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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 01/27/2011

Recap: Snow, thunder put on a memorable show

By Dan Stillman


Snow comes down hard in Cleveland Park last night. By CWG photographer Ian Livingston.

The Washington, D.C., area's first major snowstorm since last year's incredible Snowmageddon winter wasn't so much a historic one. After all, yesterday's accumulations (NWS | user submitted) that generally totaled 5-10" west of I-95 (up to 11-12" in northern/western Loudoun County and southwestern Frederick County) and 4-8" east of I-95, while substantial and nothing to sneeze at, do occur every once in a while in the nation's capital and surroundings.

But it did swiftly and sufficiently fill in the D.C. snow hole, and provided plenty of drama in the form of heavy rain, downpouring sleet, intense snow and numerous reports of thunder - all perfectly timed to make for one of the metro area's worst-ever commutes. Not to mention the power outages that greeted many once they finally arrived home or shortly thereafter.

The sleet and snow were actually the storm's second act, not taking center stage until late afternoon yesterday and lasting until late evening. The first act arrived early-to-mid morning with a half-inch to two inches of snow and sleet courtesy an initial area of low pressure centered off the North Carolina coast. The late morning through early afternoon intermission featured a light mix of rain and sleet across the area with temperatures a few degrees above freezing and mainly wet or slushy roads rather than snowy or icy.

And then came Act 2, fueled by an explosive area of low pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere that trailed behind coastal surface low.


NASA satellite image of water vapor from yesterday afternoon. Swirling moisture along Virginia-North Carolina border (toward western side) and in southwest North Carolina is associated with the strong upper-level low that was moving toward the D.C. area.

It started with a brief period of heavy rain and hail arriving from the southwest. The real show began west of town around 2:30 p.m. - that's when Capital Weather Gang commenter aaf314 reported "Heavy Sleet in Manassas!" And with that, the rain changed to sleet from west to east across the area. About an hour later, just as the sleet was reaching south of the District - "Heavy sleet and thunder in Huntington (south of old town alex)," commented eorr53 at 3:35 p.m. - the shift to snow was moving in from the west, as indicated at 3:33 p.m. by CWG's Kevin Ambrose: "The precipitation switched back to rain in Oakton for 5 minutes then flipped back to huge snowflakes. It's all snow now for the first time this afternoon."

The timing couldn't have been worse. The heavy sleet changing to heavy snow snarled the afternoon commute, which took several excruciating hours for some. Even President Obama's motorcade took triple the usual time it takes to get from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House. The gridlock came despite warnings from forecasters and a two-hour early dismissal for federal workers.

"Ice, and not so much the volume of traffic, caused the commuter mayhem. Although most major arteries in the region had been pre-treated with salt, the rain that preceded the snow washed most of that away, leaving cold bare pavement to conspire with dropping temperatures to form ice," the Post reported.


Radar image showing heavy snow - rates of 1-2" per hour and up - falling on parts of D.C. and to the north and west around 7:30 p.m. yesterday. Credit: Weather Underground. Click image or here for animated radar.

By 4:30 p.m. or so, precipitation was all snow - moderate to heavy and very wet - for most of the area except for near the Chesapeake Bay, where the snow had yet to overtake the rain and sleet but would do so shortly. Snow, at times falling at crazy heavy rates on the order of 1 to 2 inches per hour and higher, pounded the region through late evening until exiting stage right (from west to east) between about 10 p.m. and midnight.

As the heavy, wet snow piled up on trees and power lines blown by gusty winds, so did the number of power outages - more than 400,000 - and closed roads. It also grounded planes and tested D.C.'s new mayor, who didn't get the kindest of reviews for the city's snow response (the mayor responds).


Snowfall accumulations collected by the National Weather Service.

Besides the extreme snowfall rates, this storm will most likely be remembered for its abundant thunder, triggered by the strong vertical motions associated with the powerful upper-level low pressure. Thunder snow and thunder sleet are often a risk during winter with upper-level lows as potent as this one was, but usually sightings are fairly isolated - not this time. Based on Twitter reports alone, thunder was heard in Glen Burnie, Columbia Heights, Silver Spring, Tenleytown, Vienna, Germantown, Fairfax, Capitol Hill, Reston and elsewhere throughout the metro area and beyond.

In the end, yesterday's storm - which totaled 5" at National, 7.3" at Dulles and 5.7" at BWI - had nothing on the 1922 Knickerbocker that put down 28" in D.C., though it did draw comparisons (see end of this post). And it was a far cry from last winter's parade of massive double-digit snowstorms, though reminiscent of Snoverkill, which also came in two acts - a few inches of snow on the evening of Feb. 9, then somewhat of an overnight lull before an amazing explosion of snow the next morning.

But for snow lovers it was a welcome return, albeit brief, to last year's snow-mania, and for all of us a reminder that even when winter gets off to a slow start, you never know when Mother Nature will steal the show.


A snowman watches over Logan Circle last night. Posted by @DCBrit from Twitter.

By Dan Stillman  | January 27, 2011; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Latest, Recaps, Winter Storms  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Snow long gone but windy
Next: And the awards for 'Best Snow Comments' go to...

Comments

That's a nice snowman in Logan Circle.
Nice job CWG. Fantastic minute by minute local weather coverage is the main reason I love this blog.

RIP backyard pine tree.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | January 27, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I haven't seen Walter on the boards this morning.

I hope he's out building something.

