RETURN TO WINTER: Snow arriving Thursday after record highs set across region

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Fox 5 Quick 5 Key Points

1) Rain will transition to snow from northwest to southeast overnight tonight through the morning rush hour tomorrow.

2) Due to recent record warm, ground will initially melt snow on contact. However, there is the potential for heavy snow which will pile up faster than the ground can melt it, especially north and west of DC.

3) The majority of weather models do have moderate to heavy snow falling during the early morning commute, which could reduce visibility and lead to traffic issues.

4) School delays and even a few closings will be possible, with counties north & west of the DC metro at the greatest risk for these.

5) Most weather models have snow ending between 8-10am Thursday.

It is hard to believe that we are talking about snow given what occurred in the D.C. region on Tuesday. Temperatures soared into the 70s and record highs were reported at all three of the region's major airports. Temperatures Wednesday afternoon are once again expected to extend well into the 60s. Monday morning was the last time there were widespread below normal temperatures around the region. This is important, because these past few days have all served to warm ground temperatures significantly. (WATCH THE VIDEO FORECAST HERE)

Rain is expected to push into the mountains to the west around midnight, with rain reaching the D.C. metro between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. The rain could be heavy at times, and will likely wash away any roadway pretreatment that occurs this afternoon. As the storm strengthens, it will start pulling in more cold air from the north and west leading to a changeover from rain to snow to occur from northwest to southeast during the overnight hours up through sunrise Thursday. Initially, the warm ground temperatures are expected to do some initial melting as the snow begins to fall. However, many of our weather models show the potential for heavy bands of snow to develop where the rate of accumulation may exceed the rate of melting. This is particularly a threat north and west of town but cannot be ruled out locally around D.C. during the AM commute. Our biggest concern for the immediate D.C. region is the threat for these heavy bands to reduce visibilities during the morning commute, more so than how much snow we are anticipating.

Speaking of snowfall amounts, this is likely to be the best storm of the season so far for portions of northern Maryland and the West Virginia panhandle. The National Weather Service has already issued winter storm watches for many of these locations, which are locations where they believe the threat for more than 5 inches of snow exists. It is in these locations the greatest threat for snow sticking to the roadways as well, as these locations are expected to see a longer duration snow event than the big metropolitan areas. D.C. and Baltimore areas are generally looking at anywhere from a dusting to 2 inches of snow. Most of this will be on the grass, but if snow falls heavily enough a slushy coating on the roads cannot be ruled out. Southern Maryland, this is not the storm for you. Most see flakes but very little, if any, sticks around. Given these totals, the best shot at school delays and closing will obviously be north and west of town. Given the fact models currently have snow falling during the morning commute however, we cannot rule out some closer to the big cities either. While not impossible, they are less likely for Southern Maryland this time around.

So you have our forecast, but how could things change? What could go wrong? Well, weather models could be overestimating how quickly cold air gets into the region, meaning a slower southward progression of the rain / snow line, meaning even less snow for those around the immediate DC metro region. I've have personally seen this happen with several similar storms in the past when we have a storm following a warm stretch of days, and would not at all be shocked if weather models are rushing that change to all snow along the Interstate 95 corridor. On the other end of things, if a heavy band of snow is able to set up along the I-95 corridor and hold for a couple of hours 1 inche to 3 inches of snow would not at all be out of the question. I believe this is a less likely scenario, but it is not something that is totally off the board.

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