The snowy legend of Dec. 5 continues
As Frank Roylance of the Baltimore Sun noted on his blog on Nov. 29, before this year it had snowed in five of the last seven years on Dec. 5 in the Baltimore/Washington region, as measured at BWI Airport. True to recent form, the Washington area's first snowstorm of the 2009-10 winter season occurred on Saturday, Dec. 5, with area accumulations ranging from less than an inch in parts of D.C. and some spots south and east of the city, to between 6 and 8 inches in far northern Montgomery County and well west of town.
Memo to the staff of the Old Farmer's Almanac: start forecasting snow on Dec. 5, instead of "rain[y] and mild" as they did this year.
I have no doubt that CWG would have been laughed at and viciously criticized in our comments section had we issued an official forecast for "a dusting to 8 inches." But that's pretty much how the accumulations worked out across the area, with the lowest amounts recorded in urban centers such as downtown D.C. and Baltimore, and higher totals in more rural locations and higher elevations.
Some spots, like Harrisonburg, Va., out west in the Shenandoah Valley and home to James Madison University, did better than most, with eight inches recorded according to the National Weather Service. Compared to that, D.C.'s official reading of .2 inches at National Airport was downright pathetic. The proximity of the relatively warm waters of the Potomac River didn't help the airport's effort at recording a respectable snow total, but that doesn't make it less lame.
According to our reader-submitted snow totals, a jackpot of 9 inches was reported near Front Royal, Va., and Herndon and Vienna did quite well too, with about 5 to 6 inches. A reader in Bethesda submitted a measurement of 3 inches, and readers confirmed that amounts declined to a sloppy trace downtown and to the southeast of D.C.
Why such a huge disparity in accumulations, you ask? As CWG forecasters noted several times throughout the event, the accumulations at each location were heavily dependent on the snowfall rate and temperatures at/close to the ground. The heavier it snowed, the easier it was to overcome initially warm temperatures. Subtle differences in temperature mattered a great deal.
Heavier bands of snow set up just to the west and north of the District and took a while to get into the city, and temperatures in the concrete jungle of urban areas remained just above freezing for much of the event, precluding much lasting accumulation.
Oh well. D.C. snow lovers still have the rest of this winter to look forward to (officially it's not winter yet anyway, although meteorological winter started on Dec. 1). And if we don't get any more snowstorms, don't fret too much. There's always next December 5th.
| December 7, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: Freedman, News & Notes, Winter Storms
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