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Posted at 01:50 PM ET, 10/31/2011

“I never eat October snowflakes. I always wait until January.”

Taste-testing October snowflakes near Fairfax, Virginia, October 29, 2011. October snowflakes are exceptionally rare in the Washington area and were last available for tasting on October 10, 1979. Photo: Kevin Ambrose
If you grew up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” you will easily recognize the title of this post is based on Lucy Van Pelt’s quote about eating December snowflakes. Lucy preferred January snowflakes.

I (Kevin Ambrose) bet Lucy never tasted an October snowflake. The October snowflakes that flew fast-and-furious across the Washington area late Saturday afternoon were plump, juicy, and partially melted by the time they reached the tongue. I found they were much better tasting than any crunchy, hard-frozen January snowflake.

The snow that fell in the immediate Washington area was conversational, good for tasting, but not disruptive. Areas to the north and west of Washington, however, had significant accumulations and wide-spread power outages. Areas to the south and east of Washington experienced a cold, rainy day.

Continue reading for more local snow photos and a video of the steaming Occoquan River.

The National Cathedral with snow, October 29, 2011. Photo Ian Livingston
In the city, the rain started to mix with sleet and snow around 1:30 p.m, first falling as rain and sleet, then occasionally mixing with some large snowflakes during heavier precipitation. The precipitation type kept going back-and-forth for a while, depending upon intensity. By about 2:15-2:30 p.m., the precipitation had flipped to all snow and for the next hour or so it was light to moderate. Between 3:30-4:00 p.m., a snow band formed out ahead of the back edge of the system, and from 4:00 p.m. until about 5:00 p.m. the snow was moderate-to-heavy.

A playground with snow in Washington, D.C. Photo: Ian Livingston
The “real deal” as far as snow accumulation started between 4:00-4:15 p.m. I (Ian Livingston) left my place in Cleveland Park to walk about a mile up to the National Cathedral -- trying to get to the highest hill I could find, although, I’m not sure it really mattered since some snow was already accumulating around my place when I left.

There was a 30 minute period in Washington that the snow was able to accumulate; however, it melted almost as fast as it fell. I’d say spots ended up with a patchy 1/4” accumulation. Up at the Cathedral, there was a brief period where most of the grass (except under large trees) was snow-covered.

A snow band across Washington, D.C. about 4:15 p.m. on October 29, 2011. Source:
As soon as heavier snow started to wind down a little before 5:00 p.m, the snow melt was quick. If anyone was inside for that hour they may not have even noticed there was any accumulation, particularly in lower parts of the city. It was very wet either way, after an entire day of rain.

We may have flirted with the freezing mark as Washington National Airport got to 34 degrees during the heavy band but I never noticed any accumulation on streets or sidewalks. For that hour or so, it reminded of December 5, 2009, which featured a whole day of snow here but not a lot of accumulation (1.5-2” in the “hills”) and 0.2” at National Airport.

Minor snow accumulation on cars near the National Cathedral. Photo: Ian Livingston
For D.C., this was 16th time on record that at least a trace has been recorded at the airport. The last time it snowed at least a trace in October was October 10, 1979 when 0.3” fell. At Dulles, it has snowed at least a trace four times in October (though the record is much shorter 1963 vs. 1880s). The 0.6” that fell at Dulles is the second highest daily total for October. On October 10, 1979, 1.3” fell at Dulles.

Slushy snow accumulation on leaves in Oakton, VA. This photo was taken before the last snow band moved through the area. Photo: Kevin Ambrose

Frost crystals on leaves in Oakton, VA during the morning of October 30, 2011. Many locations across the Washington area experienced their first frost, freeze, and snow of the season, occurring within hours of one another. Photo: Kevin Ambrose

The Occoquan River steams during the late morning on October 29, 2011. Video: Kevin Ambrose

By and  |  01:50 PM ET, 10/31/2011

Categories:  Local Climate, Latest, Photography

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