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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 02/14/2011

The snowstorm of February 11-12, 2006

By Kevin Ambrose

Snow fills the sky on the Mall during the morning of February 12, 2006. Kevin Ambrose

It's been five years since the snowstorm of February 11-12, 2006 dumped 8 to 32" of snow across a heavily populated swath from Northern Virginia through eastern Massachusetts. In the immediate Washington area, snowfall depths ranged from 8 to 17", with increased amounts to our north and much less snow in central Virginia and southern Maryland. Near Columbia, Maryland, 21" of snow was reported.

The storm achieved blizzard status in New York and New England as it rapidly intensified (bombed) to our east and moved up the East Coast. The low pressure became so deep that an eye formed and became visible on satellite images.

Read below to see the snowfall plot from the storm, the satellite image showing the storm's eye, and our local radar loop -- plus more snow photos.

The snowfall plot from the Snowstorm of February 11-12, 2006. NOAA

Our blog, known as in 2006, gave close coverage to the impending snowstorm. Here's an excerpt of the forecast from a post at 12am on February 11, from Jason Samenow:

Confidence is high that snow will gradually overspread the DC metro area today and accumulate at least 5 inches by the time the storm is over Sunday morning. A Heavy Snow Warning is in effect for the entire area. This storm will likely produce the heaviest snowfall since February of 2003.

Later in the morning, at 11am, the forecast was updated: is upgrading metro area accumulations very slightly to 6-9" due to the likelihood of heavy snow during the overnight hours. Snowfall rates exceeding 1"/hour are possible after dark, and could persist through the early morning hours, particularly east of town. Isolated thundersnow is possible.

What are other forecasters saying? Most forecasters are in the same ballpark forecasting this storm, although there is range of 3-14" among all forecasts.

The satellite image of the snowstorm, showing a hurricane-like eye. NASA

During the morning of February 11, scattered rain and wet snow showers fell across the area and the radar looked exceptionally void of heavy precipitation. A few comments on our Capital Weather blog declared a busted forecast. Computer models, however, continued to show heavy snow developing across the area during the nighttime hours and most meteorologists held to their original forecasts. By late afternoon, the radar began to blossom with precipitation echos and moderate snow began to fall in the western suburbs. By nightfall, about 2-to-3 inches of wet snow accumulated west of Washington.

During the late evening hours, moderate-to-heavy snowfall expanded over the entire Washington area and thundersnow was reported in the heavier snow bands. Capital Weather updated its forecast at 12am on February 12:

Bands of snow will continue overnight, some heavy and with thunder. The forecast remains for total accumulations to be in the range of 6-9" by morning, but more likely towards the lower end of that range (or a bit less) in downtown DC and near the Potomac River on the south side of town.

The radar loop from February 11, 2006. The radar was not impressive during the morning of February 11, but later in the day as the coastal stormed rapidly intensified, precipitation rapidly developed across the Washington area. Weather Underground

By the morning of February 12, a heavy blanket of snow covered the Washington area. Dan Stillman, of Capital Weather, posted the following in the wake of storm that afternoon:

Yesterday was a day of nonaccumulating snow, skeptical naysayers and waffling predictions from some forecast outlets (we won't name names -- in this post, at least). But as darkness fell, the action was just getting started. Those who went to bed thinking the first winter storm of 2006 had underperformed woke up this morning to the biggest snowfall since the Blizzard of 2003.

(See also Jason's post-storm assessment)

The surface weather map from February 11, 2006 showing the storm approaching from the south. NCEP

The heaviest snow was to the northeast of Washington, with New York City setting their all-time snowfall record of 26.9" at Central Park, breaking the previous record of 26.4" that fell on December 26, 1947. The storm was confined close to the I-95 corridor, with far western areas missing the brunt of the storm. In Albany, New York, only an inch of snow fell during the storm. As a result, the 2005-06 winter season ended with New York City receiving more snow than Albany in a given winter for the first time since records began. At Reagan National Airport, 8.8" of snow fell during the storm and 13.6" of snow fell during the entire 2005-06 season, which is slightly lower than their seasonal average of 15.6".

As the storm occurred over a Saturday night, its impact on commuting, schools, and businesses was minimized.

Do you have any stories or memories from the Snowstorm of 2006?

