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Let's Play Snow Day Roulette!

Once again, the snow hysteriamongers out there in MediaLand had their way, and throughout the Washington area, hundreds of Saturday events were cancelled because of...light rain. There's finally a bit of snow on the ground at this writing just after midnight Sunday morning, and it looks like the forecasters will finally be right--there'll be some overnight accumulation.

But even at this hour, the predictions are all over the map (though here at Raw HQ, the lights are flickering from the weight of the snow on the powerlines outside the Big Raw Picture Window.)

Here's the scoreboard as tallied by the good folks at

Most forecasters are in the same ballpark forecasting this storm, although there is range of 3-14" among all forecasts. Here is a summary:

* The National Weather Service is forecasting 6-12" (as of this afternoon)
* Channel 4 (Bob Ryan) is calling for 3-6" in the metro area, more N & W and less S & E (evening update)
* Channel 5 is forecasting 3-5" (low end forecast, as of last night--no Saturday update)
* Channel 7 is calling for 6-10" (as of this afternoon)
* Tony Pann and Topper Shutt (Channel 9) are forecasting 5-8" (as of this evening)
* Paul Kocin, Winter Weather Expert at The Weather Channel says 6-10" for DC (as of this afternoon)
* Meteorologist Dave Tolleris of is forecasting 10"+ for the DC metro area.

I'll go with my usual--take the lowest prediction among the weathercasters and add one inch, so put me down for four inches.

But here's the big question: Will schools close Monday in honor of the weekend event? Already, Channel 4 is saying it's likely we'll see school closings.

My fearless forecast: Montgomery, Fairfax and the outer Virginia counties, as well as Anne Arundel and points north: closed. DC, Prince George's, and the A's--Alexandria and Arlington: open.

Your call? All predictions must be posted here on the comments board by 5 pm Sunday. I'll announce the winner Monday morning. Tiebreaker: How many minutes of the 11 pm TV news on Channel 4 or 7 will be devoted to snow coverage (including weathercasts)?

By Marc Fisher |  February 12, 2006; 12:01 AM ET
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In Baltimore, Norm Lewis on Channel 2 said Friday night that we wouldn't get much from this storm. It would mostly miss us. It's been awhile since I've seen a TV meteorologist go out on a limb in that direction.

Posted by: Rob | February 12, 2006 1:04 AM

No closures, only delays -- PG, Montgomery, Fairfax, Loudoun, PW will all be 2 hours late. Everyone else open.

Posted by: Phil | February 12, 2006 1:08 AM

Well, here in Falls Church, I've shoveled twice and I'd say there's about 4" out there. So my guess is 7" by the time all is said and done. Schools better not be closed Monday! There's plenty of time to clear the roads before then. Oh wait, there's that whole freezing roadways thing, right? Better plan my LWOP now.

Posted by: misschatter | February 12, 2006 1:14 AM

When snowed-in my family gets a surprising amount of mileage from the Washington Post Snowcam. We don't watch much TV, so it is like the new electronic hearth. One can create engaging arithmetic problems for kids.

Posted by: Karl | February 12, 2006 2:00 AM

Rob, at 4am in Baltimore, looks like Norm Lewis on Channel 2 was wrong. Enjoy!

Posted by: well, | February 12, 2006 4:04 AM

Oh please, ALL of the school districts will find an excuse to close tomorrow. If they have closed for light rain, they'll close for the 8-12 inches we received last night...even though it will be as sunny as can be tomorrow.

Posted by: DV | February 12, 2006 9:34 AM

Fortunately, Helmut has come up with a foolproof method for predicting DC snow. See here:

Posted by: helmut | February 12, 2006 9:47 AM

In Laurel, we have between 18-20 inches. The better question should be who is going to call out for work tomorrow!

Posted by: Bigtig | February 12, 2006 9:53 AM

Ok, my official prediction is NoVA schools closed (can't plow those side streets here in the south haha) and fed government operating on a two hour delay/personal leave day.

Posted by: misschatter | February 12, 2006 10:24 AM

All schools in DC, NoVa and Northern MD will be closed. In addition, stock prices for the Ramen Noodle company will raise to great heights on Monday due to millions of packages being sold to the temporarily stranded masses prior to the "massive" storm

Posted by: PSnow | February 12, 2006 11:21 AM

Oh - I forgot to add - storm television coverage from all local stations will collectively exceed that of the entire hundreds of hours of NBC olympic coverage.

