Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
The new Washington
Post Weather website
Jump to CWG's
Latest Full Forecast
Outside now? Radar, temps
and more: Weather Wall
Follow us on Twitter (@capitalweather) and become a fan on Facebook
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 12/19/2010

Rare Christmas snow potential emerging

By Jason Samenow

Tuesday snow chance fades

Next accumulating snow chance: Christmas Eve into Christmas
Probability of accumulating snow (1" or more): ~50%
Maximum accumulation potential: 4"+

The threat for accumulating snow on Tuesday has significantly diminished as it now appears the weak disturbance will pass to our north and not produce much more than light snow or flurries Tuesday afternoon or night. It's unlikely to amount to much (less than 20% chance of an inch) and may not snow, especially south of the District. However, computer models are converging on a legitimate threat for a winter storm starting Christmas Eve and continuing into Christmas Day.

Unlike the storm passing well to our east and northeast today, where computer models waffled back and forth as to the ultimate track and outcome - most models over the last couple of days (at least) have been consistent and in agreement in simulating a storm and snow potential for December 24-26.

Keeping reading for more on the Christmas snow threat

As the latest computer model runs came in this morning, I was on the phone with Wes Junker, our winter weather expert. He told me: "This is a rare storm where we can have 50% probability five days in advance of at least 1 inch of snow falling. Models are in unusual agreement."

NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center agrees, writing in its extended range discussion this morning:


The entire I-95 corridor may be significantly impacted by this potential storm - from Richmond to Boston. However, exact details in the storm's evolution are still subject (and likely) to change so it's premature to discuss accumulation and timing specifics. Right now, we're in the "heads-up" phase of predicting the storm where we can identify and communicate the potential but unable to go into too much detail or say this is a sure thing.

However, tomorrow we will have much more on this storm threat, with in-depth analysis from Wes Junker.

By Jason Samenow  | December 19, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Latest, Snow Lover's Crystal Ball, Winter Storms  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: More 30s. Touch of Tues. snow?
Next: Forecast: Cold week with Christmas snow risk


WOW! Can you imagine? A significant snowstorm on CHRISTMAS during a LA NIÑA? What are the chance of that happening? 1 in a million?

Posted by: Yellowboy | December 19, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Looking forward to Wes's update and the potential for Double OT pay next weekend!!!!

Only 20+ GFS runs to go. Lets see where we are thursday, I can only imagine.

Posted by: KRUZ | December 19, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

GOD! I'm hyperventilating so much right now with the majority of the GFS ensemble members agreeing on some snow on Christmas. Huff! Huff! Huff!

Posted by: Yellowboy | December 19, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Woo Hoo! It's really comforting to see the CWG verifying the potential weekend storm. The latest GFS is still in line for a pretty good snow storm. The track of the storm, as usual, will be key. Right now I am uncomfortable with the placement of the low so close to us. I would be happier if it tracked just a little further south and then bomb off the coast. As it sits right now it is showing the rain/snow/mix line way too close for comfort.
Now we just wait and watch. Argh!

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 19, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Where will the storm be on the 23rd? Will traveling between say Georgia and DC be a problem that day?

Posted by: cassander | December 19, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Aw, man!! I'm leaving tomorrow and will be out of town for this!

As a new homeowner, do I have to worry about my house exploding or something in the event of a huge storm?

Posted by: megamuphen | December 19, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

i agree, pjdunn- will be interesting to see what verifies as we approach the date.

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 19, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm gonna try to stay calm. This is many days away.
But it would be wonderful. A nice way to cap off the freak weather calendar year.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | December 19, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse


The storm will be just entering the high plains on the 23rd. Traveling along the east coast will not be affected until sometime late on Friday into Saturday.

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 19, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

♪ I'm dreeeeeeaaaaammmmming of a whiiiiiiiiite ❊ Chrissssmasssssss ♪ ❊ ☃☃☃ ❊

I am remaining nice and calm as well, but doing a snow slow dance shuffle to Christmas carols. Can't hurt.

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 19, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

My mom is supposed to be flying from California on the 24th on a red eye flight to be here Christmas morning :(

How soon next week will we know anything about how much snow we will get, flight cancellations etc?

I rather prepone/postpone her trip than deal with a scenario where her flight is rerouted etc.

Posted by: RoseVA | December 19, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

surprised you all didn't wait till tomorrow to sound the alarm. Must be real potential.

Posted by: realclear | December 19, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Roseva- right now the devil is in the details. It is premature to be thinking about changing any plans. And this is still not a sure thing as I wrote above.

Pjdunn - wes and I agree with you. We would both like to see the low a little more south to prevent the chance of mixing issues.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 19, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Jason - perhaps a worst case scenario- epic Xmas Day ice storm?
Such events are so very painful. Hope not.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | December 19, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

This is so exciting. I'm trying to get the kids whipped into a snow frenzy. The dog is loving the snow too, so I know he'll be on my side.