Posted by: ennepe68 | January 27, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to CWG for the heads up reporting on the incoming weather. Thanks to you guys I knew to leave the office in Chantilly early, before 3, and got home to Falls Church before 4, just as the roads were grinding to a halt.

Looking forward to Walter's latest creations.

Posted by: wiredog | January 27, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

btw, I really have to give it up for the CWG this morning. Having read on Tuesday how bad the afternoon commute on Wednesday was going to be, we decided to hunker down, and stuck to that plan even while it was just rainy Wed morning. It saved us a lot of grief.

The updates yesterday afternoon were great too. Very innovative.

You guys are running circles around local TV.

Posted by: ennepe68 | January 27, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

CWG -- great job as usual with the forecast. Thank you.

Question: any idea why New York picked up 19 inches of snow and we got about half that? They're even closer to the ocean which should have allowed for warmer air to filter in and turn into an icy mix.

Thanks!

Posted by: tsqnova | January 27, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

@tsqnova I second that question. I believe up until the storm started, NY was forecast to receive between 6-10 inches of snow. Did the storm really overperform by that much or was it due to the banding?

Posted by: thumper2 | January 27, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Loved all the updates and this wrap-up. Can't wait to see what Walter's creating! CWG you are the best--not only for the great forecasting and overall weather education but also for the sense of community you have created here! Way to go CWG!

Posted by: soleil2000 | January 27, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

After reading CWG's warnings that the situation was going to get really bad really fast for commuters after 4 pm, I decided to leave work early at 3. Most of my coworkers did not heed the warning, and some took up to 8 hours to get home!!!

Thank you CWG!

Posted by: dantebouchot | January 27, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I think the difference wasn't that you guys nailed this storm (you always do that), it was that virtually everyone else got it wrong.

Also, props to the models for pretty much getting it right for our area for once this winter. The GFS and NAM had pretty consistently been showing what we ended up getting for a couple days before yesterday.

Posted by: Dylan0513 | January 27, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Is anyone ready for the weekend? For those on the road for hours last night, they deserve a weekend of rest and relaxation...

Posted by: SA-Town | January 27, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Big pat on the back guys - job well done! Great job communicating the foreacst, the range of outcomes (I especially like the still evolving zone maps you have been using) and the degree of confidence in each forecast.

Posted by: Finn1917 | January 27, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Ditto on the kudos to CWG.

The take away quote came from Camden:
"It will be very treacherous once you see the snow begin."

This, along with others who basically said "head home as soon as you see the first flake" was the message for the day.

I left as soon as I could after the first flake fell and I got home safe and sound in a reasonable time.

Others in the office who waited just another 30 minutes more ended up taking hours to make similar commutes (my manager left at 5 and didn't get home until after midnight).

CWG should be mandatory reading for all office managers.

Posted by: Vingold | January 27, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm just repeating what so many others are saying, but thank you guys so much for incredible reporting. I left work in Bethesda at 1pm; was given some grief, and my attempts to tell people to get on the roads by 2 were not taken seriously except by a couple of people. I felt so guilty through the rain - and then the snow started. No power today in the office and several coworkers stayed at our model home. A mess.

Best Weather blog ever!

Posted by: noelblue | January 27, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

CWG is now clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Blogs rock!

Drove around Route One in Alexandria and around Old Town. All lanes ok, this wet show melting. Do be careful, I've seen people putting too much snow on the shovel, you can hurt your spine.

Posted by: jaybird926 | January 27, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Ditto on the kudos to CWG.

The take away quote came from Camden:
"It will be very treacherous once you see the snow begin."

This, along with others who basically said "head home as soon as you see the first flake" was the message for the day.

I left as soon as I could after the first flake fell and I got home safe and sound in a reasonable time.

Others in the office who waited just another 30 minutes more ended up taking hours to make similar commutes (my manager left at 5 and didn't get home until after midnight).

CWG should be mandatory reading for all office managers.

Posted by: Vingold | January 27, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Ditto on the kudos to CWG.

The take away quote came from Camden:
"It will be very treacherous once you see the snow begin."

This, along with others who basically said "head home as soon as you see the first flake" was the message for the day.

I left as soon as I could after the first flake fell and I got home safe and sound in a reasonable time.

Others in the office who waited just another 30 minutes more ended up taking hours to make similar commutes (my manager left at 5 and didn't get home until after midnight).

CWG should be mandatory reading for all office managers.

Posted by: Vingold | January 27, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

(Doing happy dance because now I can get CWG on my computer at work - and there's nothing to do here at work...)

I think I had a pretty decent commute home last night considering... I usually take a long bus ride straight home but opted for the Metro ride and a long walk home... there were many people stuck, (one in front of a snowplow!) and even though the snow was getting deep in Ffx City by that time (5:30 - 6:45pm) I really think I was moving faster than some of the cars...

Posted by: MKoehl | January 27, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I would like to give a shout out to Frosty the Snowman who is literally chilling and keeping watch over Logan Circle. What's up dude? Where have you been all winter? Thanks for gracing us with your presence in these parts! We have missed you! :)

Posted by: Rcmorgan | January 27, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, CWG for your excellent reporting on this storm. Thanks to you, this storm wasn't a surprise in my office. I tell everyone you're the best source for forecasts in the DC/Baltimore area!

Posted by: bachaney | January 27, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Hey Walter, do you ever take requests on what you make?

