What a winter. It started early, and ended late. There was cold and there was snow. Lots of snow, really.
In the D.C. area, totals ranged from around 30 inches to around 60 inches. Totals in higher elevations across Maryland and Virginia reached or exceeded the 60 to 80 inch mark in spots.
It can still snow here
Yes, it was just four winters ago we were left in awe of the snowfall totals across the area. Then came three winters of a snow situation as lowly as it gets locally.
While the winter of 2013-14 did not feature a truly paralyzing blockbuster storm like 2009-10, it was unusual in its own right.
As detailed about a month ago, D.C., Dulles and a whole host of other spots saw top-tier seasonal totals. To remind you, Dulles Airport had its third snowiest winter on record with 52.8 inches and D.C. its 18th snowiest with 32 inches.
Snow lovers “north and west” really cashed in
It may have started on December 8. A “snow band from the blue” (or, it was not predicted well) dropped a lot of snow on much of the blue area in the map above. Then that zone just kept getting hit hard through at least mid-winter.
Elevation wasn’t critical in every event, but it amplified snow totals compared to lower spots as usual. A 500-1,000 feet change in elevation was sometimes the difference between 31 with snow and 35 with a snow/rain mix. Zones relatively close to downtown D.C. and Baltimore (e.g. upper Montgomery County) at elevations above 700 feet or so saw totals well into the 60-70 inch range.
But in the end, even the lowlands did well. Locations near D.C. and southeast mostly received 200-250 percent of their normal snowfall. The snow output came in about a dozen events and continued until March. Well, even April if you count a trace!
Selected totals and gaps in data
Of all the reporting stations we examined, the highest total in our sample was 86.8 inches in Manchester, Md. That’s over seven feet of snow! Six other stations of the 250+ we reviewed received 80 inches or higher. A station in Damascus, Md. just missed that incredible mark with 79.2 inches.
Other snowfall winners included Leesburg which picked up 61.5 inches, Winchester which had 56 inches, Sterling that came in with 53.3 inches, and Manassas which picked up 44 inches.
In almost all instances you can see where elevation plays some role in the highest totals. Some spots near the Chesapeake Bay “only” picked up between 15 and 30 inches. A few were even lower, near 10 inches.
Some higher spots did not receive as much snow as the others, most notably parts of the Blue Ridge. Perhaps we could extend the heavier snow band in northwest Virginia down the whole ridge, but it is a relatively narrow zone with little or no ground truth so we left it alone.
Higher totals are also likely underrepresented in spots further west into the mountains.
Given the density of reporting in coastal plain around the cities, that’s where our confidence in totals is highest. Overall, data points throughout the map area are sufficient enough to feel comfortable with its look.
Primary sources for information included National Weather Service local climate reports, CoCoRaHs, COOPs across the region, and reports via American Weather Forum members as well as a few mentioned here on CWG in the winter snow recap.
The map was created using a point shapefile developed from the snow data collected. Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW) interpolation was then used within ArcGIS and individual contours covering a 10 inch range were created. The interpolation estimates are based on values nearby and weighted only by distance.
Related: Data used in map (PDF)
To get a sense of how the data lined up to elevation in the region, a North American digital elevation model was used as a base for the overlay of contour information.
We hope to return with another snow map installment soon! You hear there’s an El Nino coming? :)
Katie Wheatley is a GIS analyst for an environmental remediation company in Baltimore, Md. Ian Livingston is information lead for the Capital Weather Gang.