Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon . . .

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Ian Livingston
Captial Weather Gang Forecaster
Monday, February 8, 2010; 2:00 PM

"The new data we're analyzing portrays a rather ominous picture for the region, beginning tomorrow afternoon. Two areas of low pressure, one from the north and one from the south, will likely merge off the mid-Atlantic coast developing into a very powerful storm Tuesday night and Wednesday. Though this storm will not have the same amount of moisture as Snowmageddon, models suggest a deeper storm (i.e. more intense meteorologically) which will pose a significant risk of high winds and additional power outages," reports Capital Weather Gang on their blog.

Ian Livingston, forecaster for the Capital Weather Gang, was online Monday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss what lies ahead.

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Ian Livingtson: Hi this is Ian Livingston, a forecaster with the Capital Weather Gang and we're watching yet another storm tomorrow and Wednesday. While we don't expect the accumulation of last weekend, this one looks to be very windy and disruptive. I'm looking forward to your questions.

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Arlington, Va.: Is it likely that the gederal government will close again tomorrow? How could Tuesday's storm impact the work week and metro transit?

Ian Livingtson: For general information, like closings and the continuing aftermath from the weekend, I have been keeping up with the WaPo local page. The Capital Weather Gang is usually better at prognosticating the weather than the other stuff!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local.html?hpid=artslot

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Charlottesville, Va.: What do the models say about the chance of more precipitation in central Virginia -- snow or a mix?

Ian Livingtson: Closer to the Fredericksburg area, some mix is more likely early in the event. When the storm intensifies off the coast even those locations should turn to all snow. As one heads south and west, CWG is less confident of the higher totals as this will likely focus on the immediate D.C. area and even moreso to the northeast.

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Washington, D.C.: Exactly how much more snow do we need to break "official" Washington, D.C. record (i.e., 24th and M/DCA)?

Ian Livingtson: Good question, we recently covered this in a post on Capital Weather Gang.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/02/making_history_snowfall_record.html

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washingtonpost.com: Washington Post Local Page

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Alexandria, Va.: How much snow is expected in Alexandria, Va., during the upcoming storm on Tuesday and Wednesday?

Ian Livingtson: Right now, we expect around 5-10" in the metro area and potentially more. The highest totals should occur as you head north and east towards Baltimore. CWG's Chief Meteorologist posted our most recent thoughts around noon. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/02/alert_serious_snowwind_a_risk.html

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washingtonpost.com: Making history: Snowfall record in reach (Capital Weather Gang Blog)

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Taloma Park, Md.: My wife and I have a flight scheduled to depart BWI at 4:35 p.m. tomorrow. What are the odds that we'll be able to get out of town?

Ian Livingtson: For travel tomorrow, earlier is better. We expect the worst of the storm to come late tomorrow and into the overnight with potentially another period of moderate to heavy snow during the day on Wednesday. It is probably best to touch base with your airline.

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Woubrn, Mass.: Please stop stealing our snow, I getting tried of skiing on man-made Snow in Vt., and it's getting wasted in D.C. where all you do is complain about all the beatiful snow you are getting at our expense. Seriously, what has casued this massive shift of snow to the south?

Ian Livingtson: But we are (or used to be) enjoying it! The southward shift in the storm track this season has had many causes. Both of our blockbuster storms were heavily steered by a large high pressure system in Greenland. This feature can help keep storms that would often drift north targeting our area.

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The real fear, power loss: I don't worry much about the snow. Not much I can do about it anyway. But I've a toddler and a pre-schooler. No power is the bigger fear. Is there anything the power companies can do to prepare for outtages? How they prepare for the weather is my real concern.

Ian Livingtson: I would imagine power companies are as taxed as the local weatherperson these days. Given the cleanup and slow snow melt underway from the last storm, and the possibility of this one being windier, additional power concerns are likely. I am sure they are monitoring the latest forecasts and planning ahead.

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Alexandria, Va.: So how bad will this be and what are the chances it will be worse? Is there any hope this will not turn into something dramatic?

Also, what are the chances about the proposed storm this weekend?

Ian Livingtson: Normally this type of storm would be fairly significant for this area. The wildcard this time around is the huge amount of snow already on the ground. If snowfall in the range of 5-10"+ falls on top, with big wind to boot, it could become a pretty dicey situation.

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washingtonpost.com: Alert: Serious snow/wind a risk late Tues into WedBlizzard conditions may return, especially N and E

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Burke, Va.: Some of the same weather bloggers that made early predictions of this weekend's storm are now saying tomorrow's storm might produce 12 to 18 inches. Is there any chance of this happening?

Ian Livingtson: The best chance for these types of totals currently appears to be north and east of the immediate area. Slight trends one way or another could shift things up a bit though. We hope to have the first CWG storm prediction map in the next few hours.

