The first snowstorm the D.C. area has seen since November looks ready to begin Saturday in the early afternoon. Here’s what you need to know.
WASHINGTON — All signs are pointing to a snowy weekend in the D.C. area, courtesy of a storm system moving in from the west on Saturday afternoon.
Confidence is growing that the D.C. metropolitan area could see anywhere between 3 and 7 inches of snow before all is said and done late Sunday morning. Totals will vary depending on location, and areas from D.C. south into Virginia are the most likely to see higher amounts.
Several school systems in the area have canceled Saturday activities. For a complete list of closures, visit WTOP’s Closings and Delays page.
Snow is forecast to start between 1 and 3 p.m. for areas west of D.C., and reach the city itself between 3 and 5 p.m. The heaviest snow is looking to arrive overnight through Sunday morning. Snow falling at a steady clip, paired with temperatures in the low 30s, is sure to make for hazardous driving conditions, especially this evening.
The potential for significant snowfall led the National Weather Service to expand its Winter Storm Warning into D.C. and portions of southern Maryland on Saturday morning.
Watches and warnings:
The following counties in the WTOP listening areas are under a Winter Storm Warning starting at 10 a.m.:
In Maryland: Southern Montgomery, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties until 1 p.m. Sunday.
In Virginia: Arlington, Alexandria City, Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Falls Church City, Manassas City, Manassas Park City, Prince William and Stafford counties until 1 p.m. Sunday.
A Winter Storm Warning means severe winter weather conditions will make travel very hazardous or impossible. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.
“Still looking at a most likely of 2-5 inches across northern Maryland, the eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and the Baltimore Metropolitan areas, with 4-7 inches elsewhere,” the NWS said in its Saturday morning forecast discussion. “Do want to point out that there is still uncertainty regarding the placement and location of any banding precipitation and also with the track of the low. Any slight change in either direction will have an impact on snowfall totals.”
Areas further north in Maryland, including Baltimore, were under a Winter Weather Advisory. Barring a last minute shift in forecast, those areas could still see up to 4 inches of snow but dodge the worst this storm has to offer.
A swath of moisture will be picked up from the Gulf of Mexico by the storm, transporting it toward the area and interacting with cold, initially dry air already in place. The storm’s center will head through the Southeast states, eventually moving to the coast of the Carolinas and strengthening as it heads out to sea.
It does not look like it is going to be a classic Nor’easter heading up the eastern seaboard. This will put the area on the northern fringe of the precipitation shield, where it will stay cold enough for all snow. The ground will be cold enough for most of the snow that falls to stick, though likely not right away.
Light accumulations probably won’t start until closer to evening. But the accumulation will continue overnight into Sunday. The height of the storm in terms of when most accumulation will occur and add up the fastest looks like it will be Sunday midmorning into Sunday early afternoon.
Snow chances still up and potential snow fall amounts also up! Light #Snow expected to start this afternoon. First inch on the ground around sunset and generally 3-6” by Sunday morning. Additional snow showers continue through Sunday will lead to these expected totals. pic.twitter.com/SCHnttKkdv
— Chuck Bell (@ChuckBell4) January 12, 2019
Snow intensity will rapidly wind down Sunday evening, with only snow showers or flurries lingering into Monday morning (and plenty of icy spots).
There will be some bands of heavier snowfall close to the wintry mix/rain line somewhere in central Virginia. A secondary wave of snow could occur, giving the Interstate 64 corridor ultimately higher accumulations.
The dry air may keep most of northern Maryland up to the Pennsylvania line on the low end of the potential range.
Again, areas south of Interstate 66, especially closer to I-64, should be aware of the potential for a little more than that range. Considering how much of the storm will be occurring at night, the fact that it’s occurring during the weekend and that accumulations will be drawn out over a period of time, this would qualify as a low-to-moderate-impact storm.
Traffic and road conditions:
In Maryland, the State Highway Administration pre-treated roads and got equipment ready. They said in a statement Friday that they plan to have bringing completed by Saturday and staging trucks and plows beginning Saturday night.
You can track the Maryland snow preparations on the Statewide Transportation Operations Resources Map (STORM) app.
The highway agency said that if more than 6 inches of snowfall, they’ll make certain park-and-rides available for truckers to ride it out. They have a list of locations online.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has been pre-treating roads since Thursday, especially in the Fredericksburg area.
Roads will likely become slippery Saturday night, and drivers should be careful and increase their following distance, NBC Washington meteorologist Steve Prinzivalli said.
Total accumulations will range from three to six inches with as much as eight inches possible in the southwestern suburbs toward Front Royal and south of I-66. Expect lighter amounts north of D.C. toward Baltimore where two to four inches are possible.
Saturday: Cloudy, with snow moving in during the afternoon hours and continuing overnight. Highs in the low- to mid-30s.
Sunday: Light to moderate snow in the morning, with 3 to 5 inches of accumulation. Slightly higher amounts in central Virginia are possible with more snow Sunday afternoon and evening in central Virginia.
Monday: Morning flurries possible. Some sun in the afternoon. Highs in the low to mid-30s.
© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.