trafficland.com/city/WAS/camera/540/index.html

Posted by: schrute | December 18, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the odds of everything, according to a former columnist here at the Post, are 50/50. Because something will either happen or it won't.

Posted by: spg1967 | December 18, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Nevermind - the hawk is gone. Good luck everyone - be safe.

Posted by: schrute | December 18, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"I'm counting on Sunday being a prime photography day with the storm ending and the sun just starting to peek out. I'm a black and white film guy so I'm really looking forward to this snowfall-should be gorgeous."

You probably know this, but snowlover might not: if shooting film against non-overcast sky consider a red filter so the blue sky is darker and doesn't blend into the white snow.

Posted by: gr1231 | December 18, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

@kejones4

I had the same question earlier today about whether Metro will run in the snow and someone told me that Metrorail usually stops running with 8 inches on the above ground tracks. Not sure how to verify that...

Taking that sleeping bag might be a good idea if they were right.

Posted by: grendel126 | December 18, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

One tip for photographing the snow this weekend: Usually, your camera's meter will try to make the picture an average of 18% gray - turning a picture of white snow gray. If you first aim your camera at something gray (blue jeans, for instance), the camera will take a meter reading off of that and snow won't be gray in the picture.

Posted by: jpvs7n | December 18, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

@schrute and anyone else who saw the hawk,

I believe it was a juvenile red-shouldered hawk. They have been known to hunt from poles and trees in open areas near highways. I only saw it for a few seconds but that is my best guess.
Enjoy the snow now 'cus we're going to hate it soon enough!

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I took a screenshot of the traffic cam with the hawk in it, just in case any of you guys missed it (which I see some of you did).

http://img683.imageshack.us/img683/4074/hawktrafficcam.jpg

Posted by: weatherdudeVA | December 18, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Also on photography in snow, like any other difficult light condition: bracket, bracket, bracket.

Posted by: LouLewis | December 18, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey, thanks for that hawk. We like spotting them ...

Posted by: glover3 | December 18, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: blasmaic | December 18, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Both CWG and the NWS forgot the blizzard of March 1993!
Please check the archives and update your chart...

Posted by: bsogie1 | December 18, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

As a life long D.C. area resident, 40 ahem something years, I'm very excited about this storm. I only remember thunder snow twice, once during the Veterans Day storm and during the blizzard of '93. This is simply unprecedented in December, there has never been anything like it in memory. I just wonder what the rest of the winter holds for us. I remember the winter of 78-79 when we had back-to-back storms dump on us, I just wonder if we see a repeat of that scenario this year?

Posted by: labs4m3 | December 18, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

This makes me homesick, watching from afar in my new home in Atlanta. All we get down here is rain, rain, rain. And lots of 70 degree winter days. BOOOHOOOO! Doesn't anyone remember the big '77 snow? We went to bed on a Sunday night with light flurries forecast, and awoke to snow so deep you couldn't even seen the fence in front fo the house. DC was shut down for a whole week. sigh

Posted by: smockin66 | December 18, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Just hit 1" in NW Spotsy. 31 with moderate snow.

Posted by: VaTechBob | December 18, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Love it!

Let it snow.

McLean, VA 9:08pm, the deck is already covered. Snowing lightly.

I see skiing in my future this weekend.

Posted by: rtkx7hwed | December 18, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Although it only ranks no. 10 on the all time snowfall total at 13", I think the Blizzard of '66 was by far the worst snow storm I have experienced here and suprised it gets little mention. Perhaps we got a lot more snow where we lived (Hyattsville area)but it may be that there was also a series of smaller storms occuring before and/or after. It was very cold and windy and the snow was powdery and did not melt for a long time. So every time they cleared New Hamphshire Ave. it just blew back and blocked the roads. The stores were running short of food and I think we were out of school for over a week.

My grandmother used to tell us about the story of the current recordholder 1922 storm (the Knickerbocker Storm). She was supposed to go to the movies at the Knickerbocker Theatre - at 18th and Columbia Rd - with some friends (a married couple and their kid). Because the kid was acting up she offered instead to watch the kid and let the couple go by themselves. The snow collapsed the roof during the movie and killed about 100 and injured about 150 people. She never did tell us what ever happened to her friends - whether they survived or not.

Posted by: jrlandolt | December 19, 2009 6:33 AM | Report abuse

A question about the old records: before National Airport was there, where were the measurements taken? Still along the river (where we know snow totals fall off) or somewhere in DC? Just wondering because the top records are pretty old.

Posted by: jdm4 | December 19, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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