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Washington, D.C.: You guys getting any sleep over there?

Ian Livingtson: Not much. Cat naps in between model runs and digging out.

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Olney, Md.: Which models have been historically the most accurate? It seems like this should be more of a wet snow, since it is closer to the freezing point. Is this right? What is the worst case scenario for accumulations for this system?

Ian Livingtson: In this range many models are fairly accurate. There are still some conflicting signals on overall totals and storm strength, so CWG's confidence is a little lower than with the last storm but we rate it around medium and potentially grownig stronger.

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Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Va.: Do you expect snow to begin in D.C. before the end of the work day (5 p.m.-ish) on Tuesday?

Ian Livingtson: Right now we are aiming for a mid-day to mid-afternoon start. I would expect snow to be falling before the end of the work day. The brunt should come after that.

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Fairfax Va.: Models seem to be shifting slightly south. Is it likely that those in NOVA and the surounding D.C. area see amounts on the higher end for this storm tomorrow?

Ian Livingtson: Models have shifted south over the last day or two. Additional shifts either direction are possible which could have impact on forecasts. CWG is looking over the latest data closely to determine what the most likely outcome is and there is a possibility snowfall predictions could go up, but we currently reside closer to the southwest edge than places up near Baltimore and to the northeast.

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Washington, D.C.: What is your "dome rating" for whether the federal government will be open tomorrow? Even though it is unusual to close two days in a row, it might be warranted given the condition of the roads. Streets in D.C. are one lane only, if that.

Ian Livingtson: It was 3 prior to Monday. I have not done a survey of the area but would think things may be a bit better tomorrow -- how much is the question. We will decide on FedCast with updates today but I'd think similar or slightly lower domes than previous. The WaPo local page is a good place to find out about closings.

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Baltimore, Md.: As a Baltimore resident -- what kind of snow accumulation should I be expecting?

Ian Livingtson: CWG's noon update indicated around 8-14" as you head toward Baltimore. We will refine our forecast numbers today if needed.

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Washington, DC: Why do they use measurements at National Airport for D.C. records? It's in Virginia! How long have they been taking measurements there? Surely this isn't the best way to match up with historical measurements, which would have been taken in the District, right?

Ian Livingtson: Airports are good locations for a long-term weather observation location, it just so happens to be that ours is in one of the warmest and least snowy places in the area. I believe measurements began at DCA in the 1940s, but I'd have to double-check to be sure. The overall records assume the DCA and previous location to be similar but, DC residents know that is not often the case.

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Washington, D.C.: Since tomorrow's snowfall is coming so closely on the heels of snowmageddon . . . ought we not to develop a new moniker for the combined double whammy? Snowtastic? Say it isn't snow? Snow there? That'll snow you?

Ian Livingtson: I had been against naming storms before they happen in fear of a jinx, but Snowmageddon didn't seem to mind. CWG's Ann Posegate has already suggested 'S'now joke' because it does look to pack a punch even if smaller than the last. We are always interested in reader suggestions though!

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Washington, D.C.: With the carbon monoxide poisonings (and possible deaths) over the weekend, I think it's a great time to remind people of indoor safety and not to use gas grills inside the home

Ian Livingtson: Many think the concern over snow is a bit funny but this last storm reminds us it is not always so. Additional snow will make a difficult situation even worse and this is good advice.

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Cabin John, Md.: What is your confidence in your the 5-10" forecast?

Ian Livingtson: Our confidence is currently medium. At this point with Snowmageddon we were medium-high to high. I think if guidance stays similar through this afternoon we will shift upwards in confidence.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Is there more snow in the forecast for Friday into Saturday?

Ian Livingtson: There was some threat of a weekend storm and also some indication it may stay south of us. To be honest it's hard to keep up with them all lately. CWG will be sure to let you know if it appears to be headed this way.

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Alexandria, Va.: How long will this southern jet stream continue to pump storms our way?

Ian Livingtson: There are indications the same general pattern may continue for at least another 1-2 weeks. And February is often a big month around here during similar El Nino events. It is probably too early to say if the storm track will remain the same, but we sure have been hit a lot this winter.

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Bethesda, Md.: What are the chances for sleet mixing in for a while in the D.C. area, during the evening or early night-time hours on Tuesday? Thank you!

Ian Livingtson: CWG is currently focusing on mainly or all snow for the immediate DC area. A small shift north in the track could introduce some mixing and that is not uncommon. This year we have not seen much though.

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Frederick, Md.: I enjoyed following the messages on your blog the other night as people posted totals, pictures and general amazement at the power of the storm. These are true weather fans, as am I. However, do you ever get the sense of some disconnect from your most ardent followers regarding the truly serious, in some cases dire, impact of such a dangerous weather event?