Posted by: SubRosa2 | January 27, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

For those of you out there who don't work out on a regular basis (including me :) ) - PLEASE be careful shoveling out there! This is the same volume and type of snow that hit Richmond in the blizzard of 96, and my grandfather had a heart attack shoveling it, even taking frequent breaks. For every post you put up here, please go shovel an elderly neighbor's sidewalk or steps!

Posted by: vtavgjoe | January 27, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Went sledding for two hours last night, came in for dinner with my friends - D-cheesy's mom made pork ribs, veggies, wild rice and warm bread with chocolate chip cookies for dessert - ran home to my house to shovel the driveway, ran back to
D-cheesy's for some more sledding, then had a few drinks and watched the snow taper down.

EXHAUSTED.

Best day of the year so far by a long shot. Sorry to those commuters who had polar (get it?) opposite experiences. Those traffic jams sounded lie a nightmare. But that's what happens when the NWS and local stations fail to make a scientifically objective forecast and instead let biases of fear interfere with their predictions. If you're scared of getting the forecast wrong, you're not doing your job right.

I think the NWS could take a page from the gang's book with your more honestly conservative forecasts. You guys give reasonable probabilities as to what is going to happen instead of seemingly deterministic certainty's that are potentially misleading. So when you guys hyped the severity of this storm, we KNEW it was a big deal.

Also, people have to give credit to the mets and hobbyists on American wx forums. These guys and gals are a great tool to turn to when deciphering and putting together accurate forecasts. I know from lurking and posting on these forums preceding the storm for the past 5 or 6 days that these group of peoples were on the ground floor of new information coming in, and interpreting and extrapolating that information into a reasonable forecast. People on those forums were LIVID about the lack of watches and warnings, and that they were posted so late. Guidance from the major models showed the potential for this storm WELL before the NWS or local mets had any clue.

Thanks CWG. You guys are pioneers in forecasting. Keep it up.

Posted by: bbirnbau | January 27, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

How many inches ended up falling officially at IAD and DCA?

Posted by: allisondt | January 27, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, CWG. You all are the reason I made it home safely last night. Great, great job, as usual.

Posted by: mcaicedo | January 27, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I live in Rockville...power went out at 7pm and the sky was lit up with blue for awhile afterwards. Still without power but everyone is safe.

This morning we had a substantial branch fall on our minivan as we were stopped at a light. Please be careful. That is a dangerous thing.

As an aside, my co-worker left work in Rockville at 6pm last night. She got home in Frederick at 12:30 am!!!

Posted by: authorofpoetry | January 27, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Thankyou so much for all the information you kept coming to us all of yesterday.

Our power in Fairfax went out yesterday at about 8:30 but it made watching the blue/green flashes so much more exciting.
Is thundersnow usually accompanied with blue/green flashes or was that not actually lightning that I was seeing?

Posted by: MichaelaK | January 27, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 27, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Brian. Our condo's snow removal contract is based on snowfall at DCA. So they only charge us for 5 inches where I think we actually have 7 or 8. We are in McLean near the toll road and 123.

Posted by: allisondt | January 27, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

@MichaelaK,

I saw the same flashes. Luckily, I still have power though it was touch and go.

I asked about the green flashes in my FB. A friend said it was the transformer and the green was due to copper?

Curious if anyone can confirm?

Have I thanked CWG enough yet for nailing the forecast and saving me misery? Thanks again guys!

Posted by: SPS1 | January 27, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I have been following CWG for about 7+ years and have to say that you did a heck of a job with this storm! You typically do a very good job, but I wanted to give you accolades for a terrific job this time around.

Posted by: snowlover | January 27, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for all of the nice comments. We worked hard to provide accurate and helpful info.

@allisondt

National got 5" (but 1.52" liquid equivalent, a daily record), but I am seeing conflicting reports about Dulles. I saw 9" at one point last night, but the NWS daily climate report says 5" and then gives 7" in its accumulation list (http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/events/snowmaps/). Its liquid equivalent was 1.31" a new record for the date.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | January 27, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

@CWG

What is your take on school openings for tommorow?

Thanks for the great forecast!

Posted by: ffxside | January 27, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Weather Gang for Great coverage of a tricky storm!

It may not have been historic, but this storm was bizarre! From snow thunder to freezing rain. The mix kept changing all evening. Melting pots of smooth snow. The traffic was UNBELIEVABLE. Some crazy traffic stories and photos posted at

http://www.bethesdaactually.com/

Posted by: SnowLover1 | January 27, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

That high "liquid equivalent" number makes sense to me. Very wet snow. Was thoroughly soaked working in it last night.

Come on sunshine. Belated shovelers need some help.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | January 27, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

CWG, Thumbs up to you guys...Wonderful job, especially when all others were calling for less snow(Sue palka calling for 2 inch around noon yesterday...hahahah)

Keep up your good work. You have one more new fan

Posted by: BlackHill | January 27, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

CWG..ONLY source of weather that's accurate, fair and balanced ;-)

There IS a difference between those who study the weather and those who simply report it.

Thank you CWG.

Posted by: tressoleilgoddess | January 27, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I want to add my thanks for your reporting. Even though I felt halfway guilty early yesterday morning, I followed my instincts (and your warnings!) and asked to telecommute.

Posted by: smith241 | January 27, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info.

Like others I wanted to thank you all for the work you do. I was able to tell my husband to leave work, 2 miles from our house as soon as we saw snow. He made it home no problem before 4pm. His coworkers who waiting until 5, ended up staying at a Tyson's hotel.

