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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 12/24/2010

A look back at big Christmas snows in D.C.

By Ian Livingston

Weather map on Dec. 24, 1966 at Image courtesy: NOAA Daily Weather Map Archive.

While it doesn't look like much snow, if any, will fall this Christmas...let's take a look back at some of the biggest December 25 snows...

The largest storm on Dec. 24 or 25 was one which ended, and dropped most of its snow on, Christmas Eve in 1966. This storm was among a select group in a case study done by Paul Kocin and Louis Uccellini for their book Northeast Snowstorms. The storm center tracked from central Texas and across the Southern United States along the southern edge of an Artic high pressure dipping into the northern tier.

As the storm neared the East Coast, the center "jumped" or re-formed off the Carolina coast before rapidly deepening as it headed toward New England. Though the total in Washington was only marginally above that of Christmas Day 1962, this storm impacted a larger portion of the East Coast and dropped 6-12"+ from D.C. to New York City. Amounts near of past 2 feet were reported in parts of Pennsylvania and New York.

A more recent major snowstorm, ending Dec. 26 in 1969 dropped between a few inches and a foot or more across the area and was a "near miss" for the big cities on the East Coast. Washington recorded less than 5" on the 25th and 26th, but Dulles picked up over a foot. This storm dropped between 10" and 20" across much of western Va. through central Pa., with even more further north.

The National Weather Service has a great page it released this week summarizing weather history on Christmas in Washington. Here's the link:

Christmas weather history in D.C. and Baltimore

See also my post from earlier in the week: White Christmas Statistics

By Ian Livingston  | December 24, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  History, Latest, Local Climate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Continued wintry. Weekend snow?
Next: Weekend snow threat still slight


Is the 12Z GFS bringing the storm further west..?

Posted by: oriolesfan2323 | December 24, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Yes. Which makes the 18Z much more interesting. Could still be a miss (12z GFS is the first model run in a while to support the westward trend), or it could trend even further west like Bastardi and Berk think it might. Here's a link to Justin Berk's latest blog post. He has our chances at about 40%.

Posted by: DLO1975 | December 24, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Both the latest NAM and SREF ensembles give a near zero chance of even 1". It's getting awfully close to admitting we have to throw in the towel. But, who knows, when all seems lost, perhaps we're setting up for another "surprise" snowstorm (like Jan 20, 2000) to chat about.

Note: I speak only for myself, not CWG forecasters.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | December 24, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: oriolesfan2323 | December 24, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I remember the December 1966 event very well. The forecasts were pretty good considering the crude modeling at that time.

It piddled around all night and by morning it almost stopped. I thought the storm was going out to sea. Then the storm made a hard left turn and we got several hours of moderate to heavy snow, mainly during the late morning and afternoon.

Where I lived near White Oak (Silver Spring), we had 10". A friend of mine in Annandale measured 12". So as usual, the National total of 7" seemed underdone.

The heavy snow came with a strong NW wind, so the storm must have been almost by us when we got most of the snow. Also there was a lot of thundersnow with that storm, the first time I had ever experienced it.

The storm continued to produce thundersnow throughout the Northeast, so much so that David Ludlum dubbed it the "Donner and Blitzen Storm".

As I recall, some Philly suburbs had 20". There was also a very sharp cut off of snow to the west as places west of Frederick had almost nothing.

Posted by: frontieradjust | December 24, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

OOPS, got it wrong

Meant to say a near zero chance for 2 or more inches (i.e., no substantial snow fall). But, perhaps, a maximum of 30% chance of a dusting up to 2" (which to me is nothing more than a nuisance of no redeeming value).

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | December 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

The December 1969 storm was a huge disappointment. It started snowing around mid-afternoon. It was starting to add up pretty good by evening.

As I recall a TV meteorologist named Girtz (?) came on and said there was a warm surge coming from Norfolk and the DC would soon change over to rain. Within an hour or so it changed over.

There were big snows in Virgina down to Roanoke and beyond. I had a weather radio then and was following the observations. I was sure we were going to get a foot or more.

In retrospect,the surface high was in a bad spot (off the coast) and that contirbuted to our downfall.

Posted by: frontieradjust | December 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

What's your take on the HPC, "Disregard the models" discussion and the Euro still trending East?

Posted by: dustinmfox1 | December 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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