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Monday, March 2, Noon ET

Storm Blankets Region, Northeast

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Residents of Washington, D.C., woke up Monday morning to heavy snow. Video by Anna Uhls/washingtonpost.com

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Dan Stillman
Lead Meteorologist, Capital Weather Gang
Monday, March 2, 2009; 1:00 PM

A significant winter storm shuttered schools, disrupted train and bus service and left thousands of people without power in the Washington area this morning, as hundreds of plows struggled to clear between three and 12 inches of snow from roads throughout the region.

Forecasters said the storm -- part of a wave of winter weather than hit the southern United States over the weekend and slammed the Northeast overnight and today -- would taper off in the Washington area late this morning.

Dan Stillman, lead meteorologist for the Capital Weather Gang, will be online Monday, March 2, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the largest winter storm in three years and what to expect as the day progresses.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I just wanted to say kudos to you all. I read some of the comments from your posts last night about how this would be a bust, and those posts were getting pretty nasty. But good job responding and keeping us up-to-date.

Dan Stillman: Thanks Silver Spring. There were a lot of nervous snow lovers last night -- and let's be honest, a lot of nervous forecasters. But you can't judge a storm or a forecast until a storm is over. In the end, while parts of the forecast weren't perfect (including the lack of accumulating snow early last evening), things for the most part worked out as originally predicted. That means a lot of happy kids today :)

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Sterling, Va.: Do you think that the snow showers currently coming into the region will bring any accumulation?

(How about for Sterling specifically?)

Dan Stillman: I could see some bare spots (i.e., shoveled sidewalks, cleared side streets)dusting over a bit, especially east of downtown. But I don't think anything too significant.

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Arlington, Va.: What's the prognosis for sidewalks pre-dawn tomorrow and Wednesday? Complete ice slick?

Dan Stillman: Temperatures won't be going above freezing today, so yep, there's going to be some snowy/icy sidewalks in the morning. I'd expect a good number of school delays tomorrow. Capital Weather Gang will do a SchoolCast for tomorrow later on this evening.

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Yellowboy: Did any thunder snow ever make it to the D.C. area last night or this morning?

Dan Stillman: Good question. There were some reports of thunder snow down south near Atlanta. That was associated with a strong piece of energy in the upper atmosphere. That same piece is what eventually made it up here and gave us the snow totals we were all wondering whether we'd end up really getting. But that piece did weaken as it made its way north, making it less likely to produce thunder. That doesn't mean there wasn't any around here. I'm just not aware of any confirmed reports.

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Crofton, Md.: I have been following CWG site for at least four years now and have to say your team provides the most detailed and informative forecast by far! Not to mention that the site is interactive, which makes following these storms fun! As far as this storm goes I give you guys a 8/10 overall. I think the first half of the storm under performed compared to the forecast, but the second waive of moisture saved the day. Keep up the good work!

Dan Stillman: Thanks Crofton. I agree wholeheartedly -- it took a while to get going, but eventually the storm performed much as predicted. Such a scenario is not terribly uncommon for D.C. area storms.

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Washington, D.C: Radar still seems to be showing a large swath of blue over the area, are we to get more today?

Dan Stillman: Another area of light snow has indeed developed across much of the area. As we mention in our latest forecast, some snow showers along with partially clearing skies can be expected through the day. Another dusting or so is certainly possible -- the storm that took its time coming is taking its time leaving!

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Scaredy Cat: How likely are we to again see snow as far south as we have with this storm ? Are weather patterns and climatic zones shifting ?

Dan Stillman: Snow as far south as we saw with this storm -- in spots like Atlanta, for example -- is not an everyday occurrence, but does happen from time to time.

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Arlington, Va.: I just wanted your opinion on the chain of events that lead Mayor Fenty to lift the D.C. Snow Emergency at 9 p.m. last night. Do you feel that was an imprudent move based on only partial returns on the snow storm?

Dan Stillman: I honestly don't know anything about what thought process or forecast sources went into that decision. All I can say is that even as the night went on, we (and many other forecast outlets) still saw the potential for at least a few inches of snow in D.C.

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washingtonpost.com: Fenty and Obama, Colleagues on "Snow" Too (D.C. Wire, March 2)

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Eau Claire, Wisc.: Re: thunder snow...

I don't know about the D.C. area but here in Eau Claire, we had quite a sight the other day. It thundered and lightning and the snow fell so fast and furious, one could not literally see his or her own hand in front of the face! We had 4 inches in that 1 hour thunder snow storm!

BTW...what would you say to those who say that these cold-weather events "prove" global warming is not happening?

Thank you.

Dan Stillman: Cool stuff! There are few things in weather/meteorology as exciting as thunder snow. No single storm is evidence for or against global warming.

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Silver Spring, MD: How does the rest of the winter look? See any more snow or ice for D.C.?

Dan Stillman: In the next week at least, we're looking at a nice warming trend and no apparent wintry threats. As we get deeper and deeper into March, it becomes more and more difficult to get a significant winter storm around here (even more difficult than it already is), but still you can't rule out snow or ice completely until you get past early April.

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Columbia, Md.: Do you think all will be back to normal tomorrow?

Dan Stillman: I've seen 2-3 inches keep Washington from returning to "normal" for a couple of days. So with 5-8 inches, I expect you'll still see some impact tomorrow in the form of some school delays, some tricky traveling on side streets, and scattered other problems. By by and large, though, highways and main roads will be just fine (and already are).