Ian Livingtson: It was fun! Much moreso than the aftermath... The awesome commenters go a long way to make CWG what it is. I think many who watch snow around here are suspicious of big storms as they just don't happen that often.

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Washington, D.C.: Does the Weather Gang prefer Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon?

Ian Livingtson: Snowpocalypse was the name used for the December storm. Snowmageddon was suggested by a reader and it fit quite well in the end. Also, having a presidential endorsement of the name is good for business!

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Alexandria, Va.: Has the DC area ever had a one-two punch like this before? If so, when?

Ian Livingtson: CWG did a post on double-digit snowfalls in a season and how it is rare to have two. I don't have stats on this additional punch -- or the fact that we've now had 4 winter storm watches in a little over 10 days. I'd imagine it is close to a record if not one. See double-digit post here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/02/as_we_edge_closer_to.html

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Washington, D.C.: I am still trying to figure out the basics regarding the different prediction models. What are the NAM and the GFS? Are these the only two somewhat official models used by all weather forecasters and then do meterologists each have individual models of their own making they run?

Ian Livingtson: The NAM (North American Model) and the GFS (Global Forecast System) are the primary American models. There are additional ones from other countries that we use as part of the guidance package. I briefly covered models and gave an overview of what they were doing before Snowmageddon here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/02/the_evolution_of_snowmageddon.html

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washingtonpost.com: Double-digit snows twice in one season: a rarity (Capital Weather Gang)

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Washington, D.C.: My nephew in Manhattan was very upset that they got no snow and we got two feet. He wants snow days. This next snow will hit New York City and points north, right?

Ian Livingtson: This one looks like it has a better shot to impact places like New York City and Boston. In a typical season this is the type of event that hits them pretty well, but there is a seasonal pattern where they tend to be near the northern edge. By the time the low pressure gets up north into those areas it will be very powerful.

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Washington, D.C.: When did CWG's page traffic reach its peak during Snowmageddon?

Ian Livingtson: CWG was rockin' throughout. Just try keeping up with comments during a historic storm!

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Arlington, Va.: With all the snow from this weekend still on the ground, how little ice would it take for this to become a very destructive event for power lines, trees, roofs, etc?

Ian Livingtson: While I don't know the exact amount I would urge people to try to clear snow from large flat surfaces like roofs and elevated decks, if it is safe to do so.

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Alexandria, Va.: What variable could change your forecast and result in either more or less snow?

Ian Livingtson: This storm is scheduled to form off the east coast instead of somewhere like the Deep South or Gulf of Mexico. Exactly where it begins to develop and then explode in intensity will have impact on how much snow falls. Often these scenarios favor places north and east. It does look like it will form far enough south to get DC in on the bigger action, but there is more risk of a "bust" in these types of situations.

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Arlington, Va.: At what point do you think you'll have a solid estimate on snow fall for tomorrow?

Ian Livingtson: We hope to have a pretty good idea by the end of today and will share in future updates.

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Arlington, Va.: Just want to say I love your coverage. The play by play descriptions of when, how, and how much are really helpful. This is the type of info they give on the TV news, but it's hard to come by online.

Ian Livingtson: Thanks! We are happy to provide useful information and always welcome suggestions.

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Arlington, Va.: Is there any more snow on the horizon PAST Tuesday/Wednesday? And in terms of snow removal, how melting can we expect soon?

Ian Livingtson: The pattern appears as if it will remain active. Determing exact storm tracks in advance of a few days is quite tricky. We do still have some time left on the calendar to expect more snow after tomorrow's event. It does not look to be very warm anytime in the near future, but the sun angle is rising and we should see slow melt continue when it's not snowing.

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Fairfax, Va.: If we get anything, I'd rather it be snow than sleet. Is snow definitely more likely, or is there still a chance for it to start as sleet?

Ian Livingtson: All snow is increasingly likely in the immediate DC area but there is still a chance for mix that could include sleet.

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Washington, D.C.: I saw that high winds are predicted for the coming storm. Given that the recent snow was so wet and heavy, will it be enough to cause drifting of the old snow or just the new stuff?

Ian Livingtson: The old snow is pretty solid from what I've seen. I think blowing and drifting would mainly be new snow or old snow being blown out of trees and such. Tomorrow's event should produce a fluffier snow on average which may aid in the drifting process.

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Ashburn, Va.: Hi there-- What can we expect here in Loudoun for the next storm west of D.C.? Thanks and LOVE the CWG!

Ian Livingtson: For the DC metro we are currently focusing in on 5-10" with the potential for more or a little less. The highest totals should north and east of the city and lowest south and west.

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Ian Livingtson: Thanks for all the great questions and comments! Please stay tuned with the Capital Weather Gang as we continue to analyze tomorrow's snowstorm.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/

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