Posted by: allisondt | January 27, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Interesting, but I didn't report any thunder, and perhaps only one flash of distant lightning. The 1987 Veterans' Day storm was more impressive. Even the 1993 Superstorm had better thundersnow.

What DID happen here was a brief power outage roughly between 7:30 and 8 PM. The power flickered off and on several times before coming on for good about ten minutes later.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 27, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Great job, guys, as always. This is always my go-to for weather. When I travel elsewhere, I feel lost!

You asked the other night what other maps and questions you could answer. I would have liked to see a map with expected freezing times by zones, or something with current surface temps, so I could see just where the temps were falling. We only got about 5" here near Indian Head, but we had a big downpour and a lot of rain and sleet ahead of the changeover. Our totals were definitely affected more by temps than amount of moisture in the air.

Thanks!

Posted by: FrozenTundraTransplant | January 27, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Power went out in McLean last night at around 10:00PM. It just came on about fifteen minutes ago. I think all those blue flashes I was seeing beforehand must have been transformers blowing, because there was a massive blue flash of light from our transformer right before the power went out. Long, cold and sleepless night. It's time for a nap.

Posted by: HokieTerp | January 27, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

CWG did a fantastic job letting us know the timeline for the storm. For this one, timing was everything!! I also tell everyone this is the site to go to (not just in winter!) for the most reliable weather info. Good job guys!

Posted by: GburgResident | January 27, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Jason/Gang - The NWS was all over the place with this storm for our area; changing the advisories/warnings almost every few hours, constantly updating the predicted accums (back and forth), and I saw 10" reported last night for IAD then suddenly they changed it to 5". I personally feel they've lost credibility during b/c of the way they handled this storm. I also am HIGHLY skeptical of a report of 5-7" as I live right down the street and have yet to measure anything below 8".

Posted by: parksndc | January 27, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Power went out in McLean last night at around 10:00PM. It just came on about fifteen minutes ago. I think all those blue flashes I was seeing beforehand must have been transformers blowing, because there was a massive blue flash of light from our transformer right before the power went out. Long, cold and sleepless night. It's time for a nap.

Posted by: HokieTerp | January 27, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

CWG did a fantastic job letting us know the timeline for the storm. For this one, timing was everything!! I also tell everyone this is the site to go to (not just in winter!) for the most reliable weather info. Good job guys!

Posted by: GburgResident | January 27, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Sooooooo...... will fcps have school tomorrow?????

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Sooooooo...... will fcps have school tomorrow?????

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Do the snow accumulations reported include the 1-2" from the morning snow/sleet event?

Posted by: DOG3521 | January 27, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

CWG: you all were the first ones to predict what we ended up with and thank you for that. I always cone here first when I need a weather forecast. Some locals mets (sue palka) said it wouldn't even stick to the roads up until the last minute!

BTW, what do you think about the potential storm next week?

Posted by: BobMiller2 | January 27, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

We got less than an inch in Earlysville, VA. Was this due to a late changeover (we changed over at 3:30pm) or were we just in a hole? We had about an hour of what seemed to be heavy snow, but everything seemed to stop by 6pm or so. We did get a lot of rain all day, and heavy stuff from about 1-3:30pm -- I assume that heavy rain turned into snow for folks a bit further north.

Posted by: carrerascott | January 27, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Power went out in McLean last night at around 10:00PM. It just came on about fifteen minutes ago. I think all those blue flashes I was seeing beforehand must have been transformers blowing, because there was a massive blue flash of light from our transformer right before the power went out. Long, cold and sleepless night. It's time for a nap.

Posted by: HokieTerp | January 27, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I have followed CWG for a couple years now and have come to rely on your accurate forecasting. I obtained a UserID just now for the first time in order to say THANK YOU! We all can't thank you enough for your hard work & dedication to accuracy throughout this complicated and dangerous storm - all the more so when no one else seemed attuned to its arrival (NWS??). Beginning Tuesday I kept telling my co-workers about the storm that was coming (thanks to CWG's spot-on forecasting!). Even early Wednesday afternoon, few people believed the innocuous-looking rain would become anything significant. By brandishing your warnings, I convinced a couple people to leave the office early. I heeded your caution about the roads and got to Tenleytown about 3:45 just as the transition to falling slush was in full force, having driven through an ever-changing mix of rain, sleet, hail, and freezing rain. Please know that your fantastic combination of science-based accessible and practical information helped keep not only the CWG readers safe & prepared, but also everyone we were then able to forewarn.

Posted by: snowcat | January 27, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Great job CWG!! & Thank you!!

Please in my office thought I was nuts for leaving at 1pm.

Posted by: pips | January 27, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

CWG: Awesome job with this storm!

I was wondering if you guys had thought about doing a video forecast for particularly high-impact or dangerous events? It might have a greater impact than the written word, and I am sure a lot of people would look at it. You might even be able to sell some sort of ad space to cover your/WP's costs (I'm sure thousands, or even tens of thousands would have "tuned in" to a youtube video of one of your forecasters explaining things).

Also, it might be neat if the Washington Post gave you guys Flip cameras and a Youtube channel so you can post IMBY reports (kinda like mine and others yesterday) to reinforce messages of weather danger. I think a lot of people in this area would benefit from a near-live reporting of what is going on, esp. when it comes to decisions revolving around when people should begin their commutes to/from work.

Posted by: genestad | January 27, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

@CWG I must also ask, as it hasn't been answered, what about school for fpcs?

i bet that fcps and louden have to close because of the heavy snow bands. as for the IAD accumulations i got 10.5" on my lawn and about 1.5" less on the road, i live within sight of the control tower.

