Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Snow? You Call This Snow?


Clear, cold. Well, that was as exciting as the real thing: 1-2" of very fluffy powder (egged on by 463 exuberant comments from visitors) from a fast-moving "clipper system" across the Washington metro region last night has been followed by sunny, breezy, and cold conditions this afternoon and a rapidly disappearing "snow pack". Highs have been generally in the upper 20s: 29° at National, 28° at Dulles, 27° at BWI, for another double-digit negative departure from average. Josh will undoubtedly have more to say on this later, but the cold temperatures are likely to continue well into next week, with some early indications of a more substantial (perhaps even "superstantial") winter event early in the week. (NWS, going out on a bit of a limb at the 6-day range, is calling for 50% chance on Tuesday in their latest update.)

Tonight and Tomorrow

Clear, cold. Winds will diminish tonight with clear skies and lows near 15° in the city and 10° in 'burbsylvania. Tomorrow will be sunny, windy, and cold, with highs near freezing.

For the outlook through the rest of the week and the Snow Lover's Crystal Ball, scroll on down to Dan's post below.

Snow Daze

Closing decisions by area school systems are an easy target, and hindsight is always 20/20, but as a long-time taxpayer of the great state of Maryland and Montgomery County in particular, PM Update is seriously wondering if someone can explain what happened today. (Yes, teachers, we feel your pain. The young Update ran off to sea rather than spend more than 1 semester trying to indoctrinate some of the parents of today's little darlings in the intricacies of non-base-10 number systems.)

Card-carrying members as we are of the reality-based community, we took the PM Update mobile unit out to gather some real-time data on the situation. Traveling the bone-dry pavements of North Bethesda and Kensington, we were surprised to observe some conditions that some of you more sheltered city-dwellers might not easily apprehend. At the major intersections, there was considerable danger of skidding . . . from the massive quantities of sand on the roadway. Another hazard which might not be intuitively obvious to the non-professional was the sand trucks themselves hurtling across the double yellow line as they raced back to the garage at the end of their grueling 3 or 4 hour shifts. Finally, not to be overlooked is the subtle snow-day menace posed by the SUVs full of high school students careening down Rockville Pike to meet their friends to hang out at White Flint Mall.

It's not as if the scope of this "storm" was incorrectly forecast, either here or by any other outlet I observed. In comments to the previous post, I noted that the water equivalent of this powder ranged up to a high of 0.07" at Dulles. Assuming that the snow depth was a full 2" (probably rounded up; I had to really stretch to find as much as 7/8" even on the north side at Update Central in MoCo), that means almost 97% of the stuff was air, which is exactly what most of it turned into by lunch time, especially on those 50% of all ground surfaces which face south. If there was any question at all about conditions, and it's extremely hard to believe there was one, why wouldn't a 2-hour delay have been sufficient?

Pictured: Class, this is what real snow looks like, observed last weekend by's Matt and Ian, along with a group of DC-area snow-starved lake-effect storm chasers at Pulaski, NY. Some of the "chase team" appeared with Mike Seidel on the Weather Channel Monday night. Some video by Randy Legette of is on YouTube.

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Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

Latest 3-month temperature outlook from Climate Prediction Center/NWS/NOAA.