WASHINGTON - It's a battle of mere miles. The ingredients are coming together for the development of a truly massive storm system off the eastern coastline of the United States over the next 48 hours. If the storm were to take a track closer to the coastline, it would have the potential to rival some of the bigger blizzards our region has seen in terms of potential snowfall. However, models have been pretty consistent with keeping the center of the storm far enough off the coastline that the threats locally are for manageable levels of snow locally. In fact, the debate this morning is whether or not our region will see any snowfall at all as this system passes to our east late on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
EURO Snowfall Through Thursday
Systems like this are extremely difficult to forecast for our area because there will be a sharp cut-off between areas that could see snow, and those that will see nothing at all. The big debate in the weather modeling world over the past several days has been exactly where that cutoff would be. Some models, like the European and North American models, bring light accumulating snows right up to the I-95 corridor with the potential for a couple of inches. While neither is showing a significant amount of snow, both are also showing the threat of snow falling during the morning rush hour. Given the extremely cold ground temperatures courtesy of the Arctic air that has been entrenched over our region since Christmas, any snow that did happen to fall during the rush hour would have the potential to cause travel issues if it comes down at a steady pace. This is the reason we are keeping such a close eye on this system. One thing that is certain is that is snowfall risks do increase as you get east of town. So Southern Maryland, the Northern Neck of Virginia, and the Eastern Shore all have better odds at seeing measurable snow than those that live west of town. At this time, even the most aggressive snow models in Washington, D.C. do not give much snow at all to areas like Frederick, Hagerstown, or the I-81 corridor.
NAM Snowfall Through Thursday
One of the reasons details on exactly what we can expect are so sketchy even just a couple days out is that weather all weather models are even on board with getting snow far enough west to even effect the I-95 region. The most recent run of the American (GFS) model showed very little snow even in southern Maryland, and significantly less snow on the eastern shore vs other models. The main difference between all the various weather models is how close they get the center of the storm to the coastline. The closer the storm, the more snow our area will have the chance of seeing. If models happen to shift a little farther west with the storm in subsequent runs, then the chance of measurable snow for our region goes up as well.
GFS Snowfall Through Thursday
While models do fight locally, they did seem to agree a bit that those on the Eastern Shore of the Delmarva will have the best chance of seeing "shovelable snow." As a result, the National Weather Service issued winter storm watches for this region for Wednesday Night through early Thursday afternoon, citing the possibility for 4 inches of snow or more in some locations. As models come into better agreement, advisories and watches may be extended closer to our eastern suburbs later tonight or tomorrow. A lot can change with a storm like this one in a 24-hour period, so many are playing a waiting game to see what weather models later this afternoon and overnight bring us before making any final calls. We are certainly dancing along the razors edge on this one, and many questions remain.
Winter Storm Watch
While some kids will undoubtedly be disappointed with the potential near miss in terms of getting them out of school on Thursday, there may be the chance of more widespread delays on Friday. But not because of any snow! In fact, the one guarantee that we do have with this massive storm system is what it will do to temperatures in our region. As the storm heads northward, it is forecasted to rapidly strengthen, known as "bombogenesis", potentially bringing near blizzard conditions to northern portions of New England including Boston. The wind field around the storm will rapidly expand as well. This will disturb an area of extremely cold air in eastern Canada, sending it diving southward at the end of the week.
By Friday morning, single digit air temperatures are expected in many suburbs. Coupled with blustery 20-30mph winds with occasional gusts near 40mph, wind chill values are expected to plummet to levels not recently seen in recent years. Wind chill values locally are expected to be some 10 to 20 degrees below zero at times across most of our region Friday morning. As local schools have been known to delay for extreme cold, parents should be aware that this is a possibility on Friday morning. Temperatures Friday afternoon for most of the region will likely stay in the teens, with possibly the first single digit low since 2015 on the way for downtown Washington, D.C. for Saturday morning. There may be a light at the end of the tunnel however, as temperatures are forecast to finally return to the 40s heading into the next workweek - which will likely feel warm compared to where we have been!
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