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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 02/17/2010

Tracking the region's giant snow piles

By Jason Samenow

* Welcome break from stormy weather: Full Forecast *

A monumental pile of snow at a Home Depot in Fairfax, Va. Saturday. By CWG photographer Kevin Ambrose.

Have you noticed the towering piles of snow around town (it's hard not to)? The most prosperous piles are without a doubt in commercial parking lots. But some of us have some pretty impressive piles on our sidewalks, courtesy the front loaders which rumbled through our neighborhoods stacking the snow to unthinkable heights.

As temperatures moderate and storms become wetter rather than whiter, these piles will dwindle. But when will they finally be history?

By Jason Samenow  | February 17, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Welcome break from stormy weather
Next: Reaching a new snow "bench" mark for Washington


The last snow pile will be here after April 15. I've seen piles over 20 feet high. We still have snow piles around from the December 2-feet of snow....of course they are under the other 2-feet of snow....and the 1 foot of snow...and all the other snow we've gotten.

Posted by: rwalker66 | February 17, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

This is a fun poll, but in the end, not of much use. It's impossible to know this without knowing what temps will be 2 or 3 or more weeks out. If by chance we get a few 60+ degree days, it will melt quickly.

Posted by: rkspangler | February 17, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

And we see another 2 foot snowfalll, the piles could be here until Mother's Day ...

Posted by: Murre | February 17, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

These are the biggest snow piles I've seen since living in Wisconsin.

Up there they usually start melting late in March and the last snow is gone by April 15 in a normal winter. This is like a rather snowy winter in Milwaukee.

It could easily take two or three weeks to melt all the snow we've gotten here so far.

BTW the latest opening date for cherry blossoms is AOA April 15.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 17, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

We need to begin nominations for the area's biggest snowpile. Minimum to qualify is ten feet.

Posted by: DOG3521 | February 17, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Hey CWG,
Why not make a post about creative ways to melt snow (no fire ideas since that could be dangerous and open up WaPo to liability charges, ha-ha). I have 2 mounds of snow in my back alley that I literally don't have a place to move.

Here are my suggestions that I picked up while browsing the internet. Sprinkle the mounds with black dirt or charcoal ashes. The sun's rays would be conductive to darker areas and melt the snow faster. Same concept, but cover the mounds with black plastic trash bags. Don't know if this would work b/c I don't get a lot of sunshine in my back alley, but I'll try it.

Also, please no suggestions about Al Gore/global warming and that ilk.

Posted by: jojo2008 | February 17, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

jojo, really, really big hairdryer.

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

As mentioned earlier, the piles from the big storm in December lasted over 2 months. I'm thinking that there will be at least some piles left after April 15th, especially if those piles are in shady areas.

Posted by: dcawx | February 17, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Snowpiles will last after April 15, one reason being that we will continue to have large snowfalls through mid-March. You read it here first.

In for a dime, in for a dollar.

Posted by: markdf | February 17, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

@jojo2008: Someone did set their roof on fire the other day trying to melt the snow off. Folks, don't hire people to climb onto your roof and shoot propane torches at it. This is common sense stuff.

Posted by: rwalker66 | February 17, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

we will get a significan warmish rain by march 15 which will take most of the snow away, but probably not all.

"the piles from the big storm in December lasted over 2 months."

it hasnt been two months yet, that storm was dec 19th.

Posted by: apeirond | February 17, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"it hasnt been two months yet, that storm was dec 19th."

Good point. It just seems like 9 weeks!

Posted by: dcawx | February 17, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, fire will damage a home to a greater extent and much faster than ice will. There is really nothing that makes melting snow with torches worthwhile or advantageous.
I do question the $ figure on damage. That house clearly cannot cost 1.5M to rebuild, let alone repair. Its tract. Maybe there was a picasso collection inside or Ferris Bueler's friend's dad's car.

Posted by: Hembo | February 17, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Somewhat related long will local ski areas remain open? Snowshoe in WV has already announced that they will be open thru Apri 5th (seems rather early to me) and they have 184" year-to-date. Whitetail and Liberty generally close in mid-March, but that is often driven by the fact that the snow cover is thin and warming temperatures make people in the metro DC area think about gardening and golf since they can look outside and see their grass starting grow and the crocus popping out of the ground. A secondary reason comes from the 'hard core' skiing and snowboarding community heading out West or to Europe for "real" skiing. While the latter will be true since plans were finalized months ago, the former is not. Might we see the longest local ski season?