Posted by: SnowDreamer | January 27, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

For all of my gardening friends - just a reminder that if you need to knock the heavy snow off of ornamental trees and shrubs do it with a broom and swipe gently from the BOTTOM UP, not the top down. The limbs are already stressed enough without dragging them down more.

CWG is the bomb!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 27, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

If not for CWG, I'm sure I would have stayed at work. I knew to "be wherever I needed to be by 4pm" so I left work (Alexandria) at 3:15 and was home (Lorton/Mason Neck) by 4 - so, within a "normal" commute time. Heavy rain/sleet, a little slipping along the way, but definitely the right thing to do.

Secretly smug at the stories of 4+ hours commuting ...

Posted by: buddy44 | January 27, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Will Fairfax County Schools have school tomorrow, in your opinion?

Posted by: ffxside | January 27, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Joining the chorus:
CWG, you all nailed it, nailed it, nailed it. Your forecasts (and the lively discussions) helped me convince my wife to work at home yesterday. Many of her co-workers are telling some pretty horrific traffic stories (Dulles area). Her commute back to Laytonsville would have been terrible.

Thanks for your tireless dedication to the forecast. It seemed like one of you was always up and analyzing the latest information. Keep up the good work. You made a difference yesterday.

Posted by: dprats21 | January 27, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

More kudos to CWG for your coverage. You have a permanent spot on my BBerry newsreader - thanks. Can we call this storm "Gridlocalypse"?

Posted by: lowrieses | January 27, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

The massive traffic jams yesterday afternoon are reminiscent of the Veteran's Day Storm here in 1987 ( http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2009/11/veterans_day_often_signals_sto.html)

The big difference is that the Veteran's snow was not even hinted at in any forecasts until after snow began to accumulate and, hence, a complete and total surprise.

At least for CWG readers there was abundant warning expressed in the most timely, explicit and forceful terms justified, especially about either getting out of the way no later than early afternoon, or just hunkering down in place. Whether you did or did not was a personal decision in risk analysis for which you either paid the price or were extremely pleased you made the right call

There was an interesting paper at the AMS meeting which surveyed people on their actions when there was an official NWS warning to evacuate an area ahead of Hurricane Ike, or DIE!

Surprisingly, 40-50% of respondents paid no attention to this dire warning, the balance either purposely deciding to ride it out or get out of the way. Of course, only the survivors of those who ignored the warnings or stayed put were interviewed Scores of other individuals did not survive or were amongst the approximately 2000 people rescued and not amongst those who could be interviewed.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 27, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks CWG you all are great! I've been telling everyone about this site.

Posted by: thinksnow | January 27, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I must admit that I am surprised how well DC did clearing streets, etc....no issues this morning around DC

Outside? Different story

Posted by: Bious | January 27, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I feel sorry for those stuck with insane commutes. That said, I knew this would happen in advance. Anytime things are "fine" in the morning and everyone goes to work, then they deteriorate mid / late afternoon, the commute is miserable.

I don't know why, but most people just won't leave work early. It may be pessimistic, but I think some in our Type-A laden metroplex simply feel they are too important and that the world will end if they leave work early. Others who cannot work from home face a tough choice of either sticking it out or having to make up time or use precious leave that may already be spoken for. Others are in their warm offices and just don't think about it. Still other are not allowed to leave by their employers ("getting home is your problem not the company's").

I also think by and large the behavior of private employers during severe weather events is pretty unconscionable. When a situation like yesterday's arises, employees should NOT in my mind have to use their vacation time to leave early. Employers also should not be allowed to force employees to stay at work when the situation is becoming hazardous. Many blast OPM for only closing the Feds 2 hours early... but at least the Feds close. Most private companies never close, period, no matter what - and if they do, you STILL have to burn vacation to hit your 80 for the week. There should be a law against this, because I'm sorry, but accounting spreadsheets can wait a day.

Luckily, I am able to work from home, and myself and all my coworkers heeded the warnings and hit the road at 3.

Posted by: jahutch | January 27, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I must admit that I am surprised how well DC did clearing streets, etc....no issues this morning around DC

Outside? Different story

Posted by: Bious | January 27, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm joining in the chorus of thanks to CWG for your fair and balanced storm coverage. I appreciate your warnings to avoid travel and passed them on to those near and dear to me. Too bad the main media outlets were slow to warn folks. I guess you're right about the hurricane effect...even with proper warning, foolhardy folks would've been out. Plus, there have been so many false alarms that people start expecting no snow around here.
That said, I know that WALTER took requests last year or at least took votes on what kind of insect he'd make. He made the cricket, but I still think a praying mantis would've been best. This storm, I think a statue of Thor the thunder god would be a good idea. But he's obviously already in progress at this point.

Posted by: manassasmissy | January 27, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

WILL FCPS HAVE SCHOOL TOMORRROW??????? ANSWER!!!!!

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

A storm next week? Maybe OPM should announce the closing now to avoid gridlock. (I kid!)
I also appreciate CWG's thoughtful analysis and explainations; I was able to take the advice to leave early and avoid the nightmare commute. I was also lucky enough to only lose power for a few minutes (I think all our trees came down last winter and summer, when we had longer outages.)
And I'm one of the snow haters, but even I must admit that driving to work this morning I was stuck by how beautiful this looked.

Posted by: RightField | January 27, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

WILL FCPS HAVE SCHOOL TOMORRROW??????? ANSWER!!!!!

