WASHINGTON - Here we go again! Another winter storm system will come just close enough to our area to cause some chaos just in time for your Thursday morning commute. The coastal storm system has already brought ice, sleet, and snow to portions of southern Louisiana, the Florida Panhandle and the Carolinas Wednesday as much of the country remains under the grip of a powerful Arctic air mass.
The storm became more organized on Wednesday afternoon and evening, beginning a process of rapid intensification known as “bombogenesis,” giving way to the name “bomb storm” or “snow hurricane.” The outer edges of this storm began impacting the far eastern parts of our region and the Eastern Shore at around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and is slowly expanding westward during the overnight hours.
The National Weather Service issued Winter Weather Advisories for the District and surrounding areas, with those kicking into effect beginning at 10 p.m. on Wednesday. Watches were upgraded to Winter Storm Warnings and Blizzard Warnings on the Eastern Shore, where the potential for isolated amounts exceeding 10 inches of snow is possible. Locally, the biggest question remains how far west will the snow advance? Overnight models were more aggressive with getting at least steady, light snow to the I-95 corridor during the pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning. The District’s position so far away from the center of the storm is what is making the forecast so tricky. If the storm is able to hug the eastern coastline a little closer or intensify more rapidly, then totals could come up locally. This is a forecast that is sensitive enough that totals will likely need to be adjusted as we head into the evening hours on Wednesday as more data comes in.
Whether or not we get a dusting or 5 inches of snow locally, the chief concern of all this is the timing of the storm. At this time, the latest models generally have light snow beginning in the metro area of the District between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. with snow lasting through the morning rush. While downtown temperatures stayed in the teens Wednesday morning, temperatures in the suburbs hit single digit lows. The vast majority of the region has not seen above freezing temperatures since the day after Christmas. Ground temperatures are exceptionally cold.
Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s on Thursday as snow moves into the region. All of this means all the chemicals that they will place on area roadways will not be nearly as effective as they are when temperatures are closer to the freezing point. Travel conditions can go downhill fast, especially east of town where snow may fall periodically at a moderate to heavy rate. Local school districts may choose to delay tomorrow to assess morning road conditions, with the greatest risks for closing being in counties southeast of Washington where the highest snowfall totals are anticipated.
The threat for snow is only the one part of our late-week weather troubles. As the powerful storm pushes north and brings blizzard conditions to northern portions of coastal New England, it will also tap into a brutally cold air mass currently in place over eastern Canada. This Arctic air will rotate around the back edge of the storm, spilling into our region Thursday night into Friday. Gusty winds combined with lower teens and single digit lows Friday morning mean dangerous, subzero wind chills will be possible across the vast majority of the region. Similar to both Tuesday and Wednesday, school systems across the region may choose to delay for a couple of hours and allow temperatures to moderate a bit. FOX 5 will, of course, keep you posted with all delays and closings, and a full list can always be found here. Winds will start to subside Friday afternoon, but the cold will stick around through the weekend, with many looking at single digit lows both Saturday and Sunday morning. The good news - there are some signs of a little warm-up coming our way early next work week!
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