Salt truck footage will cover 80 percent of that shown on local TV

Posted by: PSnow | February 12, 2006 11:27 AM

I predict a two hour delay in Mongtgomery County.

Posted by: lndavenport | February 12, 2006 11:48 AM

My prediction? Prince George opening two hours late. And the usual cliche interviews with grocery store workers who probably have better things to do will dominate the news.

Posted by: Pat | February 12, 2006 12:12 PM

Not so much a comment as a tiny little prayer - Georgetown University closed tomorrow :)

Posted by: A Hoya, who else? | February 12, 2006 12:17 PM

Just back from the wilds of the sledding hills, where the judgment is that this is excellent packing snow, that the streets are remarkably clear, and that about half of the local school systems will nonetheless find an excuse to close (or at least zap parents with the most maddening move of all, the dreaded two-hour delay).
I don't know the meaning of this, but my straw poll at the hill found parents predicting some variety of closing and kids predicting school as usual.
Man, it's gorgeous out there.

Posted by: Fisher | February 12, 2006 12:21 PM

Hey... if you saw all roads, sidewalks and parking lots that FCPS has to clear to get our kids to school safely, you wouldn't question why they'll be closed tomorrow.

We've got 10+ inches on our back deck and driveway. Yeah.. the road is clear, but school will be closed, I'm sure. Why so sure? Because it will mess up Little G's ortho appointment if they are closed.

The news tonight will be all-snow, all the time. Except for Channel 4, of course: all Kwan all the time there.

Posted by: TBG | February 12, 2006 1:16 PM

In Arlington, looks like just about 4 inches. Main roads are mostly clear, some entirely, but side streets are still slushy. Significant amount of tree limbs down in my neighborhood, some causing real damage to cars.

The ridiculous thing here is the inability of people to drive in this weather. I had to help a friend push her BMW out of a parking spot - "stop flooring the gas!!!" Watched SUVs fly by barely in control, clearly not aware of how to drive safely in the snowy weather.

I went to school in New England. 5-8 inches was typical every couple weeks or so, barely worth mentioning. This city is shameful in the way the media hypes up snowstorms, and the public buys into it. It's pretty easy to deal with, really, people here just would rather feed into the hysteria.

Posted by: Mike | February 12, 2006 1:40 PM

I love the snow!! I am originally from upstate NY (REALLY upstate, not an hour's drive fron NYC....) and I must agree with a previous writer that the reaction to snow here is really wild! I am used to no school closings until there is at least 8 or 10 inches; more common would be a closure due to the cold so the kiddies wouldn't risk frostbite. Oh, the memories.... Anyway - my prediction is N VA schools and N MD schools closed; DC and PG County delayed because of icy conditions. Then by noon - blazing sunshine and lots of puddles! And the news question - at least 15 mnutes devoted to flaky stories. Gotta go - it's too wonderful out there to stay indoors! Enjoy!

Posted by: maggie | February 12, 2006 2:17 PM

Outer suburbs closed, inner suburbs and DC open two hours late, and unscheduled leave for the federal government.

Posted by: LB | February 12, 2006 2:30 PM

Only delays, everything open by 11 am to give the overnight freeze time to melt.

Considering FNC did a breaking news alert when the first flakes started falling yesterday (I wish I were kidding), I figure this will be all the news that is covered tonight.

Posted by: ep | February 12, 2006 3:11 PM

There's at least 12 inches and maybe more in the Gaithersburg area. But the roads look great. I too grew up in New England and have been amazed at people here, but since folks are so crazy in this stuff, I've quickly learned it's easier not to drive and avoid everyone else.

As for closings, since I work in Frederick County, MD, I predict that they'll be closed, along with Baltimore, Anne Arundel, and all points north. Montgomery County will probably wimp out and be closed, and the outer Virginia counties will be closed. Arlington, Alexandria, Prince Georges, and D.C. will have a two-hour delay.

