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Posted at 8:40 AM ET, 01/20/2010

Forecast: Wintry pattern makes a comeback

By Dan Stillman

Cooler today; wintry mix threat Thurs. night & Fri.

* Making sense of the late-January thaw | CWG turns 2! Comments? *
* Outside now? Temps, clouds & more: Weather Wall *

Today's Daily Digit
A somewhat subjective rating of the day's weather, on a scale of 0 to 10.
440s with some sun is nothing to complain about, though it's a far cry from 60 yesterday.
Get tomorrow's 'Digit' on Twitter tonight


Today: Becoming partly sunny. Mid-40s. | Tonight: Small chance of light snow and/or sleet. Upper 20s to low 30s. | Tomorrow: Chance of a wintry mix late. Low 40s. | A Look Ahead | Get Express Forecast by E-mail


Hope you got a chance to enjoy yesterday, which saw highs all the way up near 60. Today's 40s along with some sun won't be half bad. But the drop in temperatures does signal the departure, at least for now, of our January thaw. In its place, we'll see a colder and more wintry pattern over the next several days, with a good chance of mixed precipitation Thursday night and Friday.

Temperatures: Current area temperatures. Powered by Weather Bonk. Map by Google. Hover over and click icons for more info. Click and hold on map to pan. Refresh page to update. See map bigger on our Weather Wall.

Today (Wednesday): You can thank a cold front that came through overnight for today's cooler feel. Highs in the mid-40s will be around 15 degrees lower than yesterday. But with skies turning partly sunny (after morning clouds and early-morning light mixed precipitation), it should still feel fairly decent outside. Mostly cloudy skies may again work their way into the area later in the afternoon or toward evening. Confidence: Medium-High

Tonight: An approaching storm system may try to throw some light snow and/or sleet our way. I'm leaning toward most of this precipitation drying up as it gets close. But it's not out of the question that southern sections (central/southern Fauquier, Prince William, southern Fairfax, southern P.G., Charles and Calvert counties) could see enough for a light accumulation. Lows in the upper 20s to low 30s. Confidence: Medium

Keep reading for the forecast through the weekend....

Tomorrow (Thursday): If there is any early-morning light snow or sleet, it will likely dissipate in favor of a mostly dry period that should last through at least mid-afternoon, with partly sunny skies and highs in the low 40s. Some time between late afternoon and late evening, however, a mix of snow, sleet and rain could start to move in from the south. Confidence: Low-Medium

Tomorrow Night: A mixture of snow, sleet and rain is likely across the area, possibly changing to mostly snow and sleet overnight with an increasing breeze from the northeast. The best chance for more in the way of snow, and thus more accumulation, looks to be north and west of the District. Lows in the upper 20s to low 30s. Confidence: Medium


Precipitation -- a mix of snow and sleet, or possibly mostly snow -- probably continues through around midday Friday with a good chance of some accumulation, breezy conditions and temperatures unable to get out of the 30s. In general, accumulations in the metro area are likely to be higher north and west of the District and lower from D.C. toward points south and east. See the Snow Lover's Crystal Ball for more details. Confidence: Low-Medium

Precipitation should be all finished by Friday evening with clearing skies overnight and lows in the 20s. Confidence: Medium

The way it looks now, Saturday should be mostly sunny with highs in the 40s, followed by Saturday night lows in the 20s to near 30. Confidence: Medium

Clouds increase on Sunday as our next storm system approaches, potentially bringing rain by afternoon depending on how quickly it advances from the west. A warmer flow out ahead of the storm means 50 degrees may be within reach once again. Confidence: Low-Medium

Updated: Wednesday Jan. 20 @ 1:15 p.m.

By Dan Stillman  | January 20, 2010; 8:40 AM ET
Categories:  Forecasts  
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A quick burst of sleet out in Leesburg this early a.m. between 4-5am.

Posted by: stinkerflat1 | January 20, 2010 5:06 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, no mention of that drizzle we have here in Gaithersburg?

Posted by: hawknt | January 20, 2010 5:11 AM | Report abuse

Now we have some sleet in Gaithersburg too.

Posted by: hawknt | January 20, 2010 5:26 AM | Report abuse

Sleet covered the car and mulch planters here in SE LoCo. Didn't see that one coming. I always like the little winter surprises we get from time to time.

Posted by: DullesARC | January 20, 2010 6:43 AM | Report abuse

Sleet and snow in CLifton from 430am to 530am when I left for the office in Ballston. Started sleeting and ice pellets in ballston at 550am.

Great weather forcasting by the pros. I love to make over $500k large like Dougie and Bobbie and keep my job wiht a 80% error rate. Can them all and put on a hot weather chic like Domenica Davis on Fox News!

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | January 20, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Sleet coming down in Lake Ridge..

Posted by: ZmanVA | January 20, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Sleet, snow, frozen rain, whatever it is, has covered the cars, decks, grass, etc. It's still raining/sleeting. Temp has dropped a degree to 33 in the last hour and a half ....

Posted by: weathergrrl | January 20, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Was snowing in Crystal City at 7am. I know it wasn't much, but this was a complete miss on every weather forecast I saw last night.

Posted by: ThinkSpring | January 20, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Trace ammt of snow on deck east of Front Royal. Not enough for me to consider the forecast a miss. Intellicast actually showed a 10% chance of rain and 6% chance of snow last night for my location.

