With spring just days away (it starts Sunday), what will we remember about the winter of 2010-2011?
Well, it was certainly nothing like last winter, when three huge snowstorms brought a record 56.1 inches of snow to Washington and snow piles lasted well into spring.
The forecasts called for this winter to bring less precipitation than last year’s “Snowmageddon.” That has certainly been the case this year (though it can still snow into April around here). The 9.9 inches at Reagan National Airport so far is even a good bit below the average winter’s snowfall of 15.2 inches. Likewise, Dulles Airport’s total of 12.5 inches is well short of last winter’s whopping 73.2 inches and less than the average of 21.2 inches. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story of this winter.
While we haven’t seen a ton of the white stuff, we’ve sure had plenty of chances. In fact, storms threatened as often as once or twice a week for a big chunk of the winter. Most storms either missed the D.C. area or brought only a little snow, ice or both. Still, there was enough wintry precipitation for several days of school delays and closings.
The biggest snow of the season did have a huge impact, though. That storm dumped between five and 10 inches across the Washington area on Jan. 26, and it started just as many people were heading home from work. The snow fell so hard and so fast that snowplows couldn’t keep up with it.
But 2010-2011 may be remembered as the winter of near misses. At one point, snow covered nearly the entire eastern United States as far south as Georgia — except for a relatively small hole that included most of the Washington area. The big snow winners (or losers) this winter have been in the Northeast and Midwest. Syracuse, New York, had 174 inches; Boston, Massachusetts, 79 inches; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, 80.
It’s easy to forget how cold it was in December and January. That’s in part because it was 70 degrees or warmer for four days in February.
February 2011 was the 20th-warmest February on record in Washington but not warm enough to make up for December and January. During those months, it seemed as if the cold would never stop. The temperature reached 50 or higher only twice in December and three times in January. December and January finished 4.9 degrees and 1.3 degrees below average, respectively.
Last but not least, we’ll remember this winter for its wild winds.
February had six days with wind gusts of 40 miles per hour or higher at National Airport. The strong winds blew down trees, including the National Christmas Tree, and cut off power to thousands of homes across the area.
December was windy, too. The month featured four days with gusts over 40 miles per hour.
Stillman is a meteorologist for The Post’s Capital Weather Gang who got interested in weather while hoping for snow days as a kid. To read more about the weather, go to www.capitalweathergang.com.