Washington area spared from major snowfall
By Michael E. Ruane,
For the second time in three weeks, the Washington region has been spared the brunt of a massive snowstorm, though a cold mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain was forecast to fall over the area by Wednesday morning.
The winter brew of two storms combining off the coast Tuesday happened just to our north, experts said, saving the District and its suburbs from the big snowfall that is expected to dump on Philadelphia, New York and Boston on Wednesday.
Those regions could get seven to 17 inches of snow as the twin systems unite off Delmarva and roll up the coast.
Here, after the mix of precipitation overnight, meteorologists expect no more than an inch or two of accumulated snow, with more near Baltimore and points north and east.
Little ice accumulation is expected, according to the National Weather Service.
But local municipalities went on alert anyway.
Maryland snow crews pre-treated roadways Monday and Tuesday. Salt trucks were staged for action across the region. And many schools closed early Tuesday and canceled after-school and evening activities.
Crews in the District also pre-treated certain streets, and Department of Public Works Director William O. Howland Jr. noted that the expected accumulation might be “enough to plow even.”
The forecast Wednesday is for clouds and sun, and then sunny and cold conditions are expected the rest of the week.
It could have been far worse.
Experts said there was, as in past winters, a storm system cooking in the Atlantic off North Carolina’s Outer Banks Tuesday and heading up the coast.
But it turned out to be relatively weak and not a typical, potent winter coastal storm, said Kevin Witt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington field office.
Another more powerful system was galloping east from the Ohio River valley, headed for a rendezvous with the southern storm.
Light snow began falling on and off in the Washington area about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, the result of the passing southern system. The storm from the west was forecast to bring somewhat more snow in the afternoon and overnight.
The two were forecast to join and “explode” off the coast, Witt said, and then head north. Philadelphia was expecting three to seven inches; New York City, six to 12; and Providence and Boston up to 17 inches.
In late December, the Washington region escaped the post-Christmas blizzard that slammed Philadelphia, brought New York “thunder snow” and dumped 19 inches on Atlantic City.
Jason Samenow, of Washingtonpost.com’s Capital Weather Gang, said we might just be lucky, or the so-called La Nina phenomenon might be playing a role in sparing us big snow this season.
La Nina, which is the periodic cooling of water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, can move winter storm tracks slightly to the north, Samenow said. Witt added that La Nina can contribute to slightly warmer winters, and bring more sleet and rain than snow.
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Tuesday that it was approving an additional $2.5 million in federal funds to reimburse the District and Metro for cleanup in the wake of last February’s “snowmageddon” storm. FEMA said more than $11.1 million had previously been approved for the cleanup.