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Fierce winter storm to pack one-two punch

Snow is piled high in front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 8, 2010, from last week's snow storm, one of the worst snow storms in history in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Snow is piled high in front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 8, 2010, from last week's snow storm, one of the worst snow storms in history in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon - AP)
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Jason Samenow
Chief Meteorologist, Capital Weather Gang
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; 12:00 PM

More snow is on the way today into tomorrow as the latest in the series of storms batters the region. Our incoming storm will come in two punches...one this afternoon into tonight and another tomorrow. The first punch will bring snow this afternoon and tonight, which may mix with sleet from D.C. and to the south and east.

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The second punch will deliver the stronger blow as very gusty winds bring the potential for blizzard conditions, and unfortunately, power outages. "Keep your chin up and realize that if we can get through the next two days, it looks as though we'll have an extended break from winter storminess for at least the next week or so," reports the Capital Weather Gang on their blog.

Jason Samenow, chief meteorologist with the Capital Weather Gang, was online Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Noon ET to discuss all the details of what to expect in the region.

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Jason Samenow: Good afternoon and thanks for joining me. By now, everyone is probably aware that we at the Capital Weather Gang are predicting more snow starting this afternoon and continuing on through tomorrow. We don't think the snow during the day today will amount to very much, as it might not get going until later this afternoon. There's also the possibility it will mix with sleet in the District and points south and east. The more significant snow is likely to fall overnight and into tomorrow, when it will be accompanied by increasing winds. This could cause some power outages. In the immediate metro area, we're expecting generally 6-12" of snow but more than a foot is possible as you head northeast towards Baltimore.

Look forward to your questions...

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a newcomer here, so sorry for the very basic question. When you all give reports about the metro area, how big is the area you're actually referring to? How do I get snow predictions just for the District?

Jason Samenow: It's best to refer to our accumulation map to determine how much snow might fall where you live (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/images/feb-9-10-10-snowaccumv2.gif). We cover a pretty wide area from just east of the mountains to the Chesapeake Bay and from just south of Baltimore to Stafford County in Va.

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Olney, Md.: Hi! I am wondering why there is still so much variation in the snow predictions from various outlets, so close to the event itself. We have the NWS still saying 10-20 inches, others as low as 8 inches or as high as 24 inches. Why does this happen so close to the storm? Are models still waffling or disagreeing? Thanks for your thoughts.

Jason Samenow: There is some disagreement in the models with some models simulating a moderate snow event (3-6" in the metro area, and 6-12" NE) with others showing a major snow event (10-14" or so in the metro area and more NE). Our thinking is somewhere in between. We have never bought into some of the extreme forecasts of over 16" for the metro area...we think that's a very low possibility.

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Alexandria, Va.: I hear rumors about another snowstorm this weekend? If so, how much snow do you expect?

Jason Samenow: At one point, we were watching for the possibility of another storm to come up from the south and potentially affect us. It now looks like that storm will stay to the south. However, we're going to have to watch for a different storm that might come in from the north (a clipper) around Sunday. Doesn't look like a huge snow producer, but we'll keep you posted.

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Alexandria, Va.: The snow storm naming is fantastic -- is that a D.C.-area trend only, or do others do this too?

Jason Samenow: I've never seen this done in other cities but folks from other cities should correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe we've started a trend here :)

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Traveling from Dulles this weekend: OK it snows tonight and tomorrow -- then we dig out on Thursday and Friday. What is the liklihood that my Saturday morning flight can take off?

Jason Samenow: I'd be surprised if the airports aren't returning to some sense of normalcy by Saturday, though a backlash effect could create a few delays.

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washingtonpost.com: Accumulation Map

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Jason --

Thanks for keeping us so well-informed all winter. My question is: What are the factors that make for a particularly snowy winter around here? Has it really been that much colder than normal, or is it something else? Thanks!

Jason Samenow: Thanks for the question. We've talked about this in some of the posts on the Capital Weather Gang blog, but the snowy winter is related to the interplay between the moderate El Nino feeding in tropical moisture and a blocking pattern in the atmosphere over Greenland which has been bottling up cold air over eastern North America. We don't get this combination very often.

