Snowstorm expected to hit region on busy travel day

After two recent snowstorms closed the federal government and schools across the region, people began digging out. The season's snow tally in D.C. reached 55.6 inches Wednesday -- more than the last record of 54.4 inches, set in 1898-99.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 26, 2010; 12:46 AM

A snowstorm was expected to hit the Washington area and other parts of the East Coast on Sunday morning and continue for much of the day, just as many holiday travelers head home.

The areas of greatest impact were expected to be north and east of the District.

For a time on Saturday forecasts had predicted as much as four to six inches in the District and close-in Virginia. But late Saturday and early Sunday, forecasters reported indications that the snowfall might be smaller.

Two private forecasting services predicted that the amounts in the District might be about one to three inches, in one case, and two to four inches in the other.

This would still be substantially more than the light snow that began in the District Christmas morning and fell into early afternoon.

But late Saturday after the predictions of as much as six inches in the District, the Baltimore/Washington forecast office of the National Weather Service reported the view that this might be too large.

In a posted discussion of their thinking, weather service forecasters described an increasing sense that the Sunday accumulations would be "less than currently" forecasted.

The forecasters upgraded a winter storm watch to a winter storm warning late Saturday after monitoring the paths of two weather systems - one from the north, another from the south - that they expected to merge.

Depending on where the two systems come together, the resulting storm has the potential to bring the first serious snow accumulation of the season to the Washington region, or just a glancing blow, said Wes Junker of The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.

"Very minor changes in the conditions can give you a storm that tracks right up the coast or one that develops further out," he said.

Junker said the combination of the two systems, including one that dumped more than nine inches of snow on Iowa on Friday, had the potential to develop into a blizzard, especially in the Northeast.

The Sunday after Christmas was expected to be a busy travel day. Airport officials said travelers should check early with their airlines.

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