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

@bmxphenom50

THESE ARE WEATHER BLOGGERS, NOT SCHOOL SYSTEM ADMINISTRATORS. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW IF THERE IS SCHOOL TOMORROW SEND NON-STOP EMAILS TO THE HEAD OF FCPS. ALSO LEARN HOW TO TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK. HINT: THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT.

Posted by: rwalker66 | January 27, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Adding my kudos again to the CWG. Because of your early posts, we were WELL prepared and my husband who takes the VRE to the DOJ opted to stay home. We were hunkered down and safe inside when the skies opened up. He almost didn't believe me that it wasn't 'just going to be rain', especially since the TV Mets were holding out till the bitter end. He knows better now. If more people trusted your posts/updates, i think the commute would have been a lot easier on folks. Thanks again, and maybe next time more people will listen.

Posted by: lisajulia | January 27, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Why are people continuing to blame workers for not leaving early enough?

There was no "set time" that people HAD to leave

I love this site but 1-2 writers admitted that leaving a little around 3-4 would be questionable but probably OK with a few delays.

NOTHING was ever presented that if you left after a certain time, you WILL NOT GET HOME UNTIL 10PM!

Even so, EVEN with a hard snow fall, people MAY need to stay at work for money-purposes AND they should be provided by the city/state a way to get home under SEVERAL HOURS even in heavy snow

Posted by: Bious | January 27, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Any thoughts on school closings tomorrow?

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

CWG:
A little off topic, but after reading all the kudos -- I offered mine last night -- I wonder if the Post would consider some type of meet-and-greet event so this burgeoning community could thank you in person and enjoy each other's company? Maybe it's a wacko idea, but I'm really feeling the love.
Either way, you guys are definitely the go-to source. This storm just cemented that conclusion.

Posted by: bodypolitic1 | January 27, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

CWG - thanks to your considerable efforts keeping us updated and informed yesterday, I was able to convince my husband to head home by 3 yesterday afternoon. Instead of worrying about him for hours as he suffered in traffic, we were cozied up and warm watching the snow fall last night. THANK YOU! It's clear that you all work hard and care about your readers. All the best to you!!

Posted by: moxie-in-the-burg | January 27, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

As for all of the inquiries on school cancellations, we don't have some sort of "Batphone" to all the school superintendents in the area. If you read our forecast you can see that there is no more meteorological threat as it's sunny and in the mid-30s. Do you homework.

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 27, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Any thoughts on school closings tomorrow?

The kids have already had two days off, get them back in school. No wonder the rest of the world is kicking our butts in math and science.

Posted by: Axel2 | January 27, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

At least Loudoun, Frederick, Fairfax, Montgomery, Howard, and Prince William will likely close tomorrow if not the entire area.

Posted by: Dylan0513 | January 27, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Re: School closings... We'll include a SchoolCast with today's afternoon forecast update (PM Update).

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | January 27, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

CWG is my go-to weather outlet!!

Yes, I had my doubts at first especially since it was being down-payed so by the TV folks....I don't think I'll doubt you guys again!

CWG-Real Forecasts-by and for-Real People!!!

Posted by: Pat_E | January 27, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Axel2 - LOL
bmxphenom50 - perhaps instead of harassing the CWG, you should work on your homework?

Posted by: kathyb39 | January 27, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Just started reading your blog two days ago and it is fantastic. You had the forecast completely right. I had tickets to a concert in Vienna and live in Camp Springs. Reluctantly canceled my plans. As it turns out the concert was canceled. Thanks for your storm warning. I might have been stranded for hours.

Posted by: penny50 | January 27, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Let's not get carried away with all the backslapping of the CWG folks. Round 1 which came yesterday morning was an almost total miss. Sure, there were some catch-up posts late at night, but I saw them when I woke up in the morning. I think one of the entries began with something like "NWS missed this round of..." NWS?! I came to this site to get the CWG forecast not the NWS one.

I do appreciate the conditions from posters from around the area. It's like having family members from the metro area telling me how things are in their neighborhood.

Posted by: jojo2008 | January 27, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

We are fed up with Pepco!! Three blocks in our NW DC neighborhood routinely and consistently lose power in almost ANY storm, while the surrounding streets are fully powered. We lost ours at 7:30 PM last night following half a dozen small outages (

Posted by: astrasfo | January 27, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The fact that cwg has a schoolcast, is the reason why I asked them. And I was questioning for a prediction.........

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I'll take a stab at the school closings for those wondering- no school for any of the counties in nova.

Posted by: icecubedownthetoilet | January 27, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

CWG, sometime in the next week or two, I would love to read a post that collects any links you find to "what we did right & wrong" reflections on the storm by *other* area forecasts, and especially to anything like that by the NWS.

Posted by: InVA1 | January 27, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Here in Sterling, we have very thick clouds overhead. There was a LITTLE melting going on when the sun was out, and even less now.

Current reading on my deck here in Sterling: 33.6°F and cloudy.

Also, you wouldn't believe the beating some of the trees in my neighborhood took from this storm. Branches and trees down everywhere...that's what you get from 10" of heavy wet snow. Shoveling that stuff was hard too. We have a very long driveway and my back was killing me after shoveling for so long.


BTW, Walter, we haven't heard from you today. Can you give us a hint as to what kind of snow-masterpiece you're working on?

