WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Believe it or not, Tucker Barnes and I walked out of work on Friday concerned that our two to four inch totals were too high. Looking at all of the weather model output and National Weather Service data, one to three inches seemed like a much more appropriate range.
Boy did that ever start to change on Friday afternoon! The various weather models came in showing more snow – plus, Caitlin Roth and Gwen Tolbart gave totals a bump. By Saturday morning, another round of even snowier weather model guidance chased down our totals. We settled on six to 10-inches of snow around the immediate Washington, D.C. region before things kicked off on Saturday night -- and even that was too low in some spots!
What we knew from the beginning was that this would be a two-part storm system. The first being the lighter overrunning on Saturday evening and the second a coastal system on Sunday. We cautioned that with the cold ground temperatures, even the medium scale event this was expected to be would lead to big travel issues. By Saturday morning it was becoming more and more clear that our medium scale event was getting bigger!
Of the two-part system, the first wave preformed largely as expected. Timing was right coming in on Saturday evening, with most spots getting between two to four inches of snow. Officially, Reagan National got about 1.9 inches though the midnight hour, in line with our thinking as of Saturday morning. The surprise came on Sunday afternoon. Many people woke up Sunday morning excited for the snow on the ground, but with little snow falling. I received a number of tweets in the morning asking where the snow was. Many people (myself included) took the opportunity to dig themselves out from the overnight snowfall. This was the expected lull between the initial storm system in the interior weakening and the coastal storm system developing.
By Sunday afternoon as the storm system gathered strength, bands of heavy snow began developing across central Virginia and pushing northward. This was anticipated, but the expectations were that these bands would primarily concentrate on areas east of the Interstate 95 corridor. To the surprise of many a forecaster in our region, the area they began to focus on was along and just to the northwest of the Interstate 95 corridor -- dumping another three to six inches -- and in some spots, a little more well into the evening hours. It was that second system that really came in stronger than expected, and surprised a lot of totals to the upside. This past weekend’s snowfall was the biggest since the great blizzard of late January 2016, and D.C. snow lovers were thrilled to see the infamous “D.C. Snow Hole” curse come to an end.
One thing we do need to be on the lookout for tonight is a likely refreeze. Temperatures are expected to make it a little above freezing this afternoon and the added sunshine will help to do some melting. This evening, skies should remain mostly clear – and with winds remaining light, temperatures will fall back into the 20s, and in a few spots even the teens, during the overnight hours. This could lead to some slippery spots for your Tuesday morning commute, particularly on the poorly treated side roads and those neighborhood sidewalks. Of course schools could be impacted on Tuesday as well.
Washington, D.C. has now picked up just under a foot of snow, 11.6 inches to be exact, through the winter so far. With all of this coming before the midpoint of metrological winter, the District is now off to its snowiest start to winter since the extreme winter of 2009-2010, which is when Reagan National ended up with over 56 inches of snow on the year. Just like we hinted at in our winter outlook back in October, the latter half of winter was when things would really ramp up in the cold and snow department. The majority of our weather model guidance now indicated that will indeed be the case. In fact, our next chances for some winter weather may indeed come before this very week is out.
We are dry through the middle of the week with temperatures getting a little warmer each afternoon with some sunshine. By Thursday though, clouds start to roll into the region, and a weak piece of atmospheric energy will cross the center of the country, forming a wave of low pressure as it draws some Gulf and Atlantic moisture northward. Unlike the weekend storm which came in two phases, this will be a single phase event. A single wave of low pressure crossing our region from the southwest and traveling to the northeast.
The key to what type of precipitation this system could bring us is how much cold air remains in place. Currently, we do have snow pack on the ground, which suggests afternoon temperatures may come in on the lower side of weather model expectations for a few days. In addition, models are showing some signals for a potential cold wedge, where cold air gets trapped at the surface due to the mountains and an easterly wind. If enough cold air gets trapped, and the bulk of the moisture with this system comes through during the overnight hours, some around our region may have to contend with some light wintry precipitation. Perhaps some snow closer to the Mason-Dixon, and more sleet and freezing rain for the Interstate 81 corridor. The Interstate 95 corridor is a question mark at this time, although most models suggested some light rain showers were the primary risk.
Before the snow even started falling on Saturday, I already had a plethora of tweets from viewers asking me about the storm this upcoming weekend. Well, here is what we can say at this time. A very strong piece of upper level energy is expected to hit the California coastline sometime on Thursday. There is going to be a storm -- we have little doubt about that -- and it will be a very sizable and strong storm too. However, as is typical at this range, the million-dollar question is will it be a rain storm, a snow storm, or some combination of both?
Right now I’m leaning towards the last option. Unlike this past weekend, there are a few features missing in the atmosphere to really lock the cold air in place as the storm turns northward. As of Monday morning, a great deal of model guidance is trying to pull the storm up to our west. That is a track that could lead to the system starting as some snow or mix here on Saturday night, but transitioning over to rain as the storm passes to our west and upwells more warmth out ahead of it. Only the American model this morning showed the potential for a snowier solution. If it does happen to be all snow, then yes, it could be a very big one. However, we are not to the point yet where we are confident in what it will be. We should know much more on the potential this very strong system holds by the time we get to the middle of the week.
Whether it is rain or snow this weekend, the storm does look like it will be a big wind-maker for much of the northeastern third of the country. As it travels northward, it is going to displace some very cold air which has been stuck over Canada for much of the first half of the month. That would make the first half of the workweek next week awfully frigid, with potentially some of the coldest air we have seen around our region this winter.
In the extended range, we do believe we will have the potential for more snow as we roll through the coming second half of the month. Midrange weather model guidance is now very consistent in showing a much colder end to the month than what we began with. At the same time, models suggest that an active Eastern storm track remains. This does not mean that every storm will bring us snow of course, but it does mean that we believe the snow we received this past weekend will not be the last we see this month.
We will continue to keep you updated on the forecast as we roll through what could be a very busy second half of winter!
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