Posted by: weatherwatcher1 | December 19, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Any chance this storm will continue up the east coast and hit Boston? I'm leaving for Boston tomorrow night and would hate to have all the snow fall in DC! Nothing I hate more than missing a good snowstorm :)

Posted by: CuseFan07 | December 19, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I like that 50%.

How does the track look this far out? Coastal? OTS? NE noreaster?

Posted by: ennepe68 | December 19, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

FIREDRAGON47 - Some readers here would indeed prefer a nice pretty snow that doesn't snarl traffic. But you'll also see a few people who root for record snow every time.

Posted by: BDVienna | December 19, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I usually root for snowstorms, but this time I am a little torn. Even a few inches on Christmas means a lot of folks won't be home with their families, including those out plowing our roads.

Posted by: urbansnowlvr | December 19, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

How does it look for europe next week, would this storm contribute to anything there after xmas

Posted by: redskins-95 | December 19, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Bombo snow potential still remains at 5 for the next seven days.

There's some chance the 540 thickness line could be dangerously close...just south of D.C. The line is oriented east-west, however, rather than along or parallel to I-95, and is well to the east of us as the storm intensifies just off the Delmarva coast later on Christmas Day. We could get something rather like Snoverkill, with several inches of wind-whipped accumulation before the storm exits our area some time on Boxing Day.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 19, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

The storm has the potential to ride up the coast but it's too early to knor for sure. The european model and GFS both show a storm, the details of such a storm will be determined by smaller scale features that aren't as predictable as the overall pattern. The former will determine how much and were the heaviest snow fall, the latter is what will drive the storm formation. I guess I'm saying the overall pattern is a good ones but the devil is in the details and we won't know the details for several more days.

Posted by: wjunker | December 19, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse


Thanks, as one of those who will be out plowing its good someone out there remembers us.

Although i wont mind making the Double OT, id still rather be home with my wife and son! No amount of $ is worth not spending Christmas with family.

Posted by: KRUZ | December 19, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Joe B is moaning that isn't getting enough credit for predicting a White Christmas back in November.

Meanwhile, he and his pal Lundberg had their usual big white mark over the Boston-DC corridor for this afternoon just a couple days ago. Correctly predicting 17 of the last 4 major snow storms doesn't make you a genius Bastardi!

Posted by: TGT11 | December 19, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

With 4 days out, the GFS and ECM do show the potential. Both these models show a brief weakening as it crosses the mountains before bombing on the coast. The Canadian model keeps it weak east of the mountains also but bombs it well offshore, giving the mid Atlantic just a dusting. One would think the Canadian has the right solution for the la nina regime. Let's see if the ECM and GFS hold to the a big event in the next few days. That would defy the climatological odds. It's all probabilistic, so it could happen.

Posted by: ronbcust | December 19, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

what are the chances of things taking longer to develop and having this happen late on the 25th or early on the 26th?

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

you'd a thunk the writer would've at least identified one or more of the last times that it DID rain on Xmas... like, if only to punctuate the claim that it'd be a rare occasion. you think?

Posted by: dcjazzman | December 19, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

you'd of thunk the writer would've at least identified one or more of the LAST times that it DID rain on Xmas... to support the claim that it'd be a rare occasion. you think? maybe i missed it.

Posted by: dcjazzman | December 19, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Um... did I blink? Did I eat something a little gray and hairy? Wasn't there a post by Ian that was a little weird this afternoon? Pinch me, please.

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 19, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

dcjazzman, we had already discussed how rare a 1" or greater snowstorm is for dc on Christmas. It's happened 4 times in 123 years. It's only happened 3 times on Christmas eve. Here's the original article.

Posted by: wjunker | December 19, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! i have been living in the D.C area all my life and this has never happened before, And I will miss it!!!
IM going to Cleveland on wensday that bumbs me but at least its snowy in cleveland:)

Posted by: snowlover31 | December 19, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Majorly dislike 18z GFS... still, it's only one run of one model.

Posted by: cleombrota | December 19, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, 18z brings the freezing line a lot further north, all the way to the PA border. This is an outlier though, as the last 2 days of GFS models keep the freezing line much further south, all the way to the VA/NC border. If it is where the 18z shows, we'd be looking at a major ice storm, not snowstorm, given how cold the ground is. However, as I said, this is an outlier - 12z today had it much further south, with a surge of arctic air following the storm.

I think the big difference is the 18z GFS puts the storm much further north, bringing principle precip to PA and NY, not MD, while the others had MD and VA in the bullseye. Still way too soon to know - lot of dynamics in these models haven't even developed.

18z Ref:

Posted by: RandC | December 19, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes, 18Z looks a bit NW of last run introducing rain and a mix then back to far out at this point, but at least a storm is consistent.

Posted by: snowlover | December 19, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The 18z GFS is the oddball out of the last 8 or 9 runs, bringing the low north and introducing a mix or even cold rain to our area. If this run was placed somewhere in the middle of the last 8 runs or so and then the subsequent runs were to bring the low back south, I would discount it. But the fact that the previous runs have shown a northward trend, or at least a too-close-to-us track I am not so quick to discount this as a hiccup. Of course if the next few runs and the other models keep the low to the south then this IS a hiccup. We need to wait and see. That is the bottom line. Wait and see.
I hear Carly Simon in the background, "Anticipation..."