Sledding during the storm in Oakton, VA. Kevin Ambrose

The White House on February 12, 2006. Ian Livingston

Penderbrook in Fairfax, VA. Kevin Ambrose

Trees caked with snow in Oakton, VA. Kevin Ambrose

A snow measurement of 14" on the morning of February 12, 2006. This measurement was made near Oakton, VA. Kevin Ambrose

A basketball hoop filled with snow near Oakton, VA. Kevin Ambrose

By Kevin Ambrose  | February 14, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  History, Latest, Photography  
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This was the lowest impact big storm I can remember. It mainly fell on Saturday night which gave crews a full day to ready roads for the next commute. Not to mention, temps rose above freezing Sunday assisting the effort. I drove to Whitetail to ski Sunday morning, and encountered no problems. The conditions at Whitetail were blah...heavy wet snow isn't great for skiing.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Must've been REALLY low impact in DC... I don't even remember this. 6-9 inches isn't a memorable storm. Just another one of those Friday/Saturday snows we've gotten a ton of the past 5 years.

Posted by: Langway4Eva | February 14, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

This was my one tragedy as far as snowstorms are concerned. It hadn't snowed like this since 2003 and I was away for the weekend visiting a friend in Ohio. I was so jealous as my dad was texting me accum updates and looking at the radar from Cincinnati it just looked like so much fun. Oh well, at least I didn't miss 2010.

Posted by: bbirnbau | February 14, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse


While it was low impact, the amounts were impressive especially northeast of town. I measured 11" in NW DC, and there were totals in the 15-20" range around Baltimore and even as close by as Columbia . The snow melted pretty quickly as I think it warmed to near 60 later that week.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse


Yeah but the totals really were a lot different just a tad north and west than D.C. I live near Columbia, which got 21 inches from the storm, in Ellicott City. I remember comign back from the airport and there was easily 15 or 16 inches where I was. That's a pretty huge deal.

D.C. always seems to get the least snow out of any metro city in a given storm.

Posted by: bbirnbau | February 14, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The zeal with which you people enjoy torturing us suffering snow lovers is disturbing ;-).

Posted by: AdmiralX | February 14, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I remember it only because it was the first real snowstorm since moving back to the area in the Summer of 2005. I remember that it did get super warm the next day and all through the next week, and the snow vanished rather quickly. Only real snow of the winter, too (as far as I remember).

Posted by: Hokie_Ryan | February 14, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

LOL, I agree with AdmiralX!

BTW- Happy Valentine's Day, CWG!

Posted by: RedCherokee | February 14, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

It was my kids' first winter in DC, and would have been their first real snowstorm (California girls), but we were out of town! At least the snow lasted long enough for them to try a bit of sledding when we got home on Sunday.

Posted by: dcgrossman | February 14, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The snowstorm of February 11-12, 2006 was similar to our recent snowstorm of January 26, 2011 in that it was a heavy snow thump, with thundersnow, and temperatures near freezing. Elevated areas received much more snow accumulation than locations near sea level, like National Airport. In 2006, we had power outages and tree damage in the suburbs, but not as bad as with our past January storm.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Oh yes, I remember this one well as it was my first big snowfall after moving to the DC area in December of 2005. As I recall, this was a Saturday night/Sunday morning so it didn't affect any weekday morning rush. That and it melted rather quickly I think. That winter was a bit of a teaser because it was much warmer than normal in January. Good memories.

Posted by: Nixonin08 | February 14, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The night of that snowfall I was out at a nightclub. When I looked and saw how much had fallen by about 2 AM, I told my bud that we should probably leave. We wanted to avoid dealing with any drunken idiots sliding around when the bars would close later.

We passed by several DC city snowplows that were just sitting there idling. In fact, I don't remember many roads being plowed yet. They were so bad that we made it as far as my buds house near Bladensburg and I would crash at his place that night.

The next morning he took me back to Greenbelt to pick up my car so that I could finally head home.

Posted by: theblackdog | February 14, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It's getting rather boring...we're back to reprising old snowstorms instead of looking forward to future events [with half of February left]...thanks largely to Punxsatawney Phil!!!

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 14, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Bombo47. Snow sells, but let's talk about the warmer weather. It's like you guys are desperate to hang on with snow.

The anniversary date is past too.

Posted by: jaybird926 | February 14, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Big weekend I love dem.
No such luck this winter.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | February 14, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Snow lovers, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, think of this winter as "the one that got away”, or, “parting is such sweet sorrow”. LOL!

Okay, sorry. You guys had your way last year! :o)

Posted by: ThinkWarm | February 14, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse


The anniversary date fell over the weekend when we mainly just post forecasts rather than features.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | February 14, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

ah yes... the polar bear snowstorm.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 14, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Despite measuring nearly 15" at my Rockville home that morning, there was much less accumulation on the roadways and we were out to the stores by mid-afternoon.

Posted by: DOG3521 | February 14, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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