Posted by: BobMiller2 | January 27, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

CWG, I'm repeating what lots of people have already said, but I really want to thank you for your advice on this storm. I have a long commute, from Damascus to Arlington. I knew you weren't joking when you said to be off the roads by 4. Though the government didnt' close till 3 (bad call, OPM) I left my office at 2:30 and made it home by around 4:30, just slightly longer than my normal commute. I felt like an idiot walking out of my office into a light drizzle, but your advice was spot on. It was just starting to sleet when I hit Shady Grove, and as I sat on my bus home, the sleet rapidly turned to snow. If I had waited any longer, my bus would have risked getting stuck in major traffic (as it was, I could tell the bus was struggling to merge back into traffic after dropping off passengers). My mom unfortunately did not heed your warnings and waited until the snow started to fall before heading home. Her 20 minute commute turned into around 3 hours and in the end she had to abandon her car in a snow drift. Thanks so much for your accurate and non-sensationalistic reporting. TV weather goes into a hysterical frenzy at the slightest hint of snow, so I tend to disregard whatever they say. But I know that when CWG tells me something is a big deal, it will really be a big deal. I appreciate your honesty about the inevitable uncertainties of weather forecasting, and I learn so much about the weather from your blog.

Posted by: zhadum | January 27, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Wondering how the digging out is going for everyone? We got 8" or so in Centreville, but the snow plow was here early this morning and most neighbors are now cleaned up. Feel bad for the many folks without power through this.

Posted by: kat16 | January 27, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

bmxphenom50, I predict you maybe probably will have school tomorrow. 60% of the time I'm right all the time.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | January 27, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday, about 4:30, 5 pm I saw at least three flashes of lightning and heard thunder in Falls Church. I left work early before the rain even started. I was riding the Metro but I'm still glad I left early - the rain that preceded the snow was very heavy in Falls Church.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | January 27, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Wellll I guess you're wrong this time!

Posted by: bmxphenom50 | January 27, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Just FYI, Bob Ryan and Doug Hill are hosting a live chat on TBD.com right now:

http://www.tbd.com/blogs/weather/2011/01/d-c-snow-live-chat-with-meteorologist-bob-ryan-7751.html

Posted by: BobMiller2 | January 27, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Woo hoo! Power back on in Glover Park. Maybe some heat will be next. The IAD snow ttls are confusing. Maybe the NWS will update at 6 p.m.?

And who knows, maybe we get bus service back tomorrow? (I suspect the Tenleytown bus garage was knocked out of service due to the power outage).

Gotta' go bring the milk in off the windowsill...

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 27, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I'll echo the sentiments as well, your reporting and forecasting of the storm in the 24 hours leading up to the event was informative, thorough, and ultimately more accurate than any of the other forecasters. Although I was unfortunate to have gotten stuck at work and unable to heed the ultimately beneficial advice of leaving by 3:00, I was fully aware of what I was getting into when I got into my car. As a result, I was able to avoid the gridlock areas, avoid getting my car stuck in known problem spots, and made it home intact. Late, but intact.

Posted by: marklandterrapins | January 27, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

CWG, Now that GridLocklypse is past, can we get more informations regarding tomorrow's clipper(Will there be an inch of new snow?) and also the chances of next week storm affecting immediate DC area?

I will be satisfied to hear more from you guys than TV anchors who were completely wrong regarding the last storm

Posted by: BlackHill | January 27, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I had an experience similar to what BobMiller2 described here in Oakton. Last night, right before the storm ended, I heard a LOUD snapping noise. I have a mature white pine that overhangs my deck. That pine had four large branches snap at once. I suspect that the highest branch caused a chain reaction.

Needless to say, the deck was covered with broken branches. I put on my snow gear, and with a combination of sawing and pulling, managed to clear all the debris from the deck. I then went on a lawn expedition to clear snow from my arborvitaes, which were bowing over - just like during last years' two headed snow monster.

I surveyed the damage in daylight this morning - my back yard is a disaster area. I'm now waiting for the tree service to show up..

I've always been a snow lover, but this winter and last years' are trying my patience. Let's hope that the CWG can come up with a nice, powdery snow for a change, and get rid of this ridiculously high water content ratio.

Posted by: MillPond2 | January 27, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I do remember the Veteran's Day snow of '87 - I was in 6th grade in Annandale, and that storm seemed to come out of nowhere. We hadn't been in school for more than a couple of hours when they announced a 3 hour early departure (if memory serves). Yesterday's storm may not have had the epic totals of last February, but it certainly had epic gridlock to make up for it. While I was camping out at the office, two coworkers who had left earlier in the day (around 5 or so) returned, having gone no more than a few miles in a few hours. Kudos again to Jason and the gang, and I hope everyone (finally) made it home safely.

Posted by: jaradel | January 27, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Part 1 of 4:

I was just finishing up at the Washington Post career fair at the Dulles Expo Center and was a bit slow getting out to the bus stop on Willard Road. I watched the Fairfax Connector 650 bus pull out about a minute before I arrived at the bus stop at around 2:44 PM. I knew that according to the schedule, the next bus would be there in an hour. There had been some cold drizzle during the day, but nothing much more than that. Having been through 3 Washington, DC winters before this one, I knew to bring my gloves, hat, and umbrella. I had on light weight men's thermal underwear and was wearing my lined raincoat. However, I was wearing business shoes - and no thick socks. I took refuge with another attendee at a nearby McDonald's. We noticed that the rain changed to heavy sleet while we were waiting inside. We left early to make sure that we were at the bus stop before the bus would arrive. There was already another attendee at the stop with an umbrella, but no hat or gloves. The attendee with me had neither gloves nor an umbrella, so I shared my umbrella. All 3 of us stood near the curb at the bus stop for about 30 minutes being pummeled by cold sleet until the bus finally arrived. The bus driver was kind enough to turn up the heat on the bus for a while as we defrosted