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 19, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Oh no. I'm supposed to drive to Rockville for X-mas with the parents. Snow is sure to make that drive extra ugly.

Posted by: pppp1 | December 19, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Will you post about the eclipse on the 21st, Tuesday, with ideas for DC viewing? Thanks. Love.Love.LOVE youse guys.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | December 19, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure it was 1991 the last time DC got any sort of winter storm on Christmas Eve/Day (albeit that was an ice storm).

Here's hoping it's not ice this time. That'd be doubly terrible for everyone.

Posted by: nlcaldwell | December 19, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

@CollegeQuaParkian1 -- NASA has lunar eclipse info on their website:

Posted by: VAOrangeFish | December 19, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse


It looks like the cloud cover for the viewing of the total lunar eclipse may be in our favor. The demise of the Tuesday evening clipper system may mean the clouds won't be encroaching on our area so aggressively and that Tuesday Am (Monday night) is looking clearer than it could have been. VAOrangeFish posted a link to the timing of the eclipse in the predawn hours of Tuesday AM.
If I read the data correctly, this Lunar Eclipse is the only one that has fallen on the winter solstice in the last 2000 years. Stay up late or get up early. Happy viewing!

Posted by: pjdunn1 | December 19, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

If it could happen in Victoria, Texas (a big town that sits off the Gulf of Mexico) on Christmas Day in 2004 where they got a foot of snow, well by golly, it can happen here. Still, it would be like winning the lottery though...

Posted by: Rcmorgan | December 19, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

The lunar eclipse will be in Gemini, not a big deal for me. So maybe [YAWN] I'll just snooze through this once-in-2000-years event.


Posted by: tinkerbelle | December 19, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I have a 3 day Christmas weekend--looking forward to it! Well, if snow comes, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" will materialize!

Posted by: eabgarnet | December 19, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

(Pls tell Jason & Walter-in-Falls-Church that I kept visualizing a large vacuum cleaner sucking in the storm off the coast for today but guess it didn't work *sigh*)

Posted by: kygurl94 | December 19, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Was thinking about getting my mother tickets to see South Pacific on Christmas evening. Should I think of another idea? My understanding is that the Kennedy Center rarely closes (last year's blizzards being one exception).

Posted by: susanwhiteside | December 19, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

if it's already being hyped up, you know this is going to be a bust. Except for the freakishness of last winter, the snow gods hate DC.

Posted by: owensm | December 19, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Snow... on Christmas...?!?!
(insert Snoopy dance here) :) :)

Posted by: MKoehl | December 19, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

00Z MON GFS shows the sfc low track further south than the 18Z run. But with this almost due west to east track across the country, the low weakens over the Appalachians and energy jumps to the coastal development. The DC area may sort of be in "no man's land." This track shows that the energy is not so much in the southern stream, as expected under the la nina regime. But I suppose the models will throw more variations at us from run to run for the next several days.

Posted by: ronbcust | December 19, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

00Z GFS showing it going south :/

That has been the trend thus far this month. Dont get excited for snow just yet snow lovers. By the time fri rolls around this might give snow to those down south who got a little snow this past weekend and weekend.

Snow follows snow?

Posted by: KRUZ | December 19, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse


Absolutely do not change your plans based on a 5 or 6 day forecast. We're simply saying there's a 50/50 chance of some snow at this point and we can't say much - if anything - about the details. And yes, the Kennedy Center does stay open for most storms... It was open during Snowpocalypse last December.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 20, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Ugh! I cannot believe that there are so many people who actually WANT it to snow. On Christmas of all days. Yes, that's how I would like to spend my holiday: sitting in the dark and cold due to a power outage, digging out and shoveling, and stuck in my home. Sounds just freaking wonderful. I am doing my OUT TO SEA dance!! Hopefully this frozen crap will fade away like the last two storms.

Posted by: pbj1 | December 20, 2010 1:50 AM | Report abuse

I hate to burst anybody's bubble, but there are just too many red flags popping up for me to jump on board with the big snow storm idea.

The good news is that it looks like there will be snow, and maybe a couple inches. But this is NOT a classic big storm track, and the models are starting to look more west to east and less southwest to northeast. I think there is at least a chance that it ends up being rain, also, as the GFS showed last night.

Please, mother nature, PROVE ME WRONG!

Posted by: 4seams | December 20, 2010 5:48 AM | Report abuse

pbj1 - Ditto that.

I have plans to spend that time with family and friends back home, some of whom I haven't seen since last year. It's difficult to get everyone together and Christmas affords that opportunity. A Christmas snow would make me angry and ruin something I've been looking forward to for a while now. OUT. TO. SEA.

Posted by: ThinkSpring | December 20, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2012 The Washington Post Company