Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Well, that was certainly exciting. We actually saw some of that white stuff in the Washington area this morning, you know, what do you call it? Oh, yeah, I think it's coming back to me now: snow. In the snow-starved Washington region, what was nearly a meteorological non-event created a bit of a buzz among the snow fans. If you were stuck in one of the backups reported on radio and TV along I-270, the Beltway, I-66, or the Dulles Toll Road, you have my profound sympathy. Please don't blame the weather for the effects of your fellow rudely aggressive drivers, however. They can turn even the sunniest Monday holiday into a commuting disaster.

American Legion Bridge on President's Day, photo from TrafficLand via WTOP

Arriving a few hours ahead of schedule from yesterday's PM Update forecast, a weak disturbance racing eastward to the south of the area left mostly under an inch of slushy snow on some grassy and elevated surfaces in the metro area. Light rain which began at Washington National at 6:17 became mixed with snow by 9:15 and changed to light snow for about an hour before ending at 10:45. Total precipitation: a tad under ¼". A similar amount was reported at Dulles, where the precipitation was all snow, occasionally moderate, after a few minutes of rain at the beginning. By early afternoon, some drizzle and fog was being reported around the area.

Now you see it, now you don't: Regional radar to the right from The Weather Channel shows snow falling in most of the metro DC area at 9:38 this morning. An hour and a half later, it's all rain, some moderate, on the Eastern Shore back across the Bay to the Northern Neck.

As for the forecasts, you can scroll on down and make your own judgment. Personally, I think we did pretty well, along with the TV forecasters I saw last night (Sue Palka on 5 and Topper Shutt on 9) and the National Weather Service. (FWIW, the Weather Channel Local on the 8s was still predicting a 40% chance of snow at noon today in Montgomery County.) Take my word for it, boys and girls, I've seen enough decades (yes, that goes back close to half a century) of busted DC snow days to have not gone out on any more of a limb than I did 24 hours ago. The vast majority of these weak systems fall apart crossing the mountains or move just a little too far north or south to be of any consequence to our area.

In fact, I'm very impressed that the current generation of high-resolution numerical models was able to pick up anything at all with this system. If you looked at the surface weather map about 18 hours before the event, I don't think you would have seen any signs of precipitation to occur here. To see the entire sequence of maps at 6-hour intervals through this afternoon, click here, here, here, and here.

Another wave moving along that pesky front hanging around the Carolinas could bring us a similar event tomorrow, but as of now the indications are that any precipitation will stay mainly to the south of us. Once again, temperatures will be marginal, but cloud cover overnight will keep readings above freezing in most places.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Areas of fog and drizzle will persist through this evening. Tonight will remain cloudy with lows in the low and mid 30s. Tomorrow there is a slight chance of light rain or mixed rain and snow in the morning. Clouds will decrease in the afternoon with highs around 49.

High-Def Open Mike

Overheard this morning when the studio audio was inadvertently left on during Local on the 8s on The Weather Channel was Kristina telling Kevin, "'CNN buys new line of high-def makeup.' . . . I'm really not looking forward to that day."

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