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Washington, D.C.: It looks from the radar picture that this may not materialize into anything much. Does it appear that the bulk of this storm is going north and we may well escape with pretty much nothing at all?

Jason Samenow: I see what you're seeing on the radar and don't expect much here into the late afternoon. After that, we do expect the precipitation to start breaking out as the coastal low gets going. So we should see some moderate snow overnight. Tomorrow morning, when a very strong upper level disturbance swings through and interacts with the coastal storm, that's when some of the heaviest snow may occur...especially from D.C. and to the northeast.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hey CWG--great job covering all of the Wintergeddon! Keep up the good work.

A big issue for many of us is where to find a supply of rock salt/snow-melt product. My husband bought a 50-pound bag of the stuff a week ago. We used up nearly all of it over the past several days, but yesterday we couldn't find any more anywhere.

Jason Samenow: I hear you and bet a lot of Washingtonians could use more salt, sand, and snow shovels. Maybe a friendly neighbor can help???

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Springfield, Va.: When will it warm up enough for significant melting and clean-up?

Jason Samenow: The melting is going to be extremely slow going as we're locked into a colder than average pattern for at least the next week. We will see day time highs above freezing and the sun does grow stronger as the month wears on, but considering the amount of snow and the fact the snow will compact and refreeze at night, we should get used to seeing it around for a while. And I won't even venture to say how long until the parking lot piles disappear...

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Crofton, Md.: Just a comment, it's hard to tell where we fall on the accumulation map. It'd be nice if the map could be made bigger and have some landmarks added so we can figure out where we are.

washingtonpost.com: Accumulation Map

Jason Samenow: Thanks for the suggestion. We'll take that under consideration and maybe try to roll out an improved version in the future.

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San Francisco, Calif.: If last weekend's storm had dropped rain instead of snow, how many of inches of rain would have been recorded?

Jason Samenow: Doppler radar estimated the snow would've equated to about 1.5-2.5 inches of rain...(and the area had 17-32 inches of snow)

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Arlington, Va.: So what time do you think will the first wave of snow hit D.C.?

Jason Samenow: Most likely late afternoon to early evening... We're watching some activity over SW Va and North Carolina that should expand and stream northward later on.

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Washington, D.C.: Will Snoverkill possibly leave the most snow ever on the ground around here? Is there a way to measure that?

Jason Samenow: As we indicated in a post yesterday, if Snoverkill produces 9", we will match 1898-1899...which was the snowiest winter on record in Washington, D.C. See this post: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/02/making_history_snowfall_record.html

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Geneva, Switzerland: Do you think there will be major cancellations and flight delays at Dulles on Wednesday? From what I have heard, you are expecting snow and heavy winds during the day Wednesday, and it sounds as if travel into Washington may be exceedingly difficult.

Jason Samenow: Yes--we do expect difficult travel conditions tomorrow morning into the afternoon due to wind, snow, and low visibilities. Safe travels.

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Falls Church, Va.: Does it look like these conditions are set up to continue throughout the rest of the winter?

Jason Samenow: While we can't rule out more snow this season (the pattern looks to remain somewhat favorable for the next one to two weeks), the odds are strongly against another huge storm.

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Dupont to Bethesda: I need to get up to Bethesda this afternoon on the Red Line. What are the chances I will be able to get back into town? Should I just skip the meeting and stay home?

Jason Samenow: Travel this afternoon looks ok. Good luck!

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Charlottesville, Va.: Jason, Are we going to be dry-slotted on this one? Little to no snow for C'Ville :( ???

Jason Samenow: I'm not seeing a lot of snow in Charlottesville. Not the best setup down there. Maybe a couple inches or so.

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Washington, D.C.: What accumulation could we see around commute time? Any chance it could not be a problem?

Jason Samenow: We're thinking less than 1" by commute time but snow may be picking up around then.

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washingtonpost.com: Next storm puts snowfall record in reach

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Vienna, Va.: Great job keeping people informed.

I wanted to ask about the winds -- When will they be the strongest and will they be stronger north and east?

Thanks

Jason Samenow: Winds will be a big deal tomorrow. Good question. We're thinking winds speeds will reach 20-30 mph, with gusts to 40 or so. And they will be higher as you head north and east, closer to the center of the storm.