Posted by: Lisa | February 12, 2006 3:17 PM

Columbia MD evidently hit the jackpot of snow (officially 21 inches? although only about 18 on our block). Around here the question is - how MANY days will schools be closed?! No snowplow has touched our sidestreet yet. Sounds like things will get icy tonight. So, I predict Howard County schools will be closed for 2 days, with 2 hour delays the rest of the week. But all work will be open.

A bit of a nightmare for working parents! Howard County kids just had 2 half days then a whole day off for parent-teacher conferences... Plus they have next Monday off for President's Day, a holiday that most non-fed workplaces don't give off for anymore.

Well, best to just enjoy the sledding while we can!

Posted by: snowy_in_columbia | February 12, 2006 3:20 PM

DCPS will close.

That is my hope, my prayer...yet sadly, not a real prediction.

Posted by: DCPS employee | February 12, 2006 3:30 PM

Looks like the 6-12 was right in the end. I think the call has already been made to close Prince William schools. I have a friend in school admin, and I am pretty sure they will err on the side of closing. The complaints are FAR worse when they open in questionable weather then when they close on days like we will see on Monday.

Posted by: BC | February 12, 2006 4:45 PM

5pm isn't early enough for a cut off - Montgomery County Public Schools have already closed due to "emergency weather conditions".

Posted by: MD | February 12, 2006 4:56 PM

Fairfax County is closed - Haven't checked any others. I guess it is important for kids to be taight that no theoretical danger, however slight, should be dealt with in person. Retreat home and watch daytime TV, which seems to me to be more dangerous for kids than walking down a snowy or icey sidewalk.

Posted by: BDTLRVA | February 12, 2006 6:48 PM

Well, looks like you were wrong about the snow, I'd say we got close to 20 inches in the part of Metro DC I'm in (MD). Took forever to shovel and I'm glad schools will be closed for our kids tomorrow because I just came in and everything that melted, which was alot due to the warm temperature, is a slick sheet of ice. I couldn't even walk on the sidewalk without falling down myself. Its supposed to stay frozen tomorrow morning too, which is of course the time the kiddies go walking/riding the bus to school - so it makes sense to put the safety of the kids first.

Posted by: RC | February 12, 2006 9:56 PM


Perhaps you could do some investigating about exactly what the issues are that prompt school districts to close other than the generic "safety."

Is it that they can't manage bus schedules when travel conditions are at all problematic? Is it too difficult to tell far enough in advance whether enough staff will be able to get to the schools to run them? What's really at stake? What do the police and other emergency services think about this issue? Seems like they are always the first to tell people not to drive if they don't have to, presumably so that road cleaning can take place, so accidents will be avoided, and so that emergency vehicles and responders will be free to deal with emergencies that couldn't be avoided.

I certainly agree that cancelling things due to light rain is absurd, but the snow did come . . . lots of it in some places and not too long after it was forecast. Given that forecasters can't yet be more accurate than they are, can we blame officials concerned with public safety for being extra cautious?

Posted by: NJN | February 12, 2006 10:04 PM

I know it's too late, but I might as well join the Hoya in praying:

All schools closed, with the exception of DC's 2 hour delay, which will cause 15 minutes of tomorrow's morning newscasts to be devoted to frustrated parents saying the roads are too dangerous for anyone to be going to school (which they're usually right).

As for the higher education students who are praying right now: Nova and Marymount will close. GWU will not have morning classes and may cancel their evening ones as the roads get nastier. My school (GMU) will open on time, despite the fact that they still have not sanded/salted the parking lots and are not planning on it; and that our school is 60% off campus students. Yay Mason!

Posted by: Mason Patriot | February 12, 2006 11:27 PM

Something I've heard in the past is that just digging out all of the schoolbuses after a storm like this can be time-consuming? Also getting all the school parking lots cleared for buses to arrive and staff to have a place to park?

I thought they also factored in "walking safety" - the condition of the sidewalks/pathways for kids who walk to school (up to a mile in Howard County for kids in K-8, more for grades 9-12).

And in this day and age, is it more "safety" concerns or "liability" concerns?

Posted by: snowy_in_columbia | February 12, 2006 11:43 PM

Fairfax County Public Schools details out how they make the decision to close, delay, etc:

If you read it, I think you get a better understanding of everything that must be considered.

Posted by: RC | February 13, 2006 11:18 AM

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