Posted by: Dr_Gene_Nelson | January 27, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Part 2 of 4:

Our bus route proceeded towards Dulles Airport. We saw lots of snow falling and picked up a few more passengers. Without the snow-induced delays, we should have been at the Vienna Metro station via Route 50 about a half hour after we were picked up just before 4 PM. The bus driver noted the increased congestion and predicted that it would take us at least two hours to get to the station around the time that dusk was falling. The snowfall rate increased with darkness as we crawled along. Traffic moved so slowly that I was able to exit the bus to stop at a Wendy's, use the rest room, purchase 3 cheeseburgers for the bus driver and my two fellow attendees, and a small chili for myself with the bus only moving a few feet during the 5 minutes I was gone. I was following the coverage of the snowstorm via the Washington Post website on my smart phone. We were at the intersection of Route 28 and Route 50 by 8:00 PM. I called in my observation to the Washington Post Local News Desk that traffic on both highways was at a standstill. From the vantage point of the bus, I could see numerous cars that were stalled. Many vehicles were at the sides of the roads or in the median. The ramps to Route 28 were very treacherous, with cars getting trapped at the sides as they went up or down the ramps. I didn't see any snowplows nor any traffic officers. Many times, people got out of their cars and helped to free cars whose wheels were spinning on the packed, wet snow. I saw a group of people help to push a UPS truck so that it could exit the ramp. There was a large van stopped while at right angles to the ramp. Fortunately, drivers could use the apron to get past the van.

Posted by: Dr_Gene_Nelson | January 27, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Part 3 of 4:

Finally, I noticed that traffic was starting to move fitfully on the opposite side of Route 50, moving away from Interstate-66. On our side of Route 50, we moved about 4 miles in four hours. We were all listening to the bus dispatcher and bus drivers report that eventually, about a half a dozen Fairfax Connector buses were stalled and awaiting either tow trucks and/or a bus to pick up their passengers. We learned that many exits were closed on I-66 and we hoped that the exit that we needed to use to go from I-66 to the Vienna Metro station would be open by the time we arrived. Our bus driver was an incredible pro, safely making his way along the slippery, snow packed Route 50. He had to navigate past several vehicles that were stopped in the traffic lanes that we were attempting to traverse. While we had numerous times that the bus had to momentarily shift into reverse to get out of a snow pocket, there was only one time that the bus was stuck on an icy patch. Our bus driver persisted and about a minute later we were free - with applause from all of the passengers. Our bus driver told us that he was driving these roads last year during the bad snowstorms - and these were the worst conditions that he had ever seen. There were considerably fewer cars a year ago because drivers heeded the warnings that the safest thing to do was to hunker down where they were. I searched for Washington, DC congestion maps, eventually finding the Sigalert site for Washington, DC for mobile phones. When I checked before 11 PM, the section of I-66 that we had to pass through was showing essentially all red. I and the other passengers on our bus were very concerned that we would be stranded at the Vienna Metro station after the last train had left for the evening. For safety reasons, the Fairfax Connector service shut down at 9:30 PM, so we knew that many passengers would become stranded. We were grateful that our bus was moving, even though it was at a snail's pace much of the time. I was so concerned that I was seriously considering walking. However, the bus driver dissuaded me by noting that I could be picked up by a Virginia State Trooper while on I-66 and face a possible large fine. At 10:30 PM, I called Zipcar to learn if there were any Zipcars available at the Vienna Metro station, but the customer service rep could not find any. I was disappointed that that alternative wouldn't work if we did not arrive in time.

Posted by: Dr_Gene_Nelson | January 27, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Part 4 of 4:

By following the continuing CWG coverage, I learned that the snow would be tapering off in northeast Virginia by about 11:00 PM. That is exactly what I saw out the windows of the bus. The bus driver was apprehensive about driving up the large hill on Route 50 before we reached I-66. I noticed that rather than seeing 3 lines of red tail lights snaking off into the distance, there was only a single line of red lights ahead of us, and pointed that out to the bus driver. When we got to the base of the hill, the first traffic officer that we had seen all evening held up traffic for a moment while we changed lanes. Then, we went up the hill in a single lane, which had apparently had some snowplows pass through. We were moving faster than we had all night. I'm sure that the driving required even more concentration for the bus driver. When we reached I-66 we were able to drive even faster, as some snowplows had been able to removed considerable snow from multiple lanes of traffic. When we got to our exit, we saw a Fairfax Connector bus that had slid to the side of the off ramp. We hoped that those passengers had been able to get to the Metro before trains stopped running as well. We were very happy commuters to finally get to the Vienna Metro station at 11:40 PM (about 7 hours after we expected to arrive) with another round of applause. We got the name of our excellent driver, Theo Richmond as we exited the bus. I thought about the fact that he had been sitting on that bus since around 3:00 PM. At the Vienna Metro station, we saw many groups of passengers huddling to develop plans to get home, since I did not see many taxis waiting at the time. I asked the station manager if I could use the rest room. She advised me to catch the last train instead. I made it to the train with my two fellow attendees with about 4 minutes to spare. I was very pleased to get home by about 12:30 AM after a walk from my station.

Posted by: Dr_Gene_Nelson | January 27, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

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