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D.C.: Jason -- at this point, the snow storms, through their enormity and indifference to human life, have become scandalous. I am proposing the entire season be called Snowgate. Thoughts?

Jason Samenow: Clever idea. In democratic style, maybe we'll need to solicit more ideas and have a vote. Steve Tracton, one of our meteorologists, recommended: SNOWMONGOUS Winter of 2009-2010

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Silver Spring, Md.: If DC does get some of the "wintery mix," would that occur at the beginning or end of the storm?

Jason Samenow: Any wintry mix would be in the first 1/3 of the storm, and would likely be in the form of sleet from the District and to the south and east. The end of storm will definitely be all snow.

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Springfield, Va.: Will the snow be the wet heavy variety, or the light fluffy variety? The latter would be worse for drifting, but better on roofs, yes?

Jason Samenow: The snow during the first 1/3 of the storm (early this evening) will be of the heavier variety but it should become lighter and fluffier as we get into tomorrow.

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Washington, D.C.: So, here's the question everyone's asking: What are the odds I and my fellow government employees will have the rest of the week off? My guess is:

0 perecent chance we go in on WED 40 percent chance on THU 70 percent chance on FRI

Your thoughts? Thanks for your great work!

Jason Samenow: As long as this storm forecast isn't a total bust (less than 4"), I would imagine the Federal gov will close tomorrow. Capital Weather Gang's "FedCast" for tomorrow is 3.5 Capitol domes and maybe should be 4. (More info on FedCast: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2008/01/frequent_questions.html#what_do_the_stormcast)

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Arlington, Va.: Re: snow storm naming. I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. (okay, suburbs) during the 70s/80s (think Blizzard of '77). We never named the storms. I still have family and friends up there. Still no storm naming. I kind of like it, though. For this one, my vote is for Snoverkill or Snownoughalready!

Jason Samenow: Thanks for weighing in :)

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Hi Jason! How likely do you think it is that the immediate metro area misses the second burst of snow and ends up with 4-8 inches instead of the 8-16 predicted on your accumulation map?

Jason Samenow: There's a chance. Our probabilities indicate about a 25% chance of less than 6" of snow. Also, since Chevy Chase is in the southwest part of the 8-16" band, I would think you will more likely see 8-12, then 12-16.

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washingtonpost.com: What do the StormCast snowflakes, SchoolCast apples and TravelCast airplanes mean?

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Silver Spring, Md.: How worried should we be about getting snow off of home roofs? (We have a Cape Cod.)

Jason Samenow: Unless you have a well-supported flat roof with easy access, trying to clear snow off a roof can be risky. I would consult a professional or someone with experience doing this. If anyone else has advice, feel free to send it along.

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Alexandria, Va.: It's good that it's going to take a while to melt though, isn't it? I'd hate to think of the muddy mess and swollen rivers if this all melted quickly.

Jason Samenow: Good point. Unlike the December Snowpocalypse, we don't see a huge warm-up or heavy rain to cause rapid melting and the chance for flooding -- at least for now.

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Washington, D.C.: Are there any long-range predictions for what the summer of 2010 will be like, due to such factors as El Nino that are causing all this snow? At this point, I'd be turning cartwheels if you promise me days and days and days of 90 plus weather.

Jason Samenow: We don't have much idea about the summer yet. Too focused on all of this crazy snow. The Capital Weather Gang usually posts its summer outlook in April or early May.

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Bethesda, Md.: It's disappointing to see the article in the on-line Post about how not everyone is being diligent about clearing off the sidewalks. I cleared mine a couple of times during the storm, so I wouldn't be facing such a daunting task post-storm. It is difficult (and dangerous) to walk on the roads. Some roads aren't yet plowed, and on the roads that are plowed, the large piles of plowed snow don't leave a lot of room for cars both ways, let alone pedestrians. Please, please everyone -- clear your sidewalks for everyone's safety, especially those who may have a difficult time getting around in normal weather and conditions!

Jason Samenow: We hear you and agree.

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Jason Samenow: Thanks for all of your questions. Stay safe during the storm and stay tuned to the Capital Weather Gang blog for frequent updates.

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washingtonpost.com: Snowbound kids a test of parenting skills chat coming up at 1 p.m. ET.

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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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