Current conditions: Cloudy, 28.4

Posted by: spgass1 | January 20, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone see Bob Ryan actually present the GOLDEN SNOW SHOVEL after the Winter Storm in December? They usually show him shoveling each year but I saw nothing. Is it that he is getting too old and the storm was too much?

Posted by: stinkerflat1 | January 20, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

man oh man! after a very promising december, january is turning out to be a TOTAL bust. i see all those 40s and even 50s in our future...ugh...what a waste of winter...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 20, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

quick lingo question... from the NWS discussion: "THIS IS ALSO A LATE THIRD THRU FIFTH PERIOD EVENT..."

What are the periods? Upcoming work shifts out?

Posted by: spgass1 | January 20, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Though it had little impact, this morning's brief and light wintry mix -- which, as noted above by ThinkSpring, was missed by pretty much every forecast outlet, including here -- is a reminder that even within 24 hours not all forecasts are a slam dunk, especially when dealing with trace amounts of precipitation. A couple degrees colder and this morning could've been one of those surprise morning rush-hour messes that seem to happen at least once every winter.

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | January 20, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: ah___ | January 20, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Dan - Just as fyi, I was referring to TV forecasts I watched, not necessarily CWG.

When I awoke to the sound of rain and sleet, I panicked this morning. Was relieved that temps were in the upper 30's for the most part.

As you said, this could've been a real mess.

Posted by: ThinkSpring | January 20, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Thanks ThinkSpring, though it's only fair to note that we missed it here too. Hopefully we'll do better with what looks to be an event of significance Thursday night and Friday. Before then, note that we do mention the chance for light wintry precip. tonight.

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | January 20, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

important NWS update:
no more fang cloud, but 40% chance of lollipops and macaroni on thursday...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 20, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Walter in Falls Church--how long have you lived in this area? I have been here 23 years and this seems like a normal winter pattern for us--AND we don't normally get a huge storm in December either.

Posted by: steske | January 20, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

It's acting like a normal winter--pending a possible February "blowtorch"--though significantly colder than most recent El Nino winters have been/sure beats that miserably wet 1997/98 debacle!

In the near term I'm wondering if we'll see a Winter Weather Advisory or two locally with possible Winter Storm Warnings some distance to the north and west. There's talk of messy commutes BOTH mornings. At this time none of the systems looks like a historic or even significant winter event for our area.

BTW I have no dances other than possibly Friday night @ Chevy Chase, until Saturday evening...the big Tom Cunningham Band swing dance at the Spanish Ballroom.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Forgot to mention...there were a few "grassy" areas this mornig covered with ice pellets.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 20, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

i've lived here since '74 ('cept for a few college years in b'burg). i "feel" (totally unscientifically) february is our best snow month.

i'd like to see someone magically produce a graph or chart showing the days from december 1 - april 1 across the bottom, with bars showing the amount of snow that has fallen on on each day historically in d.c....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 20, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

"...what looks to be an event of significance Thursday night and Friday."

Now you have my attention! That sounds as if something more than lollipops and macaroni may be coming :)

Posted by: Snowlover2 | January 20, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

ha Snowlover2!
that "event of significance" phrase caught my eye too.

i noticed the CWG forcast says,
"Tomorrow Night:...accumulation of snow and ice will be north and west of the District...

"...may continue for a good part of Friday with some snow and ice accumulation possible, especially (but not limited to) north and west of the District...

i'm always wondering when they say that... i appreciate distinctions like "inside/outside" the beltway. (or maps, best of all!) i think falls church gets weather more like "d.c." than "west of d.c." - even though it is "west" of d.c...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 20, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Snow Lover's Crystal Ball now posted


We're a little too far out to be able to distinguish yet whether there will be a difference between, say, north and west of the city but inside the Beltway, or north and west of the Beltway. If the data does end up allowing us to make that kind of distinction, then it probably wouldn't be until tomorrow. Tomorrow is also likely when you'll see a map come into play.

On the other hand, you'll notice in the forecast above that with the chance of light precip. tonight, we did take a stab at identifying which "southern sections" have a chance at seeing a light accumulation.

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | January 20, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

i know it's difficult when you're covering such a large area. words are so open to interpretation...but a picture is worth 1000 words... i'll go check "the ball".

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 20, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@Walter, I know it's not daily, but this NOAA table shows January as having a higher monthly average snowfall than February.

Of course, you need to adjust for the ~10% more days in January, and it doesn't distinguish between where within the month, since presumably late February is out of the running for a lot of snow.

Posted by: ah___ | January 20, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

ah___ ,
that's a pretty good chart - definitely showing jan with more snow than feb - even factoring in the extra 3 days. logically that seems right, but my fallible memory seems to remember the feb ones more....

i would like to see a daily breakdown... i bet late jan/early feb is "prime time" - right after this darn second jan (not statisticallt significant...) thaw ends...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 20, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Walter -- I imagine you'd see a bell curve of sorts (with maybe some oddball lumps in the tails). And the question is where the peak is. You may well be right that it's somewhere in late Jan or early Feb.

Posted by: ah___ | January 20, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

The forecast on this latest storm has really been all over the place during the past week (I am speaking in general terms here, not attempting to ridicule CWG). It seems that the main factor is whether or not we'll receive a cold enough influx of air, at the right time, and at what levels it will maintain its presence. The precip. amounts have been relatively stable in most of the forecasting, it's the TYPE that remains a big "If". In other words, welcome to the Mid-Atlantic lol.

Posted by: TheAnalyst | January 20, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

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