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Re: Obama: Listen, I am an Obama supporter, but he's off base on all this we-should-tough-out-the-snow business. He's from Chicago -- snow is a way of life. But here on the east coast, there are too many people unused to getting around in the snow, plus, when it snows, our animal instincts tell us to hunker down, stay in. Why fight it? Why not relax, take a day off? Breathe a little and enjoy the scenery.

Dan Stillman: I think it comes down to this: We don't get enough big storms here that local jurisdictions are willing/able to invest the kind of money into snow-treating and snow-clearing equipment that they do in colder, snowier places like Chicago. So I don't blame Washingtonians for not being able to handle the snow (though certainly there are some that could take a chill pill, and a driving lesson). Rather, I blame the lack of equipment.

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Washington, D.C.: What were the final snow accumulation totals for Alexandria and Arlington?

Dan Stillman: Reports for Alexandria and Arlington were in the 4-8" range (yes reports of as little as 4" and as much as 8" both within Alexandria). The National Weather Service has a list of snow totals here. And you view and submit snow totals at Capital Weather Gang's interactive storm reporting page.

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washingtonpost.com: Winter Weather Covers Washington Region

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Fairfax, Va.: What exactly is a thunder snow? Last night on the Weather Channel one of the meteorologists standing outside (not sure of their city location) asked the anchorman inside if he heard "that," meaning the thunder. So what is it? Did it in fact happen here last night?

Dan Stillman: Hi Fairfax... I addressed whether there was any thunder snow around here in an earlier comment. As for what it is? It's simply thunder that occurs during snow. It's rare, because typically to get thunder you need the strong vertical air motions created, in part, by a warm day. But occasionally a particular area of a winter storm can generate enough energy to produce thunder, which is usually associated with intense snowfall rates (just like summertime thunder is associated with intense downpours).

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Anonymous: I will be coming from Dulles airport tonight about 9 p.m. and heading around the Beltway south on MD Rt. 4 to Calvert County to my home on Mt. Harmony Rd. Can I expect the way to be clear?

Dan Stillman: Highways and main roads should be just fine. Go for it.

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Arlington, Va.: The D.C. area is notoriously difficult to forecast weather for. What are the major factors that make this region so challenging?

Dan Stillman: We get this question a lot. I'd say there's two things going on. First it's my belief that almost everyone everywhere, except in places like San Diego, thinks their weather is the hardest to forecast. That said, D.C. is so difficult in terms of winter weather because the mountains, ocean and storm tracks often conspire to put the rain/snow/sleet/freezing rain line right through the area.

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Snowbound: You weather people seem like a rowdy bunch. Are there degrees of zaniness in the world of weather reporting? Are most of your friends meteorologists?

Dan Stillman: I'd say this is about as zany as you can get.

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Washington, D.C.: Since the last snow when we were called wimps by our Commander and Chief, the federal government will never give their employees the day off which is the only way the law firm I work for will close soooooooo it is trudge, trudge, trudge through the snow and slip slide all the way home after work. (sigh)

Dan Stillman: Lots of Obama comments/questions... I think the fed will close when conditions warrant, no matter who's president. This particular storm, however, was not bad enough to necessitate a closure, at least not based on past precedent. By the way, did you know Capital Weather Gang now does a Fedcast for winter storms?

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York, Pa.: Hey Dan,

As I am looking at the radar I am impressed with the moisture encroaching towards Westminster and Baltimore, Md. Seems like this could bring another quick coating to an inch in the early afternoon. All in all an interesting storm -- I'm sure the weather forecasters were happy to see the heavy snow develop this morning -- saved their butts on some of the predictions (including the NWS)!.

Keep up the good work...

Dan Stillman: Thanks York. That's the challenge and fun of forecasting. We make a forecast, tweak it if there's enough evidence to do so, explain how confident we are in the forecast and what the alternate scenarios may be ... but then at some point you just have to wait and watch with everyone else to see how it works out. Fun, and sometimes frustrating, all at the same time.

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In a van, down by the river: I have noticed that there is less snow near the river than even just a few miles away. What causes this and how often does this happen? And does this hold true the entire length of the Potomac?

Dan Stillman: During a winter storm -- i.e., when temperatures are generally in the 30s or 20s -- air coming off the river is typically a little bit warmer than air away from the river. That's often enough to cut down on accumulations the closer to the water you are.

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Mike Lambert (vastateofmind), Alexandria, Va.: You guys did a great job forecasting and nowcasting this storm. Love the addition of the two new CWG Twitter accounts ( at capitalweather and at dcweatheralerts) as I think this helps a lot with nowcasting from the masses. Keep up the great work, CWG team!

Dan Stillman: Thanks Mike... Everyone is welcome to follow us on Twitter or join us on Facebook.

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Sun Snow: We've had many times this winter when the sun came out while snow was falling. Can light refract in a snowflake to cause a "snowbow" as can raindrops with a rainbow?

Dan Stillman: Great question ... NASA has some info on this:

"Even though rainbows don't occur when snow is falling, it's indeed possible to see a rainbow over snow-covered ground. This can occur on rare occasions when rain is falling over snow-covered terrain and the Sun is unobscured by clouds."

Also, see our recent "Snow With Sunshine" story.

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Dan Stillman: Thanks for the great questions. Visit us for the forecast, features and more -- rain, snow or shine: washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang ... now, go out and play in the snow!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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