Astonishing snow totals this winter in upper Montgomery County: nearly 70 inches


Map showing Damascus (upper left) and Washington, D.C. (Google)

Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Washington and the attendant hot air,  this winter’s snow totals have skyrocketed to near-record levels. Robert Leffler, a retired National Weather Service climatologist who mans a volunteer weather station in Damascus, Maryland, has logged an incredible 67.9 inches, third most in records he’s maintained since the winter of 1971-1972.

This amount is more than double the snow measured at Reagan National Airport this winter, 30.3 inches –  a mere 35-40 miles away.  The 30.3 inches at Reagan National ranks as 6th most since 1971-1972. Damascus’ 2013-2014 snow bounty also easily trumps D.C.’s snowiest season (in records dating back to 1888): the 56.1 inches during the Snowmageddon winter of 2009-2010.

The 67.9 inches also bests totals in more northern cities including Philadelphia (67.6″, second most on record), New York City (57.4″, seventh most on record), and Boston (58.6″).

Damascus sits along the highest point in the central Maryland Piedmont – a long interfluve called Parr’s Ridge, which runs from the Potomac River to the Mason-Dixon line.  Perched above  800 feet in elevation and largely immune from the influence of D.C.’s urban heat island effect – the climate is significantly colder and snowier than the District and most of its close-in suburbs.  Its snowfall averaged over the last 42 winters is 29 inches compared to Reagan National’s 15 inches (during the same span).

On December 25, 2012, awaking to bare ground in upper northwest D.C. and in search of a white Christmas, I recall making the 45 minute drive to Damascus to find two inches of fresh snow on the ground. In winter weather events in which snow doesn’t accumulate close to town or changes to rain, the snow often lays and stays in upper Montgomery County.

This winter has been a snow bonanza in Damascus.  It’s received measurable snow monthly since November, with totals of 9.4 inches, 14.3 inches, 28.3 inches, and 15.8 inches spanning December through March.

Interestingly, Damascus’ seasonal snowfall exhibits an increasing trend over the last 42 years, counter to Reagan National Airport’s which is flat or slightly decreasing since the 1970s (and decidedly decreasing since the 1940s, and even more so when incorporating data back to the late 1800s, from the District).


Damascus, Maryland snowfall vs. Reagan National Airport, 1972 to 2014 (Data: Robert Leffler and National Weather Service)

Links: It’s increasingly difficult to get snow in D.C. | Does the “less snow, more blizzards” global warming theory hold up in Washington, D.C.?

Bottom line: If you’re a snow lover in the region, consider relocating to colder climes of upper Montgomery County, where snow is prosperous now and there are no signs of any climate change-induced decline.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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