Posted by: Ebola_22039 | February 17, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

To answer your question about ski season, many years it is more of a function of skier interest than snow on the ground. Once the weather warms up people turn to warm weather activities. Many resorts in North Carolina will close while still having plenty of snow on the ground.

Posted by: dcawx | February 17, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

With all this snow, attention now needs to shift from roofs to basements and other low-lying spots.
Snow core samples taken Monday by cocorahs trained volunteers reveal that exisiting snow from several storms is loaded with moisture. The moisture, as indicated below, is listed as SWE, or snow water equivalent. The highest reports include:

41.0" 4.54" Balto City, MD
26.0" 4.16" Marriottsville, MD
21.5" 5.39" Takoma Park, MD
18.0" 3.82" Alexandria, VA

Hopefully the current slow-paced thaw will allow for a gradual melting. But a mild and moist storm-event could cause the release of significant moisture.

Posted by: mtpeaks | February 17, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

In NoVa, the Dec snow was melted by mid-Jan, except a few stubborn small piles that lasted until the end of January. This snow will melt faster. In Decemember, you had less than 9.5 hours a daylight each day. By the end of January, we had over 10 hours each day. By the end of February, it will be over 11 hours each day. I expect for it all to be melted by mid-March. Faster if we have some good rain showers.

Posted by: aimeeconnelly | February 17, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Well, we had two 6'+ piles from the Dec. Storm here in Fairfax (I don't even want to know their height now), and to melt away small areas I use a blue tarp - it worked wonders in helping to melt the snow in a small access way alongside the house...

Posted by: Jayess | February 17, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

@mtpeaks. Thanks! Great information. It's kind of shocking to think there's 4"-5" of water within the snow pack.

Posted by: dprats21 | February 17, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

i am VERY intrigued by the "biggest snowpile" contest. those giant piles beckon me....maybe someday.....

i suggest a few categories:

1) tallest
2) highest mass/volume
3) longest lasting

surely there are huge piles at say tyson's corner and the pentagon. anyone seen these piles?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

There's a mountain range of snow on the back side here at the Goddard Space Flight Center that covers several thousand square feet and averages 15 feet high. I figure it will easily last through Tax Day.

Posted by: kevinwparker | February 17, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: danuva | February 17, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

scratch that, it's currently measured at 50 feet high

Posted by: danuva | February 17, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

can we get satellite confirmation on that GSSFC pile? ;-)

it's certainly no where near the tallest, but if "several" is "3" that's 45,000 cuft.

mt. chipotle! ha!

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe there are massive piles at RFK and also under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge due to snow haulage.

Posted by: spgass1 | February 17, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I've seen pictures of RFK's lot 8. It's filled with huge snow piles.

So what are they going to do about this schedule?

Shamrock Fest (Lot 8)
March 13 - 1 – 9 PM

SunTrust National Marathon (Lot 3)
March 20 – 7 AM

Posted by: seahawkdad | February 17, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to track two of the largest piles I've seen in the area, one at Fairfax corner, in a far parking lot. The Friday before the small Saturday snow, there was still a lot of snow in the parking lot from the December storm.

The parking lot at the Pentagon is another one to watch.

Posted by: irish031 | February 17, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

There are some pretty mountainous snow mounds by Potomac Mills, too.

Posted by: aquarnnr | February 17, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse


Speaking of such long lasting snow piles, there's this one on Route 1 where they pushed the snow over this steep cliff (it's a parking lot over 30' deep drainage pond). It never gets any sun, so there's still snow in there from the Dec 19 Snowpocalypse. I'd give it another couple months. Give or take a week.

Posted by: SpeedLimit186000 | February 17, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

My only analog was the remarkable 1978-9 winter in Madison WI. Piles were on the ground through April 15. Given the temperature difference between here and there, March 15 looks like a good bet.

One problem, though: the 240hr GFS. Check it out & hope for the worst! That might add a few days of life to our piles.

Posted by: pmichaels1 | February 17, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I would love to be able to toss snowballs at people in April :-D Maybe even catch a chick in a bikini, and have a snowball fight lol. Oh man, I guess I can dream, can't I?

Posted by: TheAnalyst | February 18, 2010 4:10 AM | Report abuse

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