The sudden, tragic demise of a Washington-area snowman (PHOTOS)

December 23, 2013

The snowman melted incredibly fast. With a high temperature of 72 degrees on December 21, he didn’t stand a chance. (Kevin Ambrose)

He went from standing tall to a small, slushy snowball in less than 24 hours.  I’ve never seen that happen before.

We all knew he didn’t have a chance.  This is Washington, a city where Reagan National Airport cannot break 2 inches of snow for a single snowstorm and the ever-growing urban heat island effect reigns supreme.  It’s truly a harsh environment for an early-season snowman.

But we never knew he’d be taken so quickly, almost overnight, by an air mass that would make Floridians sweat.  And our snowman melted just three days before Christmas.  It’s so sad.  The story brings a tear to every snow lover’s eye.

The birth of a snowman during the afternoon of December 10, 2013. The high temperature was 40 degrees in Washington and the upper 30s in the suburbs which made for perfect snowman making weather.  (Kevin Ambrose) The birth of a snowman during the afternoon of December 10, 2013. The high temperature was 40 degrees in Washington and the upper 30s in the suburbs which made for perfect snowman making weather.  (Kevin Ambrose)

Maybe he would have fared better in Minneapolis?  I know he would have done better in Duluth.  But not here in Washington, a town filled with hot air and an arguably invisible snow shield that has setup after our record-setting winter of 2009-10.

How many snow holes have you read about on this blog during the past few winters?  The answer is plenty.  It’s kind of scary how little snow and cold weather we’ve received recently.

So where do we start with this tale of woe?  Let’s go back to that magical day on December 10 when snow filled the air and the hills around Washington were transformed into a winter wonderland.  On that snowy day, a 72 degree temperature on December 21 seemed unfathomable.  We had temporarily reverted back to an old-fashioned winter.

Making the snowman on that day was a family effort and it only took 45 minutes.  The snow cover was dense and wet and the snowballs were easily rolled into large snowman body parts.

We focused on good snowman posture.  That’s very important when building a snowman.  A snowman must have good posture otherwise any lean or curve in the body will quickly amplify and take him to the ground when the snow begins to melts.  Our snowman stood perfectly straight — tall and proud.

The snowman is slightly slimmer on December 12.  High temperatures in the 30s and low 40s helped to give him a more shapely figure. (Kevin Ambrose) The snowman is slightly slimmer on December 12.  High temperatures in the 30s and low 40s helped to give him a more shapely figure. (Kevin Ambrose)

During the first five days after snowman creation there was only slow melting.  The high temperatures stayed in the low-to-mid 40s.  The snowman slimmed slightly but he still looked good.  He was kind of chubby from the beginning so losing a few pounds worked well for him.

On December 15 the temperature temporarily spiked to 51 degrees and our snowman quickly lost his nose and eyes, but otherwise he stood tall.  A snowman is fine without a nose and eyes.  That’s always the first thing to go anyway.


The snowman loses a tremendous amount of weight on December 19 as the temperature reaches 60 degrees. (Kevin Ambrose)

Then the terrible tropical air mass arrived which dashed all Christmas spirit.  On December 19 and 20, the temperature in Washington reached 60 degrees with high humidity.  By December 21, the temperature soared to 72 degrees for a record high!  And it was humid!  It felt like late spring or early summer in Washington.


The snowman melted very quickly during the evening of December 20 when the temperature hovered near 60 degrees with high humidity. (Kevin Ambrose)

The snowman didn’t have a chance.  We could actually watch him melt away, just like in the Frosty the Snowman cartoon when Frosty gets stuck in the greenhouse.  I promise, I didn’t cry like the little girl in the cartoon, but I was not pleased with the weather.  It was December 21, not May 21.

I gathered the kids, and we scraped the last of the snowman into a snowball.  We placed the snowball into a ziplock bag and we put it into the freezer.  Do you remember doing that when you were a kid?  It’s still fun.


A slushy snowball is all that remains of the snowman as the temperature soars to 72 degrees in Washington, December 21, 2013.  Check out the little smiley face of dirt on the snowball.  I didn’t notice it until after I took the photo.  (Kevin Ambrose)

Perhaps we’ll use the snowball to make a new snowman next month, if and when our weather reverts back to winter and we experience more snow.  Until then, let’s hope our Washington snow shield relocates back to the south and we can get a good snowstorm or two this season.  We’re really overdue.


The remains of the snowman is carefully preserved in the freezer.  This snowball will be used to make the next snowman if it ever snows again in this town. (Kevin Ambrose)
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