Heavy rains fell throughout the metro region yesterday, with amounts generally in the 1-2.5" range from east to west spanning Prince George's county and western Fairfax and Montgomery counties. West and southwest of Fairfax county, isolated locations saw around 3" or a little more. Capital Weather Gang's forecast for 1-1.5 inches in the metro area with locally heavier amounts to the west was pretty close to correct, albeit a little conservative. Where our forecast went wrong was in the snowfall department.
The average February temperature of 41.7F at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), was a healthy 3.6F above normal. The month recorded four days at or above 70 degrees, in rare company with just four other years, and surpassed only by 1976 (seven such days). In historical context, Feb 2011 ranked 121 in a cold-to-warm ranking of 140 years (or 20th warmest on record) at DCA
As a snow enthusiast and someone who strives to make the most accurate forecast possible, this morning's lack of snow in the immediate metro area was a bitter disappointment. So what went wrong?
Light snow and flurries last night generally produced the dusting to half inch predicted by the Capital Weather Gang. Inside the beltway, amounts were generally around 0.1", with just a trace for most spots north of Montgomery county. However, in a some spots mainly east, southeast and south of town, snow amounts exceeded expectations - totaling 0.5-1".
As we look back at last Wednesday's catastrophic commute, the question arises- could better forecast information and communication helped avert the horrific "commutageddon" scenario that unfolded?
It's to state the obvious that the severe impact of Wednesday's "clusterslush" largely had mostly to do with the timing of the heavy precipitation, devastatingly coinciding with rush hour. But the physics of the storm itself were remarkable, which accentuated the